A series we would want to forget
The recently concluded three-match test series between the West Indies and England can best be branded the series we would want to forget. If anything the series showed that it is not only the West Indies and Pakistan amongst long standing test cricket teams that are not worthy of serious recognition by the international cricket community given their unpredictability. We can just as easily add England to that grouping.
For many of the cricket connoisseurs the aforementioned trio have shown a penchant for disappointing cricket. For the most part when any of them is playing the outcome depends on which of their respective turns up on the day of the competition. In every sense, literally anything can be expected to happen.
Snatching defeat from victory
Had there not been so much money invested in the most recent series between the West Indies and England; had there not been so many sport-loving enthusiastic supporters of the England team following them in the Caribbean, the entire series might otherwise have been considered at best, farcical.
The first test was almost hilarious with both teams showing just how much they are not worthy of being considered for higher ranking in the international cricket circles.
In the second test played in Grenada the West Indies certainly showed just how good they are at disappointing home fans by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Not to be outdone however, England used the third test match played in Barbados (Little England) to show that not only the West Indies can do that. They can most certainly return the favour by losing in grand style, just three days.
Patrons must have wondered why they even bothered to purchase season tickets.
For the visitors the jaunt w as a grand vacation with or without cricket being played.
In Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Barbados the restaurants and bars were overrun each night that the visitors were in the respective countries. Given the sorry state of the economies of the aforementioned islands of the Caribbean, faring as they are no better than their other regional counterparts, it was not at all surprising that they relished the presence and eagerness of the English visitors to add significant inflows into their coffers.
The performances of the two teams left much to be desired and perhaps only the commentators appeared appropriately entertained for the duration of the series.
Interestingly, in the final match some commentators spent more time speaking jocularly about matters outside of the realm of cricket perhaps understanding the lack of interest by listeners in what was taking place on the field of play.
Many cricket pundits worldwide would not have been in any way surprised by the lack of adventure, skill and determination displayed by the players on both teams even as they are aware of the talent in evidence.
Perhaps the players have all been bitten by the same bug of niggling complacency and could not extricate themselves from its near-debilitating impact.
Happily, at the conclusion of the competition nobody at any level of the West Indies team felt compelled to claim that we had ‘turned the corner’. Instead, the sentiments expressed seem to suggest that the team is speeding as it has always been, heading in the direction of a precipice knowing that the vehicle does not have any brakes.
Phil Simmons of Trinidad and Tobago has been brought into the West Indies camp as the team’s new coach. He has replaced Otis Gibson of Barbados.
Interestingly, Gibson was initially brought to the West Indies team as a bowling coach and was later given the entire team.
What were the factors of his performance legacy that gave the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) that he possessed the credentials required to guarantee his appointment as the team’s coach at the particular juncture? That is anybody’s guess.
What is clear is that Gibson proved himself incapable of changing the fortunes of the West Indies cricket team in all departments.
Phil Simmons had been coaching in Ireland.
Those who know Simmons as an opening batsman for Trinidad and Tobago and the West Indies would hope that his coaching skills reflect a better and consistent temperament than what he seemed to possess while he was an active player.
It is true that while at Ireland Simmons had been credited with enhancing the fortunes of the national team and this may well have allowed the WICB to shift their attention from Gibson to him. Caribbean cricket aficionados would therefore be monitoring closely how Simmons approaches his new assignment, given their anxiety for a change of fortune.
There is little doubt that coaching the West Indies is a major undertaking for anyone, regardless of credentials.
The players are not from one single country. This means that getting them merely to forge a cohesive unit is a near impossible task.
Many of our players are playing all over the cricketing world at almost any given point in time. Given the appeal of the almighty dollar playing for their respective national teams in the traditional domestic league is certainly not a priority. It is also clear that playing for the West Indies is no longer as much apriority for many of our players as it was in the past. The emphasis is less on committing oneself to help take the regional team to the top of the cricketing world and more on ensuring that they join the sport’s millionaires club in short order.
Add to the foregoing challenges for the coach, the fact that the WICB does not have the resources to facilitate the kind of training regimen via camps that should otherwise be the order of the day of we are serious about regaining the top position in different formats of the game.
The foregoing leaves Simmons much like his predecessors. It would be most interesting to see how he interfaces with the WICB to effect changes such that he can readily overcome some of the identified challenges.
Thank you Shiv
Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been a good and faithful servant of the sport for the West Indies and we must all applaud his longevity in this regard. However, he is not getting any younger and his sight and reflexes may well be such today that the younger, energetic bowlers around the world may have come to recognise how to readily effect his demise at the wicket.
The WICB’s technical staff and selectors may wish at this juncture to engage in an appropriate analysis of the state of Shiv’s game and readily determine whether it is time to express their sincere gratitude for his sterling contribution over the years.
Unfortunately for Shiv, he is no Tendulkar. He may well desire to become some sort of record holder but the fortunes of the West Indies team seem to dictate that we take immediate action to ensure that we move up rather than down the ladder. That is not to say that we are not already so far down the totem pole that we can only move upward.
We cannot treat Shiv as we did Carl Hooper and allow him to almost hold us at ransom waiting for him to regain his former stature. We have long passed that stage.
Dearth of pacers
It is an unfortunate thing to say but the resignation from the game by Curtly Ambrose some years ago has left the West Indies without any genuine ‘tear-away’ fast bowlers. That accolade has been apparently passed on to other cricketing nations.
The attempts by those who lead our academy at preparing our cricketers have failed to produce bowlers of the speed, competence and temperament of bygone years and we are paying dearly in the field of play for this.
It is ridiculous the frequency with which our quicker bowlers succumb to injury. This can be compared with their counterparts on other cricket teams around the world.
What is wrong?
How are we addressing this perennial problem?
It is rather interesting that the cricketing world somehow expects us to produce genuine fast bowlers while we languish in finding them far less having them impact the sport.
There is no sport that can be played with any measure of proficiency where the players cannot apply their intellects to the task at hand. We see this everyday and everywhere.
In the recent test series against England it was simply amazing to observe the capacity of some players from the Caribbean to show commitment enough to make a big score in one inning and then to display the crudest of approaches in the next.
Is there no one in the team, inclusive of coaches, that can somehow bring intelligence and good sense to bear on the players as they walk out onto the field of play?
Is there no interest in being able to read the status of the game at any given point such that every member of the team is imbued with a sense of responsibility o get the very best result from the game?
There is clearly an abundance of talent resident in the youths of the Caribbean yet when many are given the opportunity to apply that to their game on the field of play we are left with nothing but bitter disappointment.
Perhaps the time has come for us to do like the teams from the Far East. We might as well keep giving youths a chance until such time as they all recognise that what is required of them is a comprehensive understanding of the game, a genuine commitment to the West Indies team and the peoples of the region and an overarching desire to apply intellect each time they are called upon to represent.