Sat | Dec 15, 2018

​One way back to the top, or near to it

Published:Sunday | November 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Windies' players react after their loss on the last ball of the third and last Twenty20 international cricket match against India in Chennai, India last Sunday. Indian won the match by six wickets.

Money, it is said, is the source of all evil. In some situations, however, and especially to some people, money is also the source of success, and happiness.

In West Indies cricket, money, and plenty of it, seems to be the way back to the top of international cricket.

After agonising over the state of West Indies cricket for some time, I have come to the conclusion that the hunt for money is primarily what got West Indies cricket into its present predicament, and, maybe ironically, money is what will, or maybe, get the West Indies out of its problem.

The money from T20 cricket and competitions such as the IPL, plus some arrogant players and an insensitive board, robbed the West Indies of players like Christopher Gayle and Sunil Narine, and although both sides may find common ground eventually, it will take money to find and then to groom the cricketers with the skill that will make the difference.

Among other things, West Indies cricket needs to sort out its coaching system, it needs to sort out its selection process, and both things call for money, and plenty of it.

West Indies cricket needs to ponder on what is more important - coaching, good coaching, for cricketers at the earlier and younger age, or having a bevy of coaches following the senior team around.

Remembering that a habit is a habit and that wherever you go you have it, good coaching for many, many youngsters appears more beneficial once it is affordable.

The selection process in the West Indies also needs shaking up. It probably needs a change in the personnel, who, quite frankly and despite the standard, or readiness, of some of the players, have not been doing a good job, and a change in the process that leads to selection.

From I was a boy, the selection process has been simple and has been the same. Except in a few cases, the process of selection was to play first-class cricket, perform well, and you are in line for selection.

 

OLD AS THE HILLS

 

Based on my age, that system is as old as the hills, even though these selectors have somehow managed to change it.

These selectors seem to select West Indies teams on one or two performances, most favouring the younger players, and once the players do well on one occasion, they are considered "sure picks".

Too many players are sometimes selected on promise alone, with the selectors apparently totally disregarding the fact that international sport calls for the best against the best and that the fans want to be represented by the best available,

What is really bad about exposing those with some promise of skill at a tender age is that after failing, after being dropped, and sometimes after improving themselves and being ready for selection, they are never selected again.

The selectors in West Indies cricket are a law on to themselves. Nobody can question them, or should question them, and while there must be some autonomy in their job, there must be, or should be, apart from performance by the players, a process and one which they must stick to.

The West Indies selectors look at some matches, sometimes speak to some people, and then select the team. No questions asked, or should be asked, except for the selection of the captain, which is supposed to the responsibility of the board.

West Indies cricket needs a process, maybe as happens in other countries, and especially in England.

While good performances, solid and regularly good performances, must be, or should be, the basis of selection, a process to ensure, as much as is humanly possible, that the best man is selected, is needed.

The English counties have complete records of their players. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) selectors have a responsibility to watch as many matches as possible. The ECB has scouts who go up and down the country watching players. They file detailed reports on key players from time to time. They keep match-by-match performances of England players, and they go to meetings with the selectors and answer important questions on players so that the selectors know what the players need to concentrate on.

The scouts also analyse the figures so as to determine the conditions under which the performances were achieved such as quality of the opposition's batting/bowling, et cetera, et cetera.

These scouts are highly trained people who attend selection meetings to provide information and to answer questions, nothing else.

With such a system, every area is covered before a player is selected, while he is playing, and even when he has been dropped from the national team.

The system is not only to keep the selectors 'honest' and to help them to do a good job, but it also ensures that the player does not slacken off the programme and that he remains committed throughout his career.

This system also provides the selectors with information about the player's day-to-day life-style such as practice, training, and injuries.

I remember once going to a club in Johannesburg and looking at the system. The birth date, height, weight, speed, practice, and training record, plus the detailed performance of every player in the club was readily available.

The club could track the player's development easily and regularly in order to help his development.

Such a system costs money, plenty of it, and the West Indies may not now be able to afford it.

It is a system, however, or one close to it, that West Indies cricket really needs, especially if the West Indies are to return to their former glory, or near to it, and West Indians are to smile again.