Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Tony Becca | How long shall we wait?

Published:Sunday | April 30, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Debutant Vishaul Singh scored nine in both innings of the first Test in the Brighto Paints Q Mobile Cup Series at Sabina Park.

When I was a boy, I remember reciting, time and time again, something that went like this, "Riddle me this, riddle me that, guess me this riddle or perhaps not."

Although I found out later that "riddle" means something wrapped in a mystery, I never did find out the true meaning of the verse, but, last week, especially last Tuesday, I found myself repeating the words time and time again.

This was during and at the end of the first Test match between the West Indies and Pakistan at Sabina Park, during the "celebration" before a handful of fans at the 50th Test match played at Sabina Park without a Jamaican in the team, and during the match which Pakistan won by a whopping seven wickets with over half a day to spare, and after rain interfered with the game at various times.

It was also during the Test in which captain Misbah-ul-Haq, age 43 or thereabout, who had hit 99 not out in the first innings, strolled to the wicket, immediately smashed two sixes off successive deliveries, one over long-off and one midwicket, and walked off the field.

Once again, for the umpteenth time and for a long, long time, myself and a few other embarrassed and disappointed fans struggled to deal with the West Indies' failure, for so long, to remove themselves, not only from the foot of the ladder in terms of ratings, or rankings, but that they have remained static as far as development is concerned.

For some 20 years now, it has been the same thing day after day, Test match after Test match.

As the West Indies prod along changing managers, coaches, captains, and players at a rate of almost every Test match, the coaches, the captains, and even young inexperienced players, like Jomel Warrican and Alzarri Joseph, talk about how good the team is and if only the players had batted well, had bowled well, and had fielded properly, things may have been different.

They all end up with a belief, or so they say, that things will be better tomorrow.

Tomorrow, however, has never come. Tomorrow, except for a very, very few occasions, has always been like the day before, or worse.

 

Facts of life

 

These players are not as good as the players earlier times, they are nowhere close to the players of yesterday.

The players of today are too easily forgiven for their failures, at least, it appears so, and, on top of that, the players apparently believe that they are as good as those who played earlier

Someone had better let them know the facts of life, and the facts of life include the following: the harder you work, the better you become, and the more you will be respected, and all that adds up to more money and to more honours.

The great, immortal George Headley once said that everybody makes mistakes, but that the good ones, the good players, make them only twice.

The West Indies batsmen, for example, make mistakes all the time. They get out doing the same things over and over again.

What hurts more is that sometimes, whenever you see a West Indian batting in a regional game, or in a Test match, or even in the nets, and they bat for a few minutes, or play one or two delightful strokes, one would bet his last dollar that he can bat and is destined for the big time.

Most times, if not all the time, one is left embarrassed by the very thought that he can bat whenever he comes to bat in a Test match, or against one or two good bowlers, and the faults, the chinks, become exposed.

It is hard to blame the selectors for selecting them to represent the West Indies. Most times, it is "six a one, half a dozen of the other", or it is simply a case of anyone will do.

Right now, the selectors may feel, as many of us do, that the best thing to do is to put the names of the top-40 players or so in a bag and ask someone to draw the names of the 11 players from it.

 

Senior players

 

To be fair, however, the selectors have no Christopher Gayle, no Marlon Samuels, and no Darren Bravo, and they are not blessed with a team of Roy Fredericks, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Seymour Nurse, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran or Clive Lloyd, so that they could bring in a young Rowe and a young Kallicharran, a young Greenidge and a young Richards, a young Richie Richardson, and a young Brian Lara without the pressure to perform immediately.

It will take a long, long time to produce a West Indies team with senior players of that calibre so that the young players who come into the team will have the kind of "presence" that the senior players provide, so that they can relax and develop their skills to its fullest, but the move must be made now.

The coaches owe it to West Indies cricket to work hard on the present youngsters, to speak to them whenever they see these mistakes, and not to allow them to continue in the same vein while the coaches grumble under their breaths about the players' attitude.

The young cricketers in the region also owe it to the fans to listen to the coaches, to dedicate themselves to success, and not be satisfied to just play for the West Indies.

West Indies cricket is now paying its coaches and players, and they must earn their money. The board, or territorial boards, musts see to it that they are not only professionals by getting paid, but that they are professionals in their attitude to playing the game.

That attitude must include the level of work they put in an effort to become good and better players. I am tired, for instance, to see an opening batsman getting out caught in the slips and to hear the excuse that he got out because the ball swung through the air as if he, a Test match batsman, did not expect that the bowler, a Test match bowler, could or would swing the ball through the air.

A professional is expected to perform beyond the ordinary.

The psyche in West Indies cricket must change if the results are to change. Although they are privileged to represent the West Indies, these West Indies cricketers do not deserve to behave like stars, or to be treated as such, especially looking at their returns in the past 20 years or so.

Losing is not a disgrace, but playing badly, and for so long, is embarrassing. It is a long time to be losing, however, and to be classed in the same argument, with not only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but also with Ireland and Afghanistan, is a bit frustrating.

The second Test starts today at Kensington Oval and the hope is that this one will provide some sunshine, even a little bit, for the fans.