The challenge of change in WI Cricket

anderson_bowledThe West Indies cricket team now seems to be in tatters even as we claim to be preparing for the 20/20 World Cup.
The tour of England has shown just how inept the vast majority of our players are at this stage in their careers despite the anxiety on the part of much of the regional media to extol their virtues when they defeated England a few months ago in a test series to which the Caribbean played host.
West Indian cricket supporters have been shocked into realism by the flagrant lack of commitment on the part of the cricketers on the tour of England. It must be more than the weather to which blame can be apportioned for the demise of the team.  Leadership is lacking all around beginning with the West Indies Cricket Board.

Wisden Trophy Test Series
The West Indies team and the Cricket Board all jumped for joy when we captured the Wisden Trophy in the home series earlier. We then readily surrendered it in a crushing defeat in England a few months later.
Clearly there was no planning. The WICB jumped at an offer from the England Cricket Board and the rationale remains unclear. The leadership of this organisation seem to consider itself something of a monolith unanswerable to all but itself.
The performance of the West Indies was particularly poor.
In the batting, England’s Bopara and Cook took top honours with high scores of 251 and 201 respectively. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dinesh Ramdhin followed in third and fourth positions respectively with highest scores of 136 and 121.
West Indies captain, Chris Gayle, was some distance adrift with the likes of Devon Smith emerging above him.
There was nothing in the batting of the West Indians that suggested a level of commitment to the game. The younger players in particular seemed incapable of raising their game to the desired standard. Only Dinesh Ramdhin showed any degree of concern for the fortunes of the West Indies team. Chanderpaul appeared to have remained suspect to the swinging ball in the typically English conditions and faltered where many had hoped he would flourish.
One is not at all certain of the length of time it takes for West Indian cricketers to mature in the game. Devon Smith has been around for far too long to remain the weakling that he is as an opener.
In contrast the Englishmen fought hard to win and re-take the Wisden Trophy. They were also preparing themselves for the upcoming series against Australia. Bopara displayed the aggression that was sadly lacking in the West Indies camp.
In the bowling, England took the top four spots in terms of most wickets taken by a single bowler. Anderson claimed 11 wickets for an average of 17.72 with Onions (10), Broad (8) and Swann (7) following. The highest West Indian bowler was Fidel Edwards with seven wickets at an average of 31.00.
So much was expected of the West Indian bowlers but they did not deliver when they were needed. On the other had, the English bowlers showed what it takes to win. They bowled according to instructions, especially Broad who seems poised for an outstanding future in the game.
In the absence of Flintoff the other bowlers rose to the occasion and shattered the West Indies cricketers beyond recognition.
Regional cricket versus international
It has long been argued that the WICB does not provide the requisite administration for the sport in the international arena. It is worse today. Perhaps that is the main reason that the current leadership of West Indies cricket may well have been hoping for Allen Stanford to eventually emerge as the saviour of the game.
Regional cricket has attained a particularly low level that many could not have thought possible. We are there nonetheless.
A quick perusal of the outstanding performances in the past two or three seasons of regional cricket and one would find that the top batsmen are still unable to prove themselves capable of playing well at the international level once given the opportunity.
The thirst for money remains a priority among the players without due attention being paid to what they actually bring to the table.
Had the West Indian cricketer been paid by performance we would probably have seen a much better team.
Despite all of its aggression on behalf of the players we are yet to have any sound proposals coming from the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) in respect of best practices for the development of the very players the organisation represents so vociferously.
Surely there must be some concern within WIPA that the players interest in better conditions and remuneration should be accompanied by the delivery of enhanced performances on the field of play.
The WICB does not appear to have among its membership men of vision. They seem unfortunately blinkered and the game suffers as a result.
The regional game must be totally revamped. Top scorers at the regional level have consistently failed at the higher level. Indeed they look particularly poor when playing against sound competition.
Coaching must become an integral part of the development of the game in the region. It remains something of a tragedy that our players at home seem content to do everything other than hone their skills.
The WICB continually boasts of being possessive of a development strategy but the public is yet to see any of this reflected in better performances.
The WICB seem incapable of making sense of the huge gap between what the Australians, South Africans, Indians and Pakistanis do that we fail to do in an effort to redress the humiliating status we now hold.
The continued hankering back to the glory days mean nothing if the WICB is not prepared to engage in critical analysis of its own lethargy and ineptitude, the incompetence and pitiful inefficiencies and ineffectiveness that pervade the game in the region and implement new strategies.
There are no strategies at work in West Indies cricket today. The mouthings of the players themselves, many of which appear emergent from ‘loose canons’, reflect the paucity of leadership at all levels.
It remains amazing that while the CARICOM has ill-advisedly established a Committee on Cricket it too has failed to address the problems of the game at the regional level. This is not at all surprising given the chronic incompetencies evident within CARICOM in respect of several aspects of its work.
The Gayle factor
Jimmy Adams, a fellow Jamaican, has seemingly found reason to explain away Gayle’s problems at this stage in his career. Suddenly Jimmy Adams is prepared to acknowledge the weightiness of captaincy.
It is unfortunate that sometimes we have to put up with the rubbish that some former players dole out.
Adams’ analysis is that the captaincy weighs heavily on Gayle and seemingly affects his performance. What performance?
Gayle’s average in test cricket is still very low compared to others who have carried that mantle. He remains heavy-footed and is ‘cheap’ for astute bowlers in test cricket. Perhaps his own recent pronouncements about the 20/20 version of the game should be taken as a reflection of just how much it seems ideal for his swashbuckling approach to cricket.
Gayle has not really developed much as a batsman of class. He remains only too eager to use his size to hit the ball hard and often out of the ground. A performance analysis would probably reveal his seeming lack of interest in taking singles and turning ones into twos and twos into threes. Instead he seems to have a preference for staying his ground after thumping the ball around.
Clive Lloyd declared some time ago that Gayle was ready for the captaincy. Gayle got the leadership role following Sarwan’s period of injury and no one ever accounted for the fact that once Sarwan returned the captaincy stayed firmly on Gayle’s head and shoulders.
Now we are hearing Gayle seemingly suggesting that he really never wanted it, or something to that effect.
Captaincy is a leadership function. It requires training in much the same way that managers and CEOs of major corporations requires it. Unfortunately the WICB has never understood this aspect of the post. This is easy to understand given that the administrators of the game in the region do not understand that they too must be trained for their respective roles.
Following the tour of Australia where Lara made the remarkable 277, Malcolm Marshall wrote that the young man had an understanding of the game of cricket that was unreal for his age. This was at a time when several greats were still around.
Marshall noted that Lara should be groomed for the captaincy of the West Indies team.
No one took Marshall seriously. They allowed Lara to grab the captaincy without ever once being prepared for it. Later, we unceremoniously dumped him, cast aside like some useless relic with little regard for his world-renowned performances.
That is the way of the WICB engrossed as it is in its own incompetence.
Gayle was considered fit for the captaincy on what basis? No one has told us and no one ever will.
Turning the corner
The reality is that when the players appeared to be doing better the WICB and the hapless regional media were so anxious for success that Gayle was credited with having brought the players together; they were suddenly responsive to his leadership.
Today we are learning something different.
The WICB must examine itself before anything else and recommend a new approach that allows those without vision to leave and bring on board people with competence.
The WICB must engage in a deliberate talent identification process in respect of captaincy of the team. People identified must be duly trained and continually assessed.
Players must be coached in the game at all levels.
New standards must be set for the regional game. Some new criteria must be established for movement on to the highest level of the game.
There must be a developmental path for players in the region.
The under 15 players must be carried through the system in a developmental manner. Scholarships must be sought to have them access higher levels of training abroad, perhaps at the Australian Academy or elsewhere.
The WICB must engage in agreements with other Boards involve din the game to facilitate access to better developmental options.
As it is now each time we boast of turning the corner we run into a Mack truck of immense proportions.
The time for change is now.