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Dire in Babylon: The sad decline of West Indies cricket

PERHAPS no cricket team in history is as revered as the West Indies side of the 1980s. From 1980 to 1995, the team did not lose a single Test series. The Caribbean cocktail of ferocious fast bowling and aggressive batting resonated far beyond the field. “I have 5m West Indians depending on me to perform at my best so they can walk the streets and be proud,” Michael Holding (pictured), one of the greatest West Indian fast bowlers, recalled in “Fire in Babylon”, a new book on Caribbean cricket.On September 30th, West Indies cricket hit a new low. For the first time ever, the side failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy, a one-day international (ODI) tournament played between the top eight ranked sides in the world. Two days earlier coach Phil Simmons had been suspended for expressing his disapproval with the team selected for the current ODI series in Sri Lanka.Statistics highlight how dramatic the West Indies’ decline has been. Between March 1976 and March 1995, the West Indies won 71 and lost only 20 Test matches against the other eight Test-playing nations (excluding Zimbabwe, which did not gain Test status until 1992). Since June 2000 the side has won 14 and lost 78 Tests against the same opponents. The fall has been almost as marked in ODI cricket, where the West Indies have won 72 games and lost 161 against the traditional top eight sides since June 2000. Only …