Tony Becca | A few suggestions for the development of Windies cricket
West Indies cricket has come a long way. It has grown from the colonial days and the reign of the Englishmen with a Bible and a bat and ball in their hands.
In those days, the Englishmen brought the game with them, the natives learnt the game and learnt it well, and they practised diligently until they became good, very good.
In those days, cricket was the game of the West Indies.
Today, things have changed, however. Cricket is no longer the game of the West Indies, to the point that not even a Test match in the West Indies can be seen on local television anymore as is the case between the Windies versus Sri Lanka.
West Indies cricket needs help to revive the popularity of the game again so that it can hold its place in the general scheme of things and take it back to a place of pride.
Despite the performance against a weak Sri Lanka so far, West Indies cricket is in a parlous state: it also needs administrators and players dedicated to one thing, and that is, the development of the game.
It has been 20-odd years since the glory days and many years since West Indian cricketers were ranked among the very best who ever played the game.
It is hurting, not so much that the West Indies can no longer compete against a good team, and remembering that everything happens in circles, it is not so much that the West Indies have failed to compete, but that there has hardly been any effort to stop the bleeding, either by administration or by players.
For years now, ever since the slide started, the board, like the people, has been talking about development, but all that has been nothing but talk. The notes of all the retreats and all the meetings have ended in the dust bin somewhere.
Development takes time, and it comes in stages.
NOT FIT FOR THE JOB
There has been talk of a "high-performance programme" for a few years now, but with the development left to foreigners, it has been a case of not "high performance", but of "low performance".
Despite that, however, the foreigners keep coming, and returning, and replacing West Indians.
Although great cricketers do not necessarily make good coaches, there must be some good coaches among them, but apart from a few, the West Indians who were chosen as coaches and administrators were simply not fit for the job.
It is no secret, however, that West Indians worship at the feet of those who have been to the war and have performed brilliantly, those who really know how it is done.
West Indies cricket needs a renaissance. It is as simple as that.
The people in charge of West Indies cricket need to think and come again. West Indies cricket needs to get people involved in playing cricket, some for fun and some for glory, or for money, and those who wish to play for the West Indies need to see urgently a fresh approach in the way things are done, and they need to see it quickly.
One cannot achieve international glory, at least not more than a couple of times, or with a little luck, without learning the basics at home, without playing regularly and with dedication, and without playing good cricket at home.
This is sadly lacking, especially in Jamaica, especially in women's cricket, like it is in many other sports, and especially of late, in club cricket.
The best international teams in any sport anywhere in the world boast the best domestic competitions also.
English cricket, for example, has a programme called 'Chance to Shine'. It is a programme for schools and small clubs. It caters to boys and girls, and it has worked wonders for English cricket, especially in building the women's game.
Right now, West Indies cricket needs people who know cricket, people who really love cricket, people who have the ability to develop the game or who can employ those with the ability and the burning ambition to do so, people who love West Indies cricket, and people who are West Indians and who are willing to work in the interest of West Indies cricket.
West Indies cricket needs a development programme that focuses on the youngsters in the different territories, with the respective countries responsible for their development under specific batting, bowling, and fielding coaches - people who really love to help others fulfil their dreams.
SHORT OF BASICS
Look at the West Indies team today, and you will see a team short of the basics in things like running between the wickets, in fielding, in bowling consistently, in using the bowling crease, and in reading the game, et cetera, et cetera.
It also needs properly run competitions and not competitions "spiced" with superfluous and unnecessary bonus points such as points for fast bowling wickets.
This development programme must seek to encourage different batting styles and different bowling styles such as fast, swing, cut, orthodox spin, wrist spin, off-break, "chinaman", leg-break, googly, topspin, and all the other tricks of the trade.
There must be annual age-group competitions aimed at development and not necessarily at winning or travelling on an aeroplane.
The best must then be selected by the West Indies for regular sessions with the country's coaches and those of the West Indies at frequent intervals, regularly adding and subtracting from the "squad" according to performance, talent, and ambition to succeed until they move on to the senior group, where a similar programme will be in place.
West Indies cricket also needs to be more businesslike in selecting the players for Test, one-day, and T20 cricket.
Today, the selection is arbitrary, and the players are pigeonholed into a form of cricket without any thought as to their preference or to their expertise in a particular format.
The planning for development must be done by the management, but the onus of change in performance must be with the players. The more the players train and practise, the greater will be the reward.
West Indian players, most of them, need to train and practise harder, maybe as hard as players like Jimmy Adams, Brendan Nash, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Although one can question the inclusion of one like Devon Smith in the Windies team, West Indies cricket also needs to select the 'best'" players and not necessarily the 'young' player, and their sportscasters need to get rid of labelling every young player in the West Indies domestic tournaments who gets the bat on the ball or who gets a wicket, any wicket, as "talented", or one for the future.
West Indies cricket needs players who, despite their "talent", work hard and who perform brilliantly and consistently in order to represent the West Indies. That's what international cricket is about.