Thank you, Chris, from the bottom of my heart
Tony Becca, Contributor
The One-day international series between the West Indies and Zimbabwe comes to an end in St Vincent today, with the home team in a wonderful position.
Boasting a three-one lead, the West Indies have already won the five-match series, and although Zimbabwe gave them a run for their money in the fourth match on Friday, barring a really poor performance by the Windies, the contest should finish a comfortable four-one victory for the former world champions.
Even if it finishes four-one, however, even if they win this last match by a decisive margin, the West Indies will have nothing to shout about - not after struggling to beat a team such as Zimbabwe.
Against lowly Zimbabwe, the West Indies struggled embarrassingly to 79 for six off 20 overs, they failed to score 106 runs, and they lost the one match in the Twenty20 contest. And then, after a terrible batting display, the West Indies lost the first one-day international before hanging on to win the second, cruising through the third, and struggling through the fourth.
As far as West Indies cricket is concerned, the only good thing which came out of the series was Christopher Gayle's outburst, and I am only sorry I was not in Guyana to shake his hand.
For years now, for some 15 years or so, after disappointing performances followed disappointing performances, after losing many wickets for a few runs on so many occasions, after losing so many matches in Test and in one-day cricket, after turning what appeared certain victory into embarrassing defeat so many times, the captains, managers, and coaches of West Indies teams over the years, the selectors, CEOs, and presidents of the West Indies Cricket Board, the West Indies Players Association and the team sponsors have been making all kinds of excuses for the players and for the team.
After the embarrassment of the Twenty20 match in Port-of-Spain two Sundays, ago when the batsmen batted like novices, after the disappointment of the first one-day International in Georgetown two Thursdays ago, when the batsmen batted like they were rolling a pair of dice, Gayle, the West Indies captain, was so embarrassed that he came out swinging and lashed the players.
An angry Gayle said the players, the batsmen, did crap. He went on to say: "When you do crap, it's definitely crap, and there is no excuse."
"The guys," he said, "have to take responsibility."
That was something that needed to have been said, and a long, long time ago at that.
For too long, players, old and young, have been allowed to fail and to get away with it.
Instead of letting the players know that they have failed, those in charge, the captains, the coaches, and the managers, sometimes even board members from the players' territory, patted them on the back and behaved as if everything was fine - as if their failure was not their fault.
While captains, coaches and managers do not need to be slave drivers and need to develop a good relationship with the players, the players need to know that there is a difference between success and failure.
Because of his failure
A batsman, for example, needs to know that his job is to score runs, that if he does not score runs, chances are the team will not win, that when he does not score runs, he has failed, and that if the team loses, it could be because of his failure.
The same goes for the bowler, whose job is to take wickets, and for the fielder, whose job is to stop the ball, to take catches, and to run out batsmen.
The way some of the West Indies batsmen got out in Georgetown suggests that when they fail, when the team loses, it is no big thing - at least not to them.
The batting, certainly at Queen's Park Oval and at Providence, was such that the guilty, the main disappointments, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith and Denesh Ramdin, deserved the captain's wrath.
The captain was so angry that there was a threat in his voice.
The threat, it appeared, was that players must change their ways or else, and, hopefully, now that the captain has spoken, for all to hear, there will be a change in the attitude of some of the West Indies players, and particularly so their batsmen.
Hopefully, however, the selectors will also change their attitude.
The truth is that some of the West Indies players, and particularly so their batsmen, have no right playing international cricket, at least not yet.
Although it may not really be the fault of the selectors, who can only select from what is available, many of the players came in too young, without being properly groomed, and, most important, they came in without enough runs.
The fact that not one or two but so many of them they are playing, or have played international cricket underlines the poor state of West Indies cricket, and that is why they fall like lambs so often in international cricket - why so many wickets tend to fall for so few runs in so few overs time and again.
Some of the batsmen who represented the West Indies in the Twenty20 match against Zimbabwe were like sacrificial lambs, and although the defeat was shocking, it was not entirely surprising.
Andre Fletcher batted at number three with an OD1 average of 17.00 and a Twenty20 average of 10.75; Kieron Pollard batted at number four with an ODI average of 17.30 and a Twenty20 average of 13.00; Darren Bravo batted at number five with an ODI average of 20.00; Denesh Ramdin batted at number six with an ODI average of 19.34 and a Twenty20 average of 19.36; and Dwayne Smith batted at number seven with an ODI average of 16.22 and a Twenty20 average of 9.12.
That means that none of the batsmen between number three and number seven averaged more than 20.00 in ODI or in Twenty20 cricket.
The weakness of batting in the West Indies, however, is not limited to those selected for the Twenty20 encounter. It is underlined by the fact that when you take away batsmen like Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Ramnaresh Sarwan, the averages of those below them, the next in line in West Indies cricket, are disappointing in every form of the game.
With the likes of Donovan Pagon, Brendan Parchment, Tamar Lambert, Xavier Marshall, Dwayne Smith, and William Perkins, all of whom, but for Lambert, have represented the West Indies in Test, one-day or Twenty20 cricket averaging in the 20s in first-class cricket, with the likes of Sewnarine Chattergoon, Andre Fletcher, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons and Kieron Powell averaging in the low 30s, and with the few averaging above 35 including West Indies discards like Ryan Hinds, Devon Smith, Daren Ganga, Dale Richards and wicketkeeper/batsman Carlton Baugh, the West Indies batting cupboard appears bare.
With an average of 45.65, Adrian Barath is a treasure.
Well done, Chris Gayle. When it comes to what is the remedy for West Indies cricket, yours words, your chastisement, may be just what the doctor ordered.
West Indies cricket will never return to the days of old until the players realise that performance is key, that runs and wickets and catches are important; until the captains, coaches, managers, and board members realise that it is their duty to make the players understand that, and then, with the coaches producing quality players, until the selectors start focusing on selecting well-groomed players, and players who have performed, not so much at youth level, but more so at the first-class level.