Listening and reading to some of the pronouncements being made on the eve of the three-Test series between West Indies and England commencing at Lord's on May 17, one is almost led to believe what Darren Sammy's side are doing in England. They are being rated as no-hopers from both sides, whether it is former West Indian fast bowler Ian Bishop or former England captain Alec Stewart.
The overwhelming feeling is that the tourists' bowling will be of the pop gun variety against the dynamite English batting while their own batting will fare dismally against the well-oiled England bowling line-up.
Probably, nothing sums up the West Indian prospects more aptly than Otis Gibson's tongue in cheek quote that ''if we can take this Lord's Test to four days that will be great.'' The West Indies coach obviously hopes that his team of no-hopers will last longer than they did the last time at Lord's three years ago when the game was lost in 2-1/2 days.
Speaking of losses of the last 14 Tests West Indies have played in England they have lost 12 while two have been drawn. They have not won a Test since the opening match of the 2000 series.
The boot these days is on the other foot. There was a time when the result of a series between West Indies and England at home or away was a foregone conclusion - a thumping victory for West Indies. England defeated West Indies at home in 1969 and their next series win came about only in 2000. They suffered the ignominy of two successive ''blackwashes'' at home and away in 1984 and 1986.
Towards the end of the West Indian supremacy there were shared contests in 1991 and 1995. But the tide really turned with the West Indian
slide that commenced in the late 90s. In the last six contests home and away England have emerged triumphant in five with the West Indies surprisingly and narrowly emerging victorious 1-0 in their backyard in early 2009.
The current ICC rankings show England at No 1 and West Indies at No 7 and that alone is enough to make the home team prohibitive favourites to win the series.
These are times when the West Indies now and then show signs of resurgence but then comes another abysmal performance and one is immediately aware that it is going to be a long time before they could emerge as serious challengers to anyone except perhaps Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
It is always a sorry sight to see the mighty fall and it hasn't been a pleasant experience to be a witness to the sharp decline in West Indian
cricket. When Brian Lara time and again shored up the emaciated batting in the late 90s and in the early years of the new millennium one felt sad for the genius - arguably the greatest batsman of the last 20 years.
When after the simultaneous retirement of Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose in 2000 the West Indian pace attack resembled a toy gun when compared to the pace battery of the 80s and 90s the genuine cricket fan was forced to go on a trip down memory lane and recall the great days of Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, Larry Gomes, Richie Richardson, Deryck
Murray, Jeff Dujon, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft and how they used to mow down opposition ruthlessly in three and four days by an innings and plenty.
Today, only Shivnarine Chanderpaul is the survivor from that all conquering team and while he continues to be defiant as ever, he can only watch as the West Indies stumble from one defeat to another. And in England but for a miracle everything points out to another debacle even if Sammy has emerged as an enterprising captain and certain young players hold out promise.
But ultimately, a captain is only as good as the team under his command and there can be little that Sammy can do to inspire his mediocre side to pull off great things in England. Andrew Strauss' team is doing little wrong these days, particularly at home. The batting is formidable, the seam and swing bowling strong and they have the world's best spinner in Graeme Swann. The tourists just do not have appear to have the resources to counter a home team high on confidence.
On paper itself the teams seem to be mismatched. But as if this is not enough the tourists have encountered problems on and off the field. Some players joined the squad late because of visa problems and the they are not helped by the fact that Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo are for various reasons unavailable to play for the West Indies in Tests.
In the lead up to the series, the young and inexperienced side have been handicapped by wet weather which saw the opening tour match against Sussex being reduced to just 34 overs in three days and this in turn led to a ten wicket defeat at the hands of the England Lions. They are now further handicapped by injuries to Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul during the match against England Lions.
Yes, however optimistic one may want to be the doomsday pundits appear to have got their predictions right and it would be a major surprise if a whitewash is averted provided the weather stays fine.