There was a time when a generation of the world's batsmen, good and ordinary alike, came to dread the challenge of playing the West Indies.

Leave aside the phalanx of champion batsmen who poured on the runs from the mid-1970s through to the mid-1990s. Men like Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd and, just a short while later, Brian Lara were a crushing presence for opposing bowlers.

But the physical danger came from their fast bowlers, who seemed to come off a production line for those years and made life hell for the game's best batsmen.

They began with Andy Roberts, the clever Antiguan, and the godfather to those who followed.


Add in Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Sylvester Clarke, Wayne Daniel, Malcolm Marshall, Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop and Curtly Ambrose and you had an awesome array of quick men.

Their quality varied - Patterson for example was a ferocious, hulking figure, who was rapid but not especially accurate.

So, at times, did the behaviour, to wit Croft barging into umpire Fred Goodall at Lancaster Park in 1980, which remains one of cricket's more disgraceful moments.

But these men had one thing in common, serious speed.

"We could put the fear of God up anybody," Bishop recalled with a laugh.

With that backdrop, watching the present West Indies team, it seems a distant memory.

Indeed if there was to be any helmet denting done at University Oval it was by Trent Boult and co on the red West Indies lids.

Tino Best has piles of energy and can be lively, but Shannon Gabriel and Sheldon Cottrell - who missed out on this test - are young men learning the trade and far from express pace.


This group are shorn of the seriously sharp Kemar Roach, due to a shoulder injury; Fidel Edwards wasn't picked and Ravi Rampaul, if far from express, is a canny seamer.

The situation is not entirely bleak, though.

Bishop, in New Zealand as a commentator, likes the look of Miguel Cummins of Barbados and Delorn Johnson from St Vincent. All is far from lost in his eyes.

Still, spare a thought for Richardson, one of the batting legends of those halcyon days.

He's in New Zealand as manager of the team. He's not about to say it, but a penny for his thoughts as he watches the young men working hard but without inspiration, or blistering speed, and how his mind must occasionally drift back and wish they had an Ambrose, Marshall or Holding at their disposal these days.

New Zealand's batsmen now know that at the Basin Reserve next week, and Seddon Park in Hamilton in the week before Christmas, there will be no alarms from the visiting pace men.

That's not to say they won't be working hard and presenting problems of their own; it's just that it won't be done with the savage speed which once made life so miserable for batsmen.