"What you doin’ here, man? You should be watching de TV. De Deshis are giving de South Africans a dicking!"
That was Janice, dishing out advice to me in her inimitable fashion. She’s a barmaid at my hotel in Antigua. I’ve only known her for a fortnight, but in that time she’s talked more sense about cricket than most people I know, including players.
So I did what she said, scuttled back to my room and watched the world’s No 1 side in the one-day game humbled by Bangladesh. None of us could believe what we were watching.
It also had the merit of opening up the competition again, much to the delight of Janice. In common with every Antiguan I have met out here, she wants England to reach the semi-finals.
Even if they don’t deserve to be there, but creep in under the barbed wire because results elsewhere go England’s way. Like Bangladesh beating South Africa.
Janice thinks the Australians are too arrogant and would like the West Indies to get to the last four, but only if they pull their fingers out. The other evening, she opened out a cricket magazine and went through the entire West Indian squad, dissecting their many frailties.
Hers was a withering assessment of the home team and as I try to summarise it, I must underline that these are her views, not mine….
"De trouble with dese players is dat de are just like de typical West Indian male. Dey can’t be bothered, dey like all de jewellery and attentions from wimmin, but dey won’t put in de hard work, dey’ve stayed at dis hotel and ah didn’t rate dem.
"Clive Lloyd wouldn’t have stood for all dis indiscipline."
Such generalisations are beyond occasional visitors to the Caribbean like your columnist, but Janice’s views are not in the minority, as far as I can tell. The more years that pass since the West Indian supremacy of a quarter-of-a-century ago, the better Lloyd appears as a captain.
That’s not due to any tactical genius on his part, more a recognition that he somehow gelled the various island rivalries into a coherent whole.
Today, Brian Lara appears powerless as some of his players take advantage of time off between matches to fly home and get their feet up, even when they don’t deserve it. Clive Lloyd would never have allowed that.
Whatever your scepticism about England and their delusions of adequacy, they at least are sticking together. Their wives and partners are out here for the Easter break and the jeremiahs are saying that they shouldn’t be distracted by domestic considerations.
That doesn’t appear to be bothering the Australians and the New Zealanders who also have their families on hand and still seem to be playing well. The South Africans, in contrast, are locked together in a siege mentality, bored with each other’s company, circling the wagons into a training camp environment.
As a result, they are again under-achieving. We’ve seen that happen so often with the South Africans.
It’s nonsense that they are rated the No 1 side in one-day cricket. They do have wonderful fielders and a deep batting line-up, but they have no spin-bowling options and when their batters come up against decent spinners, they bottle it.
As in the Bangladesh match.
The Australians are clearly the best unit in the World Cup. There were times against England last Sunday when they wobbled, but they always appear to have something in the locker, that extra ingredient that enables them to pull away.
South Africa must be the team to be targeted by England. They play them in Barbados a week today and simply must beat them to stay in with a shout for the semis.
First, though, they have to beat Bangladesh tomorrow. They’re lucky the match is being played in Barbados where the faster surface will make the Bangladeshi batsmen vulnerable to the short ball. If the game had been played on a slow and low wicket in Guyana, I wouldn’t have fancied England against their spinners.
Warwickshire supporters will be pleased to know that Ian Bell’s 77 against the Aussies was a high-class innings. Understandably watchful at the start, he then climbed into Glenn McGrath and took three boundaries in an over, all of them shots from the top drawer — especially a checked square-drive that was reminiscent of a Caribbean batsman.
Viv Richards whistled softly when he saw that boundary and said "Man, that was some shot." Bell’s offside play was resplendent and his bristling body language was unrecognisable from the diffidence of the 2005 Ashes series. The Aussies didn’t rate him two years ago, but they do now.
On Sunday, he outscored Kevin Pietersen for a while and the only criticism is that he didn’t go on to make a hundred. Bell has now played in 42 one-dayers and has yet to post a century. Once that is rectified, he will go on to be a major player, both at Test and one-day level.
Modern bowlers can’t last pace
More pungent cricket thoughts from Tom Cartwright, culled from an excellent recent biography of him by Stephen Chalke. Tom, an outstanding all-rounder with Warwickshire and one of the best coaches of his generation, has been cruelly laid low by a massive heart attack, but his observations on the modern game haven’t lost their validity.
He wasn’t at all surprised at Steve Harmison’s first disastrous delivery in the Ashes series last winter in Brisbane, because he believed fast bowlers just don’t put the necessary work in these days.
"Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d been a Formula One driver? He’d have demolished the grandstand. I feel sorry for the young bowlers today. They need to be bowling out in the middle in matches.
"There’s so much more emphasis on speed now and more and more bowlers are not bowling the ball; they’re running up and hurling it, so they haven’t learnt control. I think it came from the great West Indian team of the 1980s. We became obsessed with finding fast bowlers and also with this flaming machine that measures speed."
I wonder if Duncan Fletcher ever sat down and picked Tom’s impressive cricket brain before his sudden sad illness?