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Tony Becca: Sir Clyde’s words of wisdom

Published:Sunday | November 1, 2015 | 11:00 AM
Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kusal Janith Perera (left) and teammate Dimuth Karunarathne (right) successfully appeal for the dismissal of West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels during the fourth day of last month's first Test in Galle, Sri Lanka

Some 20 years ago, the West Indies' long and distinguished reign as champions of the world came to an end, and today, they are still fighting to recover some of the lost glory - especially in Test cricket.

The reason why it has taken them so long to dust themselves off is probably because they believe that are better than they really are.

The late Sir Clyde Walcott said in Durban in 1998 during a Test match between the West Indies and South Africa, "The problem with the West Indies is that they believe that they are good, too good to be exact."

Walcott, a former great West Indies batsman, chief selector, manager, and president, as well as a former chairman of the International Cricket Conference, was in South Africa watching the West Indies who were about to lose the third Test match and the series 5-0.

That was a tour which started with the West Indies players threatening to go on strike, and that was a West Indies team which included batsmen such as Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Philo Wallace, Clayton Lambert, and Stuart Williams; and bowlers like Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Franklyn Rose, and Nixon McLean.

 

BAT ACCORDING TO SKILL

 

Walcott went on to explain that the batsmen needed to concentrate, to bat according to their skill, to bat to match the situation, and to bat for the team. "They should not, all of them, bat as if they are the best batsmen in the world, with respect for no one; as if they are all like Lara."

In South Africa, Walcott was right. Since that time, he has been right many times, and had he been alive and said it in this time, he definitely would also have been right.

Test match cricketers are beyond the ordinary, or should be beyond the ordinary.

The West Indies cricketers, a few of them, are beyond the ordinary. Most of them, however, are not, and it is time the West Indian fans face that fact.

West Indies captains of recent vintage, the selectors, the manager, the coaches, and team's media rep always, each time the team loses, talk about the talented batsmen and bowlers in the team.

They always have some flattering words for the players. It is high time, however, that the people in charge stop making excuses for the players.

 

POOR CRICKETERS

 

It is always, according to them, unfortunate that the batsmen, who get to 10, 20, or 30, fail on a pitch that was good for batting, one on which opposing batsmen of similar or less experience score centuries, and one on which the bowlers, more times than not, always bowl well, picking up one or two wickets when the opposing bowlers reel in five or six wickets to beat the West Indies handsomely.

It is also disappointing to hear, time and time again, that, but for the many dropped catches, the West Indies may have won.

It is time they understand that catches are a part of cricket. It is sometimes, most times, the difference between a good team and a bad team, between victory and defeat.

The West Indies cricketers, at this time, are generally poor cricketers. They are nowhere near the standard of previous West Indies cricketers, and they should know that that is so, or they should be told that it is so.

Some of them got into the team by the skin of their teeth, some of them just ahead of not just another player or two, but ahead of several players. In other words, they got into the team when others could also easily have made the team.

In fact, on many occasions, some got into the team when they were obviously not good enough, and never will be good enough.

Instead of behaving like they are God's gift to cricket, therefore, they should try to be West Indies cricketers. The batsmen, for example, should try and bat even for a reasonable time, they should concentrate, and as Phil Simmons encouraged them to do a few months ago, they should, for example, bat with an eye on the scoreboard, sometimes scoring a little at a time.

 

PRINCIPLES OF BATTING

 

The top-order West Indies batsmen sometimes bat with no regard for the basics of the game, nor display the principles of good batting.

Apart from not knowing the difference between aggression and carelessness, they drive when they should not be driving; they play back when they should not be playing back; and even when some of them do what is right, the lower-order batsmen do silly things. Sometimes, most times, when the team is in trouble, they get run-out, stumped, or caught on boundary going for big hits.

That is the general attitude of the West Indian cricketer of today. The top-order batsmen do not bat responsibly and the lower-order batsmen bat as if they are as good as, or even better than the batsmen.

How often does one see the recognised batsmen battling for survival, and at the other end, the tail-ender is swiping away until he is either stumped or gets caught on the boundary.

No one supports the other, like all good team players do.

The bowling is a little different, but how can a team select five specialist bowlers - including four specialist pacers - bowl 153 overs in one innings, and the four pacers bowl only 80 overs with the one spinner bowling 47 overs and a batsman bowling 27, more than any of the pacers.

These things suggest that apart from the weakness of the players, the West Indies are not playing good cricket, despite the presence of a support group of four coaches, a former captain as manager, and another former captain as chief selector.

Maybe the coaches are not any good, or may be, with the exception of Curtley Ambrose, the players just do not listen to them.

The West Indies have just played finished a two-match series in Sri Lanka. They lost both matches badly, they enjoyed one good day, and the players, the team, are still in the same position as they were before the contest started.

According to the captain, the batsmen lack good temperament and they have no patience. The truth, however, is that although the players have changed in the 20 years since Sabina Park in 1995, although the coaches have changed, although the selectors have changed, and although the board presidents have changed many times, Walcott's words in Durban 1998 remain true to this day.

The West Indies go to Australia in December, and, as usual, much is expected.

 

CHANGE IN ATTITUDE

 

If there is no change in the attitude of the players, however; if there is no change in the selection process; if there is no change in the personality and quality of coaches to get the players to listen to them and to try and follow their instructions; and if there is no change in the quality of players coming out of the islands by their performances in the regional competition, the result will be the same - probably even worse.

The players are weak, and so is the eleven selected. I do not know how to balance the team but I do know that in the present situation, a team of five specialist batsmen, with Denesh Ramdin at number six, and five specialist bowlers cannot work.

When all is said and done, the players must take most of the blame for what is happening to West Indies cricket. After all, they are the ones who do the batting, bowling and fielding. They must better prepare themselves to do so.