WICB ponder more Christmas blues Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
December 23, 2001

This Christmas the West Indies Cricket Board will have a new president but it will share a common feeling of despair as the Pat Rousseau administration experienced during the yuletide season of 1998, 1999 and last year.

Wes Hall and company though, will have lots more to ponder this time around than in 1998 and 2000 when the team was well on its way to suffering whitewashes in South Africa and Australia and in 1999 when the clean sweep was already completed in New Zealand.

In a little more than a month after the team was swept aside 3-0 by Sri Lanka, it faces a similarly daunting prospect on a another journey to the sub-continent to oppose Pakistan, in another 3-test match series, far from solving the problems that have led to the embarrassing overseas tour results in the last four years.

This time around, it is not only batting that is giving the team hell, the bowling has also seemingly dropped to an even lower level of effectiveness than previous years, which allowed Sri Lanka to record its first ever Test series whitewash.

Chris Gayle one of the aspiring young prospects, identified as a key member of the team's batting future, after encouraging performances in Zimbabwe and Kenya, relapsed into a shadow of the prolific player of only three months earlier.

Against a much potent attack in Sri Lanka, Gayle was a huge failure in the Test matches and thus, will take the team planners back to square one.

The same could be said of Marlon Samuels whose promise displayed in Australia and at home against South Africa, was extinguished by the wiles of Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and company while Darren Ganga another youngster on whom much has been invested, also failed to live up to expectations.

Captain Carl Hooper, who built high hopes with his phenomenal scoring feats in the regional Busta competition, on top of his proven ability as technically correct stroke maker, disappointingly was unable to lead from the front with the bat and it was left to the genius of Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan's growing maturity, to leave some respectability in the scorebooks.

Not even the dependable Ridley Jacobs could free himself from an unusual rut when his and Hooper's contributions especially, were needed to bolster that of Lara and Sarwan, which eventually were far from enough.

With fast bowling greats Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose playing well into their 30s one would have expected their replacements would have been ready to shoulder the bowling responsibility, upon their respective exits from the team. But recent developments have scuppered hopes of West Indies maintaining its traditional fast bowling dominance.

In New Zealand, Reon King and Franklyn Rose had hinted at being the pair capable of taking over, but those expectations have become mere mirages because of an incomprehensible set of reasons.

King has been waylaid by an annoying streak of illnesses and has so far been unable to regain the effectiveness he developed prior to the England tour of 2000, while Rose seemingly has been slapped with a persona non grata tag, as he been ignored eversince he was reportedly said to have an attitude problem, by the chairman of selectors, after the said tour.

Merv Dillon, another fast bowling prospect has dramatically fallen out of favour with the team's management and it is uncertain how he will fit into their future plans, after becoming only the third West Indian to be expelled from a tour as was the case in Sri Lanka.

Dinanath Ramnarine, who finally seemed to be a permanent spinner in the team, has left doubts over his physical capability to play consistently at the highest level. Injuries have aborted the last three tours he was selected for and for someone in his mid 20s, that is not a good indicator for the future.

Thus the bowling prospects are far from encouraging and if one is to add the endless list of injury problems of another key player in his mid 20s - batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, it is enough to leave one with a bigger Christmas headache.

It is also obvious that most of the young players lack basic skills in all the departments which is being exposed every time by top flight opposition.

That will only be overcome by long hours of personal work on honing those basic skills by the players themselves, outside of official team net sessions.

Apart from the advantage of playing in the English County circuit which under strict supervision, toughened immensely our players from the great teams of the past, they also spent many hours by themselves working hard at their game.

Gus Logie was one example of someone who developed into a great fielder through many long hours of personal work while others have proved that the skills of batting footwork and bowling with swing and accuracy, cannot be acquired by mere net sessions.

Planning to overcome the individual deficiencies of the players might seem a huge task, but the WICB will also have to review its policies on support staff for teams.

This last squad to Sri Lanka for example, lacked any specialist coach to work on tour with the batsmen and bowlers, nor was there a physiotherapist.

These basic requirements are a norm for other teams, even the Sri Lankans whose physio was embarrassingly called on to treat the Brian Lara's injury on the field, which ended his tour.

Not only the players, but the WICB also has to get its act together or West Indians will experience many more Christmas blues.