Australia vs West Indies cricket Test series: Visitors need someone to stand up

Looking back, the summer of 1988-89 was probably the most important summer for Australian cricket since World War II.

After being annihilated by the Windies in the first two Tests in Brisbane and Perth, we hoped to get a flatter track at the MCG for the Boxing day Test but were bitterly disappointed. West Indies captain Viv Richards, noticing the pitch looked like a piece of corrugated iron, turned to Allan Border and said: "Why are you guys preparing a pitch like this, mon? You will get yourself f------ killed!"

The Australian team that won the Ashes in 1989 was built from the wreckage of the Boxing Day Test of 1988.
The Australian team that won the Ashes in 1989 was built from the wreckage of the Boxing Day Test of 1988.  Photo: Adrian Murrell

Sadly, Richards wasn't far off the mark because by the end of the Test, we were horribly battered and badly bruised by their deadly quartet of fast bowlers – Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Patrick Patterson.

We knew we were in trouble at the end of day four, when Border and Steve Waugh sledged Patterson as we walked off the field. Once we were sitting in our dressing rooms, Patterson burst in, angry as hell, and threw his helmet at Waugh. Patterson then yelled: "Mon, you will have problems tomorrow. I am going to kill you!"

Patterson then bowled the fastest I have ever faced in Test cricket. Jeffrey Dujon, the great West Indian keeper, said it was the fastest spell he had ever kept to. Then throw in the fact he was bowling on a pitch that was up and down and downright dangerous. Australia were obliterated on day five, as we could only manage 114 in the second innings.

Our rooms looked like a casualty ward in a MASH Unit. There wasn't enough ice to cover the bruises from this West Indian attack, whose attitude was to hurt us first and get us out second. I had broken ribs, Border broken fingers, Boon a green-stick fracture of the wrist and Waugh had two broken fingers. Peter Taylor suffered severe bruising over his kidneys, while Ian Healy suffered several blows to his groin. Let us not forget that Geoff Lawson suffered a badly broken jaw in the previous Test.


I will never forget our dressing room being so silent. Only a few feet away, we could hear the West Indians in full voice singing away to reggae music, with laughter and high fives.I couldn't help but think that the thin wall dividing the two teams was the difference between success and failure.

Enter Ian McDonald, our team manager. Macca came from an AFL background and he was filthy at our insipid, gutless performance. He then gave us a coach's address of which the great Ron Dale Barassi would have been proud.

Macca yelled out: "Enough is enough. We need to start to throw some punches against these blokes as they are killing you. They are making you look like a bunch of weak pricks. Listen to them next door, just bloody listen.

They are treating you guys like club cricketers. Now we better get together, stick tough and sort out our own issues or this team will be remembered as the worst and most gutless Australian team of all time! Now let's stick together and start talking how bloody good we are and not how bloody good they are! Let's draw a line in the sand here as enough is enough!"

Well, fortunately for us, we had the World Series next and our next Test was a month away. We played well in the World Series Cup, but lost a close third final in Sydney. What we did learn, though, was that we played better on slow, turning pitches.

One match in Sydney we bowled the Windies out for 154, which I believe helped the selectors, coach and captain work out the strategies we needed for the fourth Test in Sydney. Throughout this one-day international, we had complete control, with AB and Taylor bowling well.

So when the fourth Test came around In Sydney, McDonald pushed a note under our doors to remind us what we needed to do against Windies. The note just read, "Enough is enough and it is time to abandon the shackles of fear."  

Border and Bob Simpson's dreams came true when they noticed that a good old-fashioned SCG pitch had been prepared, which would negate the fiery pace from the Windies' quicks and nullify the shotmaking skills of their batsmen.

The selectors brought in Test debutant Mark Taylor to open, which meant David Boony would bat at three. Trevor Hohns was included for Craig McDermott to partner Peter Taylor in the spin department, which made Waugh our first-change bowler. The Windies won the toss and quickly got to 1-144 before Allan Border said, "Enough is enough."

Border quickly dispensed with Richie Richardson, Carl Hooper, Richards, Gus Logie, Dujon, Harper and Marshall to finish with the mind-blowing figures of 7-46 and helped bowl the West Indies all out for 224.

When we got back into the rooms, Macca was yelling, "Now let's show them who is boss here. No backward steps. Let us show these bastards how tough we are!"

Boony, AB and Waugh didn't disappoint Macca as we built a lead of 177. We won in a canter. Border finished man of the match with figures of 11-96! I couldn't believe the transformation in the attitude of our team.

In over a month, McDonald, Simpson and Border really made huge efforts to deal with the mental attitudes of the team. They stood tall when most others would have walked away.

Simpson and Border changed net practice so bowlers were allowed to bowl from 17 yards. Our fielding was raised to another level. Our attitudes were asked to improve with no negative locker-room talk. We got closer and we were prepared to die out in the middle for each other if it came to that. We just needed to believe.

I remember asking AB if was he prepared to die for us as a team? Border replied with a profound "Yes" and that was enough to get us past the post. We nearly won in the next Test in Adelaide. Merv Hughes, in particular, got hit all over the place but never took a backward step.

We then set off to England to win the Ashes for the first time in England for 50 years!

When under the pump, that's when you need – quality people around you to help you steer and direct yourself out of trouble. Playing against great teams such as the West Indies back then finds out how good you really are.

They certainly get you out of your comfort zone and you quickly found out how much you love the game. Great teams find out who and what type of character you are. That is the chilling and scary part of it. You think you are this type of player, but who are you really, when everything is turned upside down?

The Windies were that team that finds out how badly you want to play for your country. It is through tough opponents who define us as a player and as a person. When things are down and out, when is someone going to say, "Enough is enough"?

So I look into this current West Indian team and I ask myself, who is the person within the team and management, who is prepared to put their career on the line? Until then, the status quo will remain.