Mon | May 22, 2017

Tony Becca: Wanted - A few good, solid batsmen

Published:Sunday | June 28, 2015 | 6:00 AM

There are three standards of cricket in this world. There is the high standard of South Africa, Australia, India, and New Zealand. There is the weak standard of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and there is - not those in between like England and Pakistan - but those who are seen as average, or mediocre like the West Indies.

Once upon a time, the West Indies were the kings of cricket, the rulers of the game, the team that was rated as possibly the world's greatest ever cricket team.

They were better than teams like Don Bradman's all-conquering Australians of 1948, or Ian Chappell's men of the 1970s and especially 1974 and 1975.

It has been a long time since those days of greatness and it appears as if the return to those days, or anything close, is a long way off.

In fact, based on the revelations of the basic weaknesses as exposed by Australia recently, and by others earlier, including England, India, New Zealand, and South Africa, it will take a long, long time for West Indies cricket to get back to those halcyon days.

West Indies cricket is weak and there is no denying it. It is weak in batting, bowling, and fielding and it will take strong leadership to get it back to a respectable standard, much more a high standard.

Although both the bowling and the fielding are weak, it is the batting that is most worrying. For, while at their very best they possess one, two, or maybe three bowlers who on their day can rise to the occasion, or two, three, four fielders who can be brilliant, the batsmen, all of them, including Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo, fall short, especially in the performance stakes.

 

a batsman's game

 

Cricket, it has always been said, is a batsman's game, but that does not appear to be so these days, at least not in the West Indies.

Batting, however, has always been something good in the West Indies, something to enjoy.

To every good West Indies batsman, but for Shivnarine Chanderpaul, batting was a pleasure. It was a joy to see them in action as they reeled off glittering strokes for all to see, day after day, Test match after Test match.

It takes not so much talent, but practice and training to achieve such mastery. However, it involves hard work and the feeling, or rather the experience, is that the West Indian batsmen of today do not put in the effort which is necessary for them to become good first-class or Test match batsmen.

West Indian batsmen are "pretty" to look at for a few strokes, but hardly anything else after that, or for too long. West Indian batsmen these days, barring a very few, are poor in observing the basics of the game.

They do not, for example, move their feet properly and they do not know how to run between the wickets.

West Indian batsmen need good and proper coaching at school level, at club level and at the first-class level. In addition, West Indian batsmen need to play more cricket and better cricket at the club level. West Indian batsmen need to respect bowlers a bit more and West Indian batsmen need to cherish and protect their wickets much better than they attempt to do now.

Most important, however, West Indian batsmen need to bat. They need to practise and train more often and they need to practise until they hear a voice say "practise no more".

West Indians have a way of believing that they are "it", that they are the best and that they do not have to practise, much less practise often.

Their idea of practice is to go in the nets when they are told to, or are expected to, reel off a few of their favourite strokes and make their exit, sometimes without even working up a sweat.

Practice, however, makes perfect. Practice is working on weaknesses and if they do not believe that, they can look at the career of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Lionel Messi, and Lebron James, or those of any great player in any sport in the world, including their own Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

There is nothing wrong with the West Indies batsman, or indeed with any West Indies player that a little effort on their part, on their own time, cannot solve.

 

a change in attitude

 

What is needed, apart from more effort by the players, is a change in attitude in West Indies cricket.

Once upon a time, only the best, or those who were thought to possess something special, were given the privilege of wearing the maroon cap, or in the earlier days also the navy blue cap. The players were given every opportunity to produce and, most times, they produced.

Today, once a player makes a few runs or takes a few wickets, he gets a chance. Today, almost every player gets a chance, one or two chances, even three chances sometimes. And almost every season there are new faces with new chances, whether or not they deserve it; whether or not there is a new selection committee.

A Test cricketer is someone special and a Test cricketer should be treated as such. A Test cap should not be given to everyone and anyone with the hope that he may come good one day or some day.

A Test cap should be reserved for the best, or for those with the exceptional talent, who promise to them the best, or for those with the talent who produce enough to suggest that they will be numbered among the best.

Look around the world and you will see all the International Cricket Council full members producing as they had never produced before, especially in the form of young batsmen and more so, young fast bowlers.

There is work, much more work to be done in West Indies cricket and not by the selectors alone, but by those who administer the game and those who play the game. They need to train and practise, train and practise and sweat some more.