WI wild card at the ICC Champions Trophy

The West Indies Cricket team joins the rest of the International Cricket Council (ICC) teams in the One-Day International (ODI) Cricket World Cup in England over the next few weeks with relatively high hopes. That is of course of we are to accept the attempts at selling the team to the peoples of the Caribbean by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the regional media.
The success of the West Indies team in the Cricket World Cup 20/20 may well have allowed some to believe that we have turned the corner in terms of reclaiming some ascendancy in the sport we once dominated for more than a decade.
One wonders whether the team is as yet capable of taking on the world, as some suggest, in any version of the game other than the Twenty/20.
In this Column we address the chances of the West Indies in the Cricket World Cup.
Twenty/20 World title
It was not so long ago that the West Indies Cricket team won the ICC World Twenty/20 title defeating hosts Sri Lanka by 36 runs in a relatively low-scoring game. At the time everyone thought that the team was complete. It appeared that everything was in place.
The team played through the competition with a level of confidence not seen for a very long time.
Captain Darren Sammy received kudos from every quarter having displayed what many considered very good qualities of leadership.
From the WICB itself to the Team’s coach through to the captain and the players, it appeared as though we had turned the corner in the game.
Victory was sweet and some thought that it marked the beginning of a new era in the sport in the Caribbean.
The fact is that while Chris Gayle did not make much of a contribution to the team’s eventual success it was clear that the players had the measure of their counterparts around the Cricketing world.
Certainly there was enough experience in the team to facilitate challenging the very best the world of Cricket had to offer at the time.
No one wanted to take anything away from the sweet tasting victory they procured by dint of hard work although some may well have been surprised by it.
Perhaps in the Caribbean we have grown so accustomed to disappointment from the West Indies Cricket team over the past several years that some have to pinch themselves after the announcement of victory before they can come to terms that it has really happened.
The peoples of the Caribbean have been so starved of good consistent play from the West Indies team that they were shell-shocked in many quarters by what transpired in Sri Lanka.
Going into the final match against the home team before a huge partisan crowd the West Indies team rose to the occasion and forced the Sri Lankans into submission.
Indian Premier League (IPL)
The IPL has just concluded. There were three West Indian players in the final match. Keiron Pollard and Dwayne Smith were on the winning team while Dwayne Bravo was on the losing team.
Pollard won the Man of the Match in the final while Bravo gave good account with the ball in a losing effort.
Throughout the IPL this year the region’s media focused on the performances of the region’s players.
At the end of the competition however we are still entering the ICC Champion’s Trophy uncertain of our capabilities.
There is not necessary correlation between the players’ performance at the IPL and what we can expect from them at the Champions Trophy.
Caribbean Twenty/20
Here at home the regional Twenty/20 competition has taken root. This is not to say that it has significantly impacted the turnout at matches.
The shortened version of the game of Cricket has become the most appealing. People love sport but above all they relish the opportunity to witness exciting sport. Twenty/20 offers great excitement and within four hours there is a result. This latter fact facilitates the masses’ desire for immediate gratification.
Thanks to Allen Stanford the Twenty/20 version became popular in the Caribbean. His heavy financial outlay and use of the various forms of the media certainly appealed to the peoples of the Caribbean and the entire Cricketing world.
Many of the cricketers who perhaps thought they might not have had the opportunity to display their skills in the longer version of the game seized the opportunity afforded them by the money-packed Stanford Twenty/20. Many players earned enough to become millionaires from the sport in a few short years.
While the regional Twenty/20 competition has not yet been able to reach the lucrative purses of the Stanford era it has nonetheless been appealing to the young cricketers of the Caribbean some of whom fancy their chances of getting on to national as well as regional teams as Twenty/20 specialists.
Trinidad and Tobago have shown themselves the champions of this version of the game in the Caribbean, an achievement that has seen them compete at the global level where they have been able to hold their own among the best teams in the world.
Regional four-day Cricket
The success of the West Indies players at the Twenty/20 format of the game has not been matched by their performance at the monger versions.
At the test level the players are found decidedly wanting. Some of the bowlers who excel at the Twenty/20 level find immense difficulty containing batsmen and taking wickets at the test level.
Some of our batsmen who do so very well and consistently so at the Twenty/20 version are exposed for their lack of batting skills at the longer format.
At the regional level the WICB has been unable to address the significant weaknesses displayed by the various teams.
In the most recent regional four-day competition the overall standard of the game was perhaps among the worst ever seen. It was nonetheless reflective of the WICB’s inability to address what ails West Indies Cricket in a holistic way.
None of the teams involved in the regional four-day competition played at what could be considered a satisfactory level. Pundits of the sport thought that the standard of the matches played was particularly poor.
Critics argue that with the huge sums available to cricketers around the world enticing them to hone their skills for the Twenty/20 version of the game Caribbean players who have struggled to appropriately excel at the craft more generally are less likely to lift their standard at any level other than the shortest format.
Thus the regional four-day format reveals the paucity of our cricketers even those who have spent time at the academy in Barbados.
Indeed there may well be reason to challenge the effectiveness of the Cricket Academy thus far. Some may well suggest that it is early days yet and we must give the institution more time before passing judgement. The fact is however that once such an institution is established it is expected to impact the sport in the region.
The immensely talented Adrian Bharat from Trinidad and Tobago has been working with Gordon Greenidge but is yet to show that his talent has been developed enough to have him command a place in the West Indies team in any version of the game.
It may well be that while Greenidge did well as a player he does not have what is required to do the job of a coach or guide to the young man.
Bharat seems well on his way to becoming another Carl Hooper. The difference is that Hooper did rise to the occasion at times.
If our playing of the four-day game in the Caribbean is anything to go by we are a very long way from reaching the pinnacle among the world’s Cricketing nations.
ICC Champions Trophy
The days when we once commanded the 50-over version of the game have long since disappeared.
Reading the comments of the team’s management and the leading players does not engender confidence that we can expect success. West Indians like to talk. Delivering the goods on the day of the competition is another matter altogether.
There is nothing in the past several weeks of the IPL that leaves us with any degree of confidence that the team should do well.
The statements made by some at the leadership level that the success in the ICC World Twenty/20 competition last year serves us in good stead are pure trite. The two are poles apart even as they are months apart. But the statement sounds good and offers the media something to write about.
West Indies teams of the past possessed players who could easily be relied upon to transform the game almost at will. Not so with the current slate. Gayle’s awesome power is as unpredictable as the weather. The same can be said of Pollard who has been touted for his all-round abilities in the sport.
Caribbean people will nonetheless stay glued to their televisions and radios more out of a desire for the team to succeed than anything else.
We live in hope that the players of today would remember the history of the game in the Caribbean and what it means to us as a people.
The fact is however that the players on the current West Indies team appear less interested in the legacy of the game in the region than in the income to which they are now exposed.
Not surprisingly, the leading players have been unable to speak proudly of Caribbean Cricket. They see only themselves.
As the ICC Champions Trophy begins the peoples of the Caribbean are no longer seeing their aspirations intertwined with the fortunes of the West Indies Cricket team.
To the astute analyst of the game the West Indies team enters the competition almost as a wild card. It is almost like the lottery, any number could play.