The West Indies looked like they didn't want to be there in the first Test against Australia in Hobart, and not just because of the cold. Their cricket was limp and their body language even worse. The team lacked even a semblance of unity.
We now know why. Tony Cozier, who is to Caribbean cricket broadcasting what Richie Benaud was to Australia, has written a cutting piece on the website ESPNcricinfo. In the piece, Cozier details the reasons why West Indies cricket now officially needs a defribillator.
It's a good yarn which you should read in full if you care about cricket. But the two paragraphs that tell you all you need to know are these:
Six years ago Daren Ganga, then Trinidad and Tobago captain, who played 48 Tests for West Indies between 1998 and 2008, made [the] point. "If you speak to any West Indies player, you will hear them talking about this special affiliation to their country," he said. "When you play for the country that you were born in and brought up in and you sing your national anthem, it brings a different individual spirit to you."
There is no such political entity as the West Indies. Its shareholders - Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and the Windward Islands - are all fully independent mini-nations with their own governments, currencies, flags and anthems. It is a wonder they have held together for over 100 years, since a 1900 tour of England. That unity has become increasingly fragile.
Like ice sheets in the era of climate change, the West Indies are breaking up as a united cricket entity. Fans want to cheer for their own team, fly their own flag, sing their own anthem. And there's no Paris Agreement to stem the rising tide of disenchantment.
Speaking on ABC radio this week, Trinidadian cricket commentator and analyst Fazeer Mohammed said that administrators will say one thing at West Indies Cricket Board level, then go back and sing a different tune at national board level. What sort of administration can function in such a treasonous environment?
Ineffective administration aside, ongoing poor form is the main reason why fans are leaning back towards supporting their own team rather than the artificial entity known as the West Indies. Here's Tony Cozier again:
Even before a ball was bowled in Hobart, Baldath Mahabir, a director who quit the "unprofessional, tardy, lax" West Indies Cricket Board last month, spoke of his concerns that there may be no such thing as West Indies cricket within ten years.
Mahabir maintained that the present generation in their 20s would have no recollection of the heady times when West Indies ruled the world. All they know is an entity that languishes near the bottom of the ICC rankings for a couple of decades. His concern is that young fans increasingly favour supporting their individual territories, rather than enduring the embarrassment of West Indies' constant defeats.
Every sports fan loves the feeling of a national team putting the country's name forward on the world stage. At the recent rugby World Cup, who that lives south of the equator gulped with regional pride when four southern hemisphere nations made the final four?
Did anyone reading this get excited when the two finalists were nations which can be loosely categorised under the banner "Australasia"?
Residents of that collective of small nations and territories huddled under the cricketing umbrella known as the West Indies increasingly no longer relate. Fazeer Mohammed said on ABC radio this week that cricket is still a unifying force in the Caribbean. They still talk passionately about the game in homes and offices. But too often, they talk in hissing tones about the woeful performances of the West Indies team. And they're sick of it.
It's not clear which, if any, of the nations in a disbanded West Indies would be granted Test status. It's too early for that sort of discussion. It's probably still too early to assume that disbanding is a foregone conclusion. But as local experts have stated in clear terms this week, the spirit is lacking. And a team without spirit is like Jamaica without rum or reggae.