Changes in the West Indies team

The West Indies Cricket team seems to have finally found some sense of what a cricket team is supposed to be and if they continue along this trend could crawl back to a level of international respectability that would serve our peoples well around the world.

The decision by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to grant the five One Day Internationals (ODI) to the islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia respectively was initially challenged because of fears that the attendance would not have been what is customary in some of the countries with larger populations. Some feared that the current economic circumstance n some of the countries was such that the people would not have been able to afford the expense for a sustained period.
A number of factors came together to ensure, however, that crowds could have been in attendance in sufficient numbers in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
There were several innovations that came in addition to the particularly low prices for tickets. There were packages for older persons that facilitated their presence. Packages for school children also ensured their presence in relatively large numbers.
Perhaps more than anything lese the lower ticket prices favoured attendance. It has been some time since the entry prices were so low in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
After the early successes here several years the WICB and the local authorities had virtually priced themselves out of the market. This combined with the poor performances of the West Indies team and the failure to award the latter’s clashes with top class teams led to a significant decline in attendance at matches held here for some time.
This year that changed. The presence of the Australians, albeit with a somewhat weakened team, and a West Indies that is seeking to change its image, combined with attractive ticket prices to facilitate better crowds at Arnos Vale.
Of the three matches played here the one with the lowest attendance would have been the first, held on Friday 16 March 2012. The one on Sunday was always set to be the best by way of attendance. The West Indies victory caused a change of heart of the country’s Prime Minister, never one to miss a political opportunity. He announced, immediately after the West Indies victory on Sunday 18 March, that Tuesday 20, the date for the third and final ODI scheduled for St Vincent and the Grenadines, would be a public holiday.
The fact that the series was at the time level, gave sufficient impetus to Vincentians to readily grab all available tickets for the match.
Arnos Vale therefore was at maximum capacity.
Arnos Vale
The Arnos Vale playing field lived up to expectations in some respects though it was not where it was back in 2007 for the ‘goat cook’ warm up matches.
The field was out of bounds to all and sundry since November of 2011 and so there was an inordinately long time spent seeking to prepare the field to the expected standard.
The ICC and Australian team visits saw them give approval to the facility and allowed the local Cricket Association, the National Sports Council and the government to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
The average Vincentian who attended the matches played at Arnos Vale felt satisfied with the look of the outfield. From their vantage point it was good. Those who are connoisseurs of the game may well have had mixed feelings about the outfield from closer examination.
There is still much work to be done to return Arnos Vale Playing Field to its former glory and that must be spared no effort.
One has top contend with the fact that the proof of the preparation of any playing facility that is multipurpose is the ability of the preparation to withstand the use by the different sporting organisations without any significant damage being done.
No one would argue with the authorities for doing like the National Lotteries Authority in respect of the Victoria Park where accessibility is premised on allowance for adequate rest and regeneration periods.
Still, Arnos Vale came out of the matches with high marks for its first tie in any form of the international version of the game here, the remarkable performance of the West Indies team in fighting back enough to win one and tie another of three matches and the complete support of the Vincentians porting community on the three days of competition.
The local cricket authorities, the NSC and the government can all take a bow for their efforts and the role these played in the end result – people leaving the three matches with their voices gone and their pride significantly lifted.
Team performance
Throughout the ODI series the West Indies proved worthy competitors.
While Australia may wish to lament the absence of a full-strength team the fact is that the West Indies team played in a manner that left the region’s enthusiastic supporters feeling good and anxious for the test series to come through.
Many are hopeful that what they saw can legitimately be considered the resurgence in the fortunes of West Indies cricket that they have been hungering after for the past decade.
The performance of the ODI series was that of young Sunil Narine, the spinner from Trinidad and Tobago. He kept the Australians as befuddled as he has left the entire Caribbean thus far with his bowling. He seems a very good find and with proper coaching could emerge as one of the best of all time, at least from our neck of the woods. After all, it has been decades since Lance Gibbs mesmerised the cricketing world.
Narine is no ‘rabbit with the bat’ and seems prepared to take on the best in a challenge. He will have his time in the years ahead.
Kemar Roach continues to be impressive with his pace and has certainly matured over the past year in particular. He is more tempered and has the ability to lure batsmen with his slower ball much to their own folly and his and the team’s delight.
The batting remains a mixed bag. Pollard, while clearly a many seemingly committed to the shorter versions of the game, remains unpredictable. This may be the reason that the leadership of the team remains uncertain where to place him in the batting order. It seems that they are agreed on the circumstances at any given point in time. This does not say much for Pollard, however.
Sammy is perhaps one of the luckiest captains ever to grace the West Indies scene. Almost like clockwork he does something either with the bat or the ball just when it appears that his chips are otherwise down and the region calls for his head on a platter.
Dwayne Bravo continues to show potential but lacks consistency with the bat. His brother, Darren, failed miserably during the ODI series as also did Marlon Samuel.
Darren Bravo has also not been showing much form in the regional version of the game and the selectors may have only gave him the opportunity because of his immense potential. Still, potential does not lead to victory if the athlete is failing to produce. We can ill afford another Carl Hooper in West Indies cricket.
Marlon Samuels failed to assist the team with the bat during the competition. He was out of sorts and while many expected him to come good at some point he deceived the odds and left us all hungry.
The opening pairs were up and down. Of those tried only Adrian Barath in the final ODI seemed up to the task.
It is true that at times the bowlers showed the batsmen how the game should be played and this proved invaluable to the team but it was not what was expected. Surely we would all have been much better of had all team members shouldered their responsibilities.
The tie was a fitting end to a most exciting game and no one can really be faulted.
It must be remembered that when Lara seemed destined to break the world record playing against Australia down under the Australian team at the time, led by Ian Taylor, agreed that he was simply too good to out with the bowlers on hand. They agreed that he had to be run out and so they baited him. His innings ended controversially but the umpire ruled him out.
The tie came and left all the spectators at Arnos Vale simply stunned. For a brief moment everything went dead. Then the confusion began with blame enough to share around.
The West Indies team pulled themselves back on several occasions and must be congratulated for their consistency in this ODI series.
While the records would show that the West Indies team drew the ODI series, in many
ways they won.
They earned some respect from long lost fans.
The won the respect of Australia who must have thought that even with a depleted team the West Indies could not match them. This was not true and they would never forget it.
They also won the respect of themselves. They could hold their heads high once again, knowing that from this point they can claw they way back to the upper rungs of the international cricketing hierarchy.
The future
The old people always say that money runs things. This has been proven correct time and again. In the case of the world of cricket this is increasingly the case. Where once the cricketing authorities at the level of the International Cricket Council thought that they had regained full control of the sport following their agreement with Kerry Packer several years back, they did not foresee the challenges that would confront them from the monetary side of things that we now have.
No one seems exempt from the attraction of the mage bucks now available for the shorter versions of the game of cricket. All around the world proficient players of T20 cricket can significantly bolster their annual income.
The Indians began the money rush some years ago and our best West Indian players have been hot items. The minnows have been left behind.
Several countries have opened up their own T20 leagues to players from around the world but only those considered appealing enough to facilitate large crowds at stadia and on international television rights.
The latest addition to the countries with big-money competitions is Bangladesh and here again some of our West Indian players have featured significantly.
Sunil Narine. Our latest spinner on the West Indies team, who has thus far proved unplayable at times and probably capable of being our best prospect since Lance Gibbs, has already been attracted to the Indian Premier League (IPL). He has barely been blooded in the international arena but the organisers of mega competitions have seen his immense potential for bringing more people into their stadia and on their pay per view channels.
The West Indies Cricket Board must therefore come to terms with these new developments.
The challenges are many and the way in which the WICB has grown accustomed to conducting its affairs leaves the average Caribbean cricket fan wary about its response.
Time is not on our side.