What's going on in West Indies cricket?

Published: Sunday | May 31, 2009



Tony Becca, Contributor

The ICC World Twenty20 cricket tournament involving 12 teams begins on Friday at Lord's with England taking on the Netherlands. The following day, it will be the West Indies versus Australia at Kennington Oval, and after the Windies poor performance in the two-match Test series and in the three-match one-day series, although the man above is not a West Indian but the God of all, West Indians, right around the world, will be on their knees and praying for divine intervention.

Cold or no cold, in losing the first Test by 10 wickets inside three days and the second by an innings and 83 runs after rain had robbed the contest, or whatever it was, of an entire day, and after rain had washed out the first one, in losing the second one-day by six wickets with 14 overs to spare after dismissing the West Indies in 38.3 overs and the third by 58 runs, the West Indies were embarrassing, and there can be no doubt about that.

To put it bluntly, the West Indies, many of whom looked out of place, were simply outgunned not only in the art of captaincy, but also with the bat, with the ball and in the field.

For the umpteenth time, the question is this: is it the fault of the players, is it the fault of the selectors, or is it the fault of the board - the body which selects the selectors?

As weak, technically and mentally, as some of the players are, and especially so when confronted with the conditions in England, it seems to me that the fault, much of it, lies with the selectors, and therefore with the board.

Players underdeveloped

As has been evident for some time now, and as was evident during the recent Test and one-day series, many of the players are underdeveloped and under-prepared when selected, and that must be the reason why there are so many discarded West Indies players around - players who were selected, at the Test level and the one-day level, at a tender age after a good, promising performance or two in regional cricket, players who, as was expected, found the going rough at the higher level, failed, as expected, were dropped, and were never, most of them and regardless of what they did, recalled again.

Lionel Baker, for example, may one day be a real contender for a place in the West Indies team, he may, one day, become a star, and so too, others like Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard.

Right now, however, with one looking nothing more than military medium while bowling straight and defensively outside the off stump, with one leaning over and playing predominantly across the line, and with one, regardless of the situation, hitting wildly consistently and losing his wicket cheaply, none of the three looks the part.

And neither does Runako Morton as a batsman. He simply cannot play straight and is a sitting duck once the bowler swings or spins the ball.

For too long, the West Indies selectors have been selecting players who do not understand, or do not appreciate the basics of the game, and that may be why the batsmen, many of them, for example, do not know how to protect their wicket and why the West Indies continue, so often, to lose a bunch of wickets for a handful of runs in a few overs.

It is embarrassing to see West Indies batsmen, on the front foot or on the back foot, steering the ball into the hands of slips instead of getting behind the ball and stroking it in front of them with the face of the bat.

It is also embarrassing, even more so and especially so when there is no need to hurry, or when the team is facing defeat, to see a West Indies batsman, or even a tail-ender, running down the pitch carelessly and falling by the run-out route.

On top of that, and apart from that, the selectors do not seem to understand that cricket is a team game, that it takes disciplined people to come together and to play the game well, and that they should select not only people who they believe are blessed with talent - even though they have not shown it, but also and more so, disciplined people.

Yesterday is history

Disciplined people are people who work hard at developing their game, they are people who want to perform for themselves, for their family, and for their team, they are people who can work together for the benefit of the team, and they are people who believe that yesterday is history - that they are only as good as their last performance.

It is either that the selectors do not know that, or it is that the selectors do not care who represent the West Indies and by doing so have let down the people of the West Indies, on and off the field.

If it mattered to the selectors, or to the board, who represented the West Indies, they would keep notes, or records, and if they did, they would not have selected some of the players they have selected in recent times.

The selectors, obviously, do not keep a check on the players before recalling them, they probably just decide to go back for them simply because of the failure of others, and that must be the reason for some of them coming back without performing and terribly overweight.

Apart from selecting the obviously talented but far from fully developed Xavier Marshall, as a batsman, and especially so at this stage of his career, for a hit-or-miss Twenty20 tournament, the selectors, had they kept a few notes or done a little homework, would certainly not have selected one or two players of the other players who were and are in England.

As a batsman, Marshall, who scored zero in his last Test innings, has a Test average of 20.25; as a batsman, Marshall, who scored two and zero in his last two one-day matches, has a one-day average of 17.85; as a batsman, Marshall, who scored 28 and 10 in his last two Twenty20 matches, has a Twenty20 average of 24.66; as a batsman, Marshall did not get into any of the West Indies one-day and Twenty20 teams a few weeks ago; as a batsman, Marshall, after averaging 23.88, was dropped from the Jamaica team last time out; and as a batsman, in four matches and six innings, Marshall is averaging 15.00 in the local Senior Cup, not in the Super League, following scores of 0, 5 and 0, 57, one and 12 not out.

Apart from the presence of the overweight players, such as Ryan Hinds and Ravi Rampaul, West Indies teams of recent vintage have included players who, by their behaviour in regional competitions and on West Indies tours, have embarrassed themselves, their family, their respective territory, and West Indies cricket.

Numbered among them are players whose 'sins' include, among other things, refusal to represent his territory in a regional final while playing elsewhere, leaving a tour after faking his grandmother's death, and fighting with a teammate during last year's regional competition.

There were many players in the past who missed the boat because of their general conduct, but based on what is happening in West Indies cricket today, Roy Gilchrist, were he alive, and Winston Benjamin, two players who were sent home from West Indies tours, one in 1958-59 and one in 1995, must be cursing their luck.

Obviously, Gilchrist and Benjamin played at the wrong time.

Such is the nature of limited overs cricket, such is the unpredictability of Twenty20 cricket that the West Indies, like any of the other seven teams ranked above them, could win the ICC World Twenty20 tournament, and their fans are praying that they will do so.

Hopefully, however, that will not, if they do win it, leave the selectors, and the board, patting themselves on their backs, and shouting, once again, that they have turned the corner.

Hopefully, the West Indies Board will understand that, win or lose, for the West Indies to recover the glory that once was theirs, it, the board, will have to change their stance.

The board will have to start developing players in the region and grooming them, it will have to start developing captains, it will have to find selectors that are prepared to select the best and wait for success, it will have to find selectors who are not prepared to simply roll the dice and pray, and despite the changing of the times, in spite of the importance of money, it will have to come up with selectors whose main interest is the success of West Indies cricket and who understands what it takes to be successful at the top.

The board, the West Indies Board, must find selectors who are willing to protect West Indies cricket, on and off the field, by selecting those who, by their actions, on and off the field, are willing and prepared to represent the people - to fight for the people, to be true ambassadors of the people.

Shamelessness

Remember Ricky Skerritt - the manager of the West Indies team for four years?

When the West Indies were destroyed for 47 at Sabina Park in 2004 and four West Indies cricketers went to the Red Stripe Mound immediately afterwards, Skerritt said, "I am disgusted at the thoughtlessness and shamelessness displayed by those players following such a horrific performance.

A few months later, in tendering his resignation as the manager, Skerritt wrote, "I regret that despite my best efforts, I have been unable to instil in the entire team the fullest understanding of their obligations, on and off the field, to the people of the West Indies."