The ball in WICB's court

Orin Davidson's Eye on Sports
Stabroek News
May 27, 2001

This last South African cricket tour of the West Indies has not only sensitised us about the distance our team has to cover to regain its place at the top of world cricket also how important fielding is to a team's overall success.

Most significantly it has been made perfectly clear to everyone who followed the Test and one-day international series that the regional team is in serious danger of continuing to be the whipping boys of the top teams for a long time to come.

Amazing stories pointing to grave unprofessional behaviour by some young players have popped up with alarming regularity during the series, which leaves one to ponder the enormity of the problem facing the West Indies Cricket Board to rebuild the team's standard of play.

You hear of players openly disregarding instructions of the technical team and making gross statements about not adhering to the basic requirements for success at the highest level.

Geoff Boycott, one of the best students of the game among former players, story of one batsman's boast that footwork means nothing to him. This is an extreme example of ignorance which one would not even expect from a player in the lower reaches of domestic competition in the territories, much less from a professional.

The other ghastly statement recounted by ex- psychologist Joe Hoad which told of one player claiming to having superior batting ability than the legendary Gary Sobers when he is on form, if accurate, is indicative of the contempt and disrespect we have been hearing of about team members all along, from the growing list of coaches and managers who have tried without any success to make West Indies championship material in recent years.

Not to add Hoad's other damning account of another player telling him that slavery days are over when instructed to do basic free-arm exercises as penalty during a practice session.

When players have no regard for the importance of exercise, the one and only ingredient for consistency of success in sport, one can appreciate the depreciation of standards we are forced to tolerate in the regional squad.

These latest acts of gross unprofessionalism have reached saturation point and one has every reason to conclude that this type of bad attitude is a pertinent factor in West Indies downward spiral to mediocrity.

Although these stories have been making headlines the world over,

one gets the impression the WICB members are the only ones in the dark, judging from their display of impotence on these matters.

Apart from one instance of action by the selection panel when chairman Michael Findlay explained that Chris Gayle and Franklyn Rose were not considered for the last Australia tour, because of attitude problems, these players have been encouraged to continue breaking curfews, have jolly good times and be highly paid

to underperform.

We can have the youngsters exposed to the best opposition from Australia and South Africa everyday for half of every year, they will not get better with poor attitude.

Based on its inaction, one finds it difficult to fathom the board's inconsistency in its dealings with the players on most occasions.

They were once bold enough to sack Brian Lara and Carl Hooper for leading a revolt against management, but at the same time does nothing to improve cricket discipline within the ranks.

Too often we hear of WICB administrators lamenting the team's failures, when they are the ones to blame for tolerating players unwilling to dedicate themselves outside of the playing arenas.

Fines for batting and fielding errors are not enough to change attitudes, rather the board has to impose heavy suspensions on those who may have talent but lack substance.

We must not sit back and hope for the academy graduates to learn all about pride and discipline and make the difference to the team's fortunes the time to act is now.

The West Indies team must never be made out as an avenue to good times and easy money. Pride and commitment must be the main criteria for team selection

The ball is in the WICB's court.