Focus on WI's challenge ahead

Stabroek News
March 13, 2000

The recent shake up in the West Indies management team and the continuing poor performance on the field have provided irresistible grist to the mill throughout the region. This frenzied feeding on the entrails of debacle after debacle has led to over-analysis and an enervating focus on the negatives to the detriment of what is positive and what we must do to become competitive much less regain our accustomed role as world-beaters.

With Zimbabwe already in the Caribbean and likely to pose a stiff challenge we must begin to focus on the task ahead and shut out the disharmony.

While the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has made some inspired choices in its new management team, it has not been able to escape its affinity for botched decisions as is evidenced by its handling of the selection of the new West Indies coach. The subsequent apology to Sir Vivian Richards by WICB Chief Executive Officer Stephen Camacho over the manner in which the decision was communicated papered over only one of the missteps in this process. And Sir Vivian did not deserve to be treated in this way after stepping into the breach in England to replace the late Malcolm Marshall during the World Cup. Viv's service was well appreciated and there must be some prominent role still open to him in guiding the senior West Indies team.

The administrators of West Indian cricket must also put more thought into harnessing the immense reservoir of talent of cricketers who are past their prime on the field but still have much to offer in honing the prowess of our latter day gladiators.

We offer our warmest congratulations to Roger Harper on his selection as coach of the West Indies senior team on a three-year contract, the rest of the management team and also to the new captain Jimmy Adams. It is our firm belief that Mr Harper possesses the qualities that are necessary to coax the best out of our cricketers. He comes to the team with a solid reputation as a committed and disciplined team man having played in 25 test matches and 105 one day internationals in a career that spanned 12 years. His splendid fielding will also hold him in good stead.

Crucially, Harper has had valuable coaching experience with the West Indies 'A' team over the last two years. Harper also holds an Advanced West Indies Coaching Certificate and an Advanced Level Coaching Certificate from the National Coaching Foundation of England.

He will be supported in his new post by former West Indies wicketkeeping great Jeffrey Dujon. Richard Skerritt of St Kitts is the new manager while Dr Rudi Webster reprises his role as team performance enhancer and Ronald Rogers is the physiotherapist/trainer. It is a bold new team and we wish it the very best in confronting the imposing task ahead.

Planting the Windies flag at the top of the cricketing world again will be a gradual process which demands consistency and unflinching dedication. There must be measured steps towards this goal. It will not be achieved overnight and there are some basic areas which should be forcefully addressed by the new team.

First, discipline on and off the field cannot be compromised and its breakdown has been a major reason for substandard performances. In this respect, the new management team must have the full support of the WICB to take the unpopular decisions to impose stiff sanctions on players who don't measure up.

Second, team play and team spirit have been sadly lacking. Some of this is attributable to the loss of confidence by the Windians in their own ability and by poor leadership on the field. Man for man perhaps only the Australian juggernaut outranks the West Indies in talent yet lowly New Zealand was able to trounce our boys 2-0 in Tests and 5-0 in the ODIs. It was the clearest example on one hand of below par performance and optimal use of talent on the other hand. We don't play like a team anymore and more than that we don't believe we can win. Under Lloyd, Richards and to a lesser extent Richardson there was no disaster the West Indies could not claw its way out of.

Third, we must get back to basics and begin by rote to weed out the technical deficiencies especially in the batting department. While our bowlers have been there and thereabouts our batsmen have repeatedly let us down with poor shot selection, playing away from the body and not using their feet to get to the pitch of deliveries. An unrelenting batting coach could do wonders in this area. More four and five-day matches are also essential to iron out these problems.

As the winning Busta Cup captain and based on his experience, Adams was the natural choice for captain and he must be given enough time to prove himself. Naming him captain must mean that the WICB will not hold his lean spell recently in Test cricket over his head.

Not least of all, Brian Lara must also be an integral factor in the future of West Indian cricket. The region needs his supreme talent and energy in the rebuilding efforts. But he must also recognise that as much as West Indian cricket needs him he must show in equal measure his readiness to be a part of it. His latest sabbatical from cricket must have some cogent reason that is acceptable to the WICB. The West Indies cannot now afford players who decide which days of the week they are working and what their output will be. The new dispensation cannot thrive on this arrangement. Is Brian willing to give what is expected of each of the others?

Exciting times are ahead for the West Indies.