Tony Becca | Looking for a happy ending
The West Indies professional cricket league is well on its way. In fact, with seven rounds gone and just three to go, it is almost at an end, with defending champions Guyana Jaguars apparently on their way to making it two in a row.
The Jaguars, led by batsmen Anthony Bramble with 481 runs and Vishal Singh with 463 runs and spin bowler Veersammy Permaul with the competition's leading 41 wickets at an average of 16.44 and an economy rate of 2.13, boast an impressive lead of 42.8 points on second-place Barbados Pride.
Bramble and Singh, with averages of 60.13 and 66.14, sit right behind leaders Devon Smith and Denesh Ramdin with 873 runs at 87.30 and 564 runs at 80.57, with the Jaguar's second-best wicket-taker to date being young Keemo Paul, who has snared 22 wickets to lie in seventh place.
With 21 matches played out of a total of 30, some 17,939 runs, including 25 centuries, have been scored, 667 wickets have fallen, and despite low scores, and with one match ending in a historic tie, the season so far, looks good, especially when one sees that Devon Smith has scored 873 runs with five centuries, Ramdin three centuries, and Singh two centuries, and that Permaul has taken 41 wickets,
While Smith has been the top batsman, however, the best bowler must be Nikita Miller, the left-arm spin bowler who has so far played in only two matches due to illness and who took 23 wickets at an average of 8.74 and an economy rate of 1.82 before leaving for New Zealand.
On the surface, these figures, even with the inconsistency in the batting, and the dominance of the average spin bowling, look good.
In reality, however, in seven matches, with the top players missing in action, some in New Zealand, others in Bangladesh and UAE plying their trade, only the discarded Smith of the Leeward Islands Hurricane and the forgotten Ramdin of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force, the now-and-again Permaul of the Jaguars, and the neglected Miller of the Jamaica Scorpions, are worthy of commendation.
Where are the young batsmen, or the young bowlers, pace or spin? What has happened, for example, to batsmen like Brandon King of the Scorpions, who promised so much, and to the promising Anthony Alleyne of the Pride?
King has so far totalled 386 runs, including scores of 9 and 88, at an average of 32.17, and finds himself at number nine, and Alleyne has scored 297 runs with a top score of 84 and an average of 22.85.
Although they are still young, these figures are just not good enough, especially in this time of need, and even more so, not coming from batsmen who look so good and promise so much.
As the saying goes, to whom much is given, much is expected.
One batsman who looks special is the Scorpions' Fabian Allen.
A former West Indies youth player and a confident, attacking batsman, Allen has played five matches, he has scored 398 runs, inclusive of two consecutive centuries, 169 and 105 not out, for an average of 66.33. He is also a useful left-arm spin bowler and a brilliant fielder.
There are a few puzzling things about West Indies cricket that need attention, however, and very urgently at that.
One has to do with West Indian batsmanship. Sometimes most of the batsmen look so good and reel off some lovely, correct, and pleasing strokes; at other times, they look so pathetic and appear like sitting ducks as they attempt some outrageous strokes, strokes not based on good technique or on common sense.
Another is the dependency on fast bowling despite its failure in domestic cricket and its wayward bowling in the international arena. Another is the dominance on spin bowling in regional cricket despite its failure on the international scene. And still another is the general sloppy fielding in international cricket despite the brilliance of a few fielders.
LACK OF COMMITMENT
The reasons, despite more cricket with the format of return matches in the regional competition, is the general lack of commitment of players to the game, the lack of regular, committed, team training, the lack of individual training, the lack of proper and regular coaching, the standard of local cricket and competitions, and of knowing what to do and when to do it.
Cricket, among other things, is a game of decisions, of knowing when, why, under what conditions, and in what situations, particularly while batting, one must do certain things, or not do certain things.
A batsman, for example, must know when to take a risk and when it is not worth taking a risk. Character is important in everything in life, especially in sports, and more so in cricket.
Once upon a time in the days when, for example, Sabina Park was in the company of Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, the Wanderers in South Africa, and Perth in Australia as one of the fastest pitches in the world, West Indian pitches were different in pace, but all were recognised as being "good" pitches.
Today, the pitches are slow, very slow, with low bounce, and they "turn" early, some of them from as early as before lunch on day one.
The result is that spin bowlers revel on them to the point where spin bowlers have ruled the standings for years. Today, despite the folly of bonus points for wickets taken by fast bowlers, the top eight bowlers are all spin bowlers.
The problem with that is that the West Indies apparently have no place for any spin bowler in the Test team, and that includes the unfortunate Devendra Bishoo and the region's most successful bowler, Nikita Miller.
Another problem is that as far as the figures are concerned, there is not a fast bowler in sight, not one of promise for the future, not even the young and much-talked about speedster Oshane Thomas of the Scorpions who has played two matches and has taken only two wickets at 59.00 runs each.
West Indies cricket needs good pitches; they need fit, strong, and dedicated young men to make the best of them; and probably more than anything else, West Indies cricket needs some young men who hear the call to duty and who will answer the call.
The hope is that the final three rounds, starting on January 4, will come up with a few special cricketers, and committed West Indians, to give West Indies cricket, and West Indians, some reason to smile.