IT was a fitting twist to the cliché once familiar to the champion teams of his era.

As they enter another Test series against England at Sabina Park today, Sir Viv Richards’ advice to the West Indies was to guard, not against complacency, but mediocrity.

Richards’ s point was obvious. Too much of the latter, in every aspect of the game, has long since eliminated any thought of the former.

If it continues, England are sure to continue to do onto the West Indies what the West Indies regularly did onto them during Richards’s prime.

Between 1976 and 1991, years exactly coinciding with his career, the West Indies won 24 Tests to England’s three. Twice, there were successive 5-0 clean sweeps.

Since 2000, the record is reversed – 13 victories to England, one to the West Indies. One whitewash was repaid in England in 2004.

It is less than two years since England inflicted the latest indignity, 3-0 after a rain-dominated draw in the first Test. They return, four years on, to the scene of their routing of the West Indies for their lowest Test total of 47, their most vengeful and satisfying triumph over their former tormentors.

For all their recent internal upheavals, with the enforced resignation of Kevin Pietersen as captain and the dismissal of coach Peter Moores, they are obvious favourites.

Yet there have been hints, minor but encouraging, of West Indian improvement.

Over the past 15 months, an historic first victory over South Africa in South Africa was followed at home by level-pegging with Sri Lanka and the first exposure of Australia’s recently confirmed decline and by a couple of draws in New Zealand in December.

The problem is that the load has been borne in each series by too few. The West Indies have hardly been a team, rather mostly a four-man band. It is the mediocrity of the others that Richards is concerned about.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul has had to carry the batting on his slender, front-on shoulders with a consistency that the great George Headley did in the 1930s.

Occasionally, there have been bowling flashes of light, principally from Fidel Edwards and Dwayne Bravo, once from Darren Sammy, but all 20 opposing wickets have been taken in only four of 14 Tests.

Off and on, others have made their mark.

Captain Chris Gayle was prominent in New Zealand where the newcomer Brandan Nash demonstrated the value of a background in the strong Australian system. Ramnaresh Sarwan thrived in the Caribbean last season as Marlon Samuels did in South Africa and Bravo, as all-rounder, everywhere.

For different reasons, Samuels and Bravo are absent and Sammy can’t make the cut.

Gayle and Sarwan, each in their tenth year of international cricket, need to emulate Chanderpaul in performing consistently, rather than spasmodically.

And runs are as essential from those less established – Dale Richards, the belatedly selected opener, Xavier Marshall, who has to finally match potential with performance, the recalled Devon Smith and, not least, the wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin.

Bravo’s loss increases the load on the bowlers. If they still allow their concentration to be affected by misplaced machismo, Pietersen, England’s present-day Master Blaster, is waiting to punish them.

They must heed the pleading of coach John Dyson to maintain control, to apply pressure with “dot-balls”.

The original Master Blaster is following the series on behalf of Johnnie Walker whisky, plugging the theme “drink responsibly”.

Playing responsibly is an equally pertinent mantra for the West Indies.

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