Where do we go from here?

by Sir Clyde Walcott
Barbados Nation
June 6, 1999

The West Indies team’s failure to advance beyond the first round of the World Cup has been a disappointment for West Indian fans. The questions remain: “What lessons can we learn?” and “Where do we go from here?”. Today, we begin a series of articles with the personal views of prominent former cricketers, administrators and commentators addressing those questions. Today’s comments are made by Sir Clyde Walcott, a former Barbados and West Indies player and WICB President,who was, until recently, Chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and presently Chairman of the ICC’s Cricket Committee.

Our team has not been consistent enough to win the World Cup. The primary reason is that we need to draw on a pool of better talent for the West Indies team. We have a lot of ground to cover to get a team of players who can be successful consistently at the international level. More emphasis must therefore be placed on improving cricketers at different levels.

I think the time has come for us to have a “finishing school” for our players. We can no longer rely on natural ability. In the West Indies we also need to use more technology in our coaching programmes. Players must see what they are doing rather than just being told about it. Today’s youth respond far better to visual stimuli than any other, so West Indies cricket should make more use of video equipment. The players must be able to see the right and wrong ways to do specific things. Videos of the particular cricketer and others should therefore be viewed, analysed and discussed.

Understanding the ‘why’

For example, a coach could tape a player batting poorly and then ask him what made his shot selection ineffective. Similarly, the coach could show a video of the same player making a good shot and ask what made this particular shot so good. The same applies to bowling.

To develop good players, we need to ensure that they understand the “why”.

For example, they must understand at an early age why a ball bowled in a specific way has a better chance of taking a wicket in certain conditions than another.

We have to work steadily with young players. Many young players have been participating at the regional level but they are not performing to a high

enough standard and the quality of club cricket in the West Indies is also generally quite low.

While I am aware that the WICB has a development programme, maybe we can look at the work done successfully by other countries to enhance it.

Desperate need

New Zealand is doing a good job in development and their recent performance in the World Cup suggests that they are beginning to see the results of that effort. In New Zealand, they study carefully the whole approach to the game and are taught how to think through their game. Our players desperately need this understanding that goes beyond the mechanics of cricket.

South Africa has also done an excellent job in their development programme that has been extended to the black population in the post-apartheid period. The black players have not yet come through prominently at the international level but the signs are there that this will happen.

Development is a long-term process so we have to act now, but be patient as well to achieve the results that all West Indians desire.

Part II

June 13, 1999

Today we continue with the second in our series of commentaries by prominent former West Indies cricketers and cricket administrators addressing the questions: “What lessons can we learn from the West Indies’ experience in the World Cup competition? And "Where do we go from here?” Today’s comments are by Andy Ganteaume, former Trinidad and West Indies player and former West Indies selector and cricket administrator.

WE MUST STOP “playing ostrich” and face reality. The technique of West Indies batting is woefully defective. This becomes blindingly obvious after watching television replays.

Therefore, it is necessary to get back to the drawing-board to sort out the problem. Fundamentals do not change. Some batsmen are not getting their feet even near the correct position either in defence or in attack.

After having recognised and analysed the problem with the sophisticated technology now available, going to the nets to cultivate proper footwork by the method of “grooving” (to form a habit by repetition) is the best way I know to correct a fault. Just standing up with a bat and “shadowing”, that is showing the batsman and telling him “play straight, play straight”, is a waste of time!

Given the aptitude players at that level should have, the desired improvement should become evident sooner than normally expected. Commitment however, will obviate the idea of any exercise being a chore. If you are committed you will not feel anything is too boring or too tedious. You will go and do it until you get it right.

You also have to get in the habit of batting long. That too is a habit. You mustn’t feel tired and that you had enough, and well, you know, “I’ve done well”, when you get to 50. And when you get to 50 you must think of getting to a hundred. It is all a common-sense thing of building an innings.

“Grooving” will not inhibit or knock the originality and flair out of anyone. The more gifted the player, the better he can improvise. But one’s game has to be based on sound principles.

Improvisation has been an exciting feature of all West Indian great or outstanding batsmen. However, they were enabled to do it with minimum risk by the effective use of their feet. And of course they could play “straight” whenever required. A batsman cannot play every shot (if any) with feet mostly in the same place, as so many of the present players are prone to do.

Something must be done about this. West Indies team Manager Clive Lloyd has been saying it all the time: Our batting is the problem. The bowlers are bowling well. They are getting people out. But the batsmen are not giving them a half of anything to work with.

Having said that, it is obvious that Ambrose and Walsh cannot continue much longer. We have to get our younger bowlers with ability together and restate the ground rules. They must appreciate the value of “bowling between wicket and wicket” and there are coaching methods to achieve this.

The former great Mikey Holding gave a lucid explanation of this in one of his commentaries. I have a strong feeling that playing for the West Indies does not mean the same thing for this modern crop as it used to do in earlier times. It is a different time and we all must recognise that the money makes a difference to the thing. But on the other hand, because you’re getting well paid for it now I think you should make a better effort, rather than say: “All I want is the money and to hell with it! I don’t have to kill myself!”

Dr. Rudi Webster’s involvement with the team was timely – overdue if anything. He will help considerably in rekindling team spirit, thinking together and taking pride in what they have to do, elements which have seemingly deteriorated.

To rebuild, it is imperative that the focus must be on the young aspirants who are still pliable. It is utterly futile to continue trying to recycle the ones who at this stage of their careers cannot become any better. I see no problem with losing initially in the process. Already we are losing anyhow.

Part III

June 20, 1999

We continue the series of commentaries by former cricketers and administrators on Lessons to be learnt from the World Cup and Where do we go from here? Today’s comments are by Andy Roberts, former Antigua and West Indies fast bowler and team manager who is currently a cricket administrator in the Leeward Islands.

Our problem goes a lot deeper than bowling, batting and fielding. A lot of us tend to forget that when we are winning but the problem has been there for a long time and not enough has been done to rectify it. The things that people are saying now, I said in ’96.

Cricket is in more serious trouble than people think. Look around at all the local players who do well, then analyse their performances when they go onto the international scene. Something is wrong. I believe that the former players can play a big role in bringing about change.

When we think West Indies cricket, we think the team. But that is not West Indies cricket. The board must involve more of the former players, not necessarily for their administrative skills but for their cricket minds.

We need to be able to analyse our cricket in a way that only someone who has played the game at a high level can do.

We all agree that many of our current players are lacking in backbone. But where are they going to get it from to become better players?

I believe it is easier for someone who has been there to pass on this skill to them.

You don’t necessarily have to put the 11-and 12-year-olds in the hands of Michael Holding and Gordon Greenidge. But when you start to mould the young players to get them into teams, then you need to call in the former players.

These youngsters would prefer to hear from a top former player than from a certified coach. Of course, the certified coaches have their place. They should teach the youngsters the basics of the game but basics alone won't win matches. For that you should bring in the past players.

West Indies cricket must also get more up-to-date to achieve success. While we appreciate the contributions of players of 30 years ago, we need more involvement of cricketers who have played in the modern game.

I retired 16 years ago and the game has even changed a lot since then, so we need to have more people with up-to-date thinking.

On the other hand, no one individual can make the change that is required and it can’t happen without the board also changing its approach.

For example, interim coach Sir Vivian Richards suggested that he would change half the team. But he doesn’t pick the team. Will he get the necessary backing?

We have just finished a One-Day International series, and it is clear that we need to understand the implications of the One-Day format.

We need to have more people involved who understand the One-Day game. It is a lot of pressure, as we saw in the semi-final when South Africa fell apart because of the anxiety. Nothing brings on fatigue like anxiety.

You will notice that most bowlers no longer bowl two five-over spells. To have to bowl four or five overs at the end of the innings can be real work.

You have to be able to think every ball.

When I was coach, I publicly stated that many of our players had attitude problems and I think that hasn't changed and this needs to be dealt with for us to succeed away from home.

We always play well at home, but in the last three away tours we were humiliated. In the late ’70s and the '80s we played well away from home as well because we had a cohesive team.

No one person will make the difference. But we must change some of the team, take our licks now, and rebuild.

Part 4

June 27, 1999

Today we publish the final article in our series by former West Indies cricketers and administrators addressing the questions: “What lessons can we learn from the World Cup?” and “Where do we go from here?” Today’s comments are by famed Guyana and West Indies spin bowler, Lance Gibbs who last year conducted spin-bowling clinics for the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). The WICB thanks those who contributed to the series.

It bleeds my heart. Why is West Indies cricket in its current state? Is it the money or are the players of late just not good enough?

Constructive criticism is not popular in the Caribbean. One could lose good friends as a result of exercising your right to criticise. However, constructive criticism is a must, if West Indies cricket is to regain its rightful place at the top of world cricket.

Once upon a time, most of the administrators of West Indies cricket were former players, example; Tom Pierce, Kenny Wishart, Jeff Stollmeyer, Allan Rae, Sir Clyde Walcott, Keith Walcott, Cammie Smith, Calvin Wilkins, to name a few. The above mentioned gentlemen were respected players, who were able to teach the young and upcoming players discipline, dedication and desire. Not so nowadays. These three Rs (or is it the three Ds?) are very hard to identify among our cricketers.

Some of us believe that, recently, with nearly all of the administrators being businessmen with little knowledge of the game, this necessary balance has been glaringly missing. We need to find the right mix of businessman and cricketer, or we stand the chance of our young players forgetting what it is to play, firstly, for their country and then for a group of islands called the West Indies. The youngsters need to be told that fame and the will to reach the top are in themselves very rewarding goals: an obvious mix of business and the game.

It remains a mystery, why despite having produced some of the greatest players the world have ever known in the game, we can’t seem to get a high percentage of them involved in West Indies cricket. Meanwhile, the other cricketing nations are not only using their own former players but some West Indians to boot!!!.

The area of representation at territorial level also needs to be examined. Because of poor representation in a territorial eleven, a WICB selection panel suffers. Of course, in my view some of the teams selected have shown that the one thing that can destroy West Indies cricket quickly and effectively is rearing its ugly head again. Insularity.

To remedy this situation, squads of young players must be chosen and placed in a clinic environment, where all the basics of the game will be taught thoroughly... batting, fielding, fast bowling, swing bowling, spin bowling and wicket keeping. There should be sessions where the game and its tactics are explained and discussed. These clinics should be conducted by former outstanding players. This is not a new idea as these types of clinics were conducted during the Packer era, when Wes Hall, Sir Garfield Sobers and I held sessions in every island where we played. As a matter of fact, this was so successful that it was done in Australia.

Can you believe that five years ago, some leading players were on a development committee which met in Barbados, and quickly disappeared. We need to follow-up on these efforts and the development programme must be structured and sustained to really be effective.

I also think that the WICB needs to give its board members a hint of what is expected of them, as far as representation is concerned. This should assist in helping the region as a whole to have a common goal with respect to where and how it wants its cricket to develop.

We must not panic, but we should use the tools at our disposal to help our youngsters and bring West Indies cricket back to its rightful place, at the top of world cricket. I don’t think it is impossible. Just as I said, the right mix of businessmen and former West Indies cricketers should at least start the ball rolling. What do you think?

• The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the West Indies Cricket Board.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples