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Loyalty, a problem of West Indies cricket

Published:Sunday | April 4, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Tony Becca
Chanderpaul - File Photo

Tony Becca, Contributor

The West Indies ran out 4-1 victors over Zimbabwe in the one-day internationals recently, and with so many people, including the coach and the captain, patting the players on the back and saying "well done", I was almost embarrassed.

After failing to reach 100 runs and losing the Twenty20 match, after losing the first one-day international and scraping through to win the second, and after depending so much on Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul to pull them through, the victory, to me, was no big thing.

The victory was not against Australia, it was not against South Africa, it was against India, and it was not against England.

The victory was against Zimbabwe, and a weak Zimbabwe at that.

For people like the coach and the captain of the team to behave, therefore, as if the West Indies had just recovered brilliantly and knocked off a good team is enough to make those really interested in West Indies cricket stand up and take note.

Jamaica won the recently concluded regional four-day competition for the third time in a row and, as a Jamaican, I am a happy man.

As a West Indian, however, I am not a happy man. In fact, as a West Indian, I am deeply concerned about the state of West Indies cricket.

There is not one West Indies batsman with an average above 50 in Test cricket and only one in first-class cricket, and apart from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with 48.70 in Test cricket and 54.24 in first-class cricket, only two other West Indies batsmen touch 40 in Test cricket and three others in first-class cricket.

Against that, teams like Australia and India have a number of batsmen averaging beyond 50 in Test cricket and in first-class cricket while others, the likes of England, South Africa, and even Pakistan, have batsmen in the 50s in Test cricket and many more in the 40s in first-class cricket than the West Indies.

The West Indies batsmen, the majority of them, are stuck in the 20s and the 30s, in both Test and first-class cricket.

Top team score

During this past season, for example, the top team score was 462, only four times did a team score more than 400 runs in an innings, and with teams getting past 300 runs only seven times and past 200 only 31 times, there were 22 totals under 200 runs, including an embarrassing 65 by the Combined Campuses and Colleges against the Leeward Islands.

On top of that, while the bowlers, as good as their figures looked, could not get out the likes of Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, Denesh Ramdin and Wavell Hinds in the few matches those batsmen played, the batsmen, and especially so the young, promising ones, could hardly score a run.

Something is wrong, and something needs to be done about it.

With all the talk about marketing and promotion, this past season was a disappointment, and it was disappointing in every aspect, on and off the field.

In coming up with a short tournament, a tournament in which each team played only six matches and one in which six of the seven teams met in one country and played one round of three matches in that country over the same four days, Dr Ernest Hilaire, the chief executive officer of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), promised a tough and hard competition which would be enjoyed by the fans.

With so many players missing either because they were on tour with the West Indies team or because they were injured, the tournament was neither tough nor hard; with three matches taking place in one country at the same time and, in many cases, with only a handful of fans on the ground, the people did not support the teams.

From reports, the day/night matches were fairly successful, but not so the idea of playing three matches in one country at the same time in these small islands, not so the idea of a team, with the exception of Barbados, playing one home match throughout the tournament, and with the facilities and the pitches so poor at so many venues, not so the idea of playing so many matches, 14 out of 21, on grounds where the facilities, including the pitches, were below par, some of them way below par.

Those in the West Indies who are not prepared to pat themselves on the back after fighting to defeat a team like Zimbabwe need to get up, stand up, and fight for West Indies cricket; those who are not prepared to be like a one-eyed man in a blind man's country need to get up, stand up, and fight for West Indies cricket; and those who would like to see West Indies cricket return to its former days, or as near to them as possible, had better get up, stand up, and fight.

Help from the board

They need to see to it that the clubs get some help from the WICB so that they can provide proper facilities, including good pitches, and guidance, they need to see to it that the territories place some real emphasis on producing good cricketers.

More important, however, they need to get back into the game people who know the game, people who are interested in the development of the game, people who are interested in the development of the players and who can help the players in their development, people who can administer, and equally as important, people who can select players.

Probably, however, the most important thing in West Indies cricket is the loyalty of the players, and those who love West Indies cricket probably need to set up a system whereby they can groom players to represent the West Indies.

Apart from the fact that the players should possess talent and ability, the people probably need to insist, as much as they can, that only those players who love West Indies cricket, those players who respect the people of the West Indies, should be honoured by being selected to represent the West Indies.

Every man has a duty to provide for himself and his family, every man has a right to choose in the interest of himself and his family, and no one should fault a man for his choice in fulfilling his duty.

The WICB, however, also has a duty to protect West Indies cricket, and in ensuring that it does its duty, the board has a right to select those it believes will represent the people fully and unconditionally.

It seems, however, that while the players and their association want to exercise their choice, they do not want the board to exercise its discretion.

It appears that the players and the Players' Association want to do what they want to do, and the board, the body elected to administer West Indies cricket in the interest of West Indies cricket, should just sit aside and allow them to do whatever they want to do in their own interest.