One of the most starkly apparent things about the last time West Indies were on these shores, apart from Robert Key's beergut, was that the crowds were so predominantly white. Even at the Oval, traditionally home to scenes of West Indian fans' bluster and noise had only a mere smattering of old timers, staring blankly into their rum as their beloved team crumpled to a comprehensive 10 wicket defeat and an unthinkable 4-0 series loss.
Why is this the case? Is it simply that the team keeps losing, or is it something deeper? Have the West Indians in the UK fallen out of love with cricket?
The answer lies within the personnel of local and county cricket, and the number and type of ethnic minority players that are coming through the academy system. There are very few Afro-Caribbean players in county and league squads and it does not take a detailed and painstaking analysis to realise that the bright young things in English cricket are either white or Asian. Whilst struggling to remember an Afro-Caribbean prospect of any note since Alex Tudor, a list of young Asians leaps off the tongue far more easily: Solanki, Habib, Rashid, Bopara, Kabir Ali, Panesar, Mahmood; all evidence points to a large swathe of the West Indian population not engaging in the game as they once did.
Juxtapose this against the number of players of West Indian extraction breaking into professional football clubs up and down the country and you begin to see the logic of the argument, hence the crowds are not at test matches; the exception being the older generation, who still see cricket as the rallying point for the great archipelago from which they once came; the youngsters are all watching Arsenal.
The reasons are both cultural and practical. Culturally, the West Indians differ from the Asian population in that they do not originally come from a one-sport monoculture. Unlike the other test playing nations, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka make very little impact on world sport other than in cricket; and so when they came to the UK with their own unshakeable culture, a devotion to cricket remained an equally steadfast part of it. West Indian kids on the other hand have perhaps become more anglicised, and certainly more americanised. Football and basketball slowly became king; notably games that can be played anywhere. The West Indian population in England is generally located in the inner cities, areas that cricket has always struggled to reach with its lack of pitches, lack of coaches and lack of funding. These areas do not, however, suffer from a lack of basketball hoops or five-a-side football courts.
So in answer to the title of this piece, no, I do not expect there to be large West Indian crowds in this test series. But I certainly hope that initiatives such as Chance To Shine can go some way to reverse the sad trend of the last 15 years.