Time for a West Indies team doctor Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
January 20, 2002

A lot has been written and said about the dreadful state affairs of West Indies cricket, yet one is continually forced to criticise because the woes never seem to end.

The drastic decline in success of the team continues to be the hottest topic in any cricket discussion, but of late, the handling of the team by the West Indies Cricket Board is providing more ammunition to take bashing of the board to unprecedented heights .

It all began with the elimination of important practices which helped make West Indies the best team in the world in the late 1970s and 1980's. And until now the team is paying for those lapses which continue to make West Indies the laughing stock of the world.

Attaining peak physical fitness was a must for players who were taken there by a proven expert in the field Dennis Waithe.

Waithe has long since departed the team and with his loss the fitness culture has disappeared and has been replaced by endless player-injuries.

In this age when sports medicine technology of the highest calibre is available to our cricketers that was unheard of for our champion teams of yesteryear, players these days are succumbing to ailments faster than you can count.

It seems unbelievable team members are constantly missing matches with strains, sprains, ruptures, tears and fractures for the longest while at a rate the authorities are unable to halt.

The shock withdrawal of Ramnaresh Sarwan from the squad to oppose Pakistan in the upcoming series is the latest of a sequence of illnesses which have disrupted the team began since Brian Lara's troublesome hamstring caused him to miss matches in the 2000/2001 series in Australia.

In the Zimbabwe/Kenya series last year, Lara and three others were forced to abort the tour for one reason or another while in Sri Lanka the squad was weakened by four, again because of additional injuries.

All the while, the West Indies Cricket Board continued to have the team undertake tours without taking action to remedy the problem, although the world knows that Lara's hamstring started acting up since the 2000 July/August tour of England.

Since then West Indies has toured Australia, opposed Pakistan and Zimbabwe at home, visited Zimbabwe and Kenya and toured Sri Lanka and no one thought it necessary to have at least a sports medicine doctor assigned to the squad.

In Lara's case, he is the greatest batsman the team as seen since the legendary Sir Vivian Richards, holds two world records and is currently the number one ranked in the world. Yet he is allowed to play on without having a qualified professional around at his beck and call to monitor and treat his troublesome leg.

It seems no one cares about him being at the best of health, yet he is expected to score centuries every match. As a result he still has not overcome the ailment and was recently quoted as saying that it is his biggest fear, more than the fractured elbow he sustained in Sri Lanka in December.

Cameron Cuffy is another example of an injured player who could have benefitted from better support after being laid up for six months with an instep fracture.

It reached a staged where he reportedly sought without success from the WICB, a follow up MRI scan he thought necessary, and was forced to consider paying for it himself.

Sarwan will be the fourth player to miss the Pakistan series, but should not have been sidelined, were he the recipient of constant specialist treatment ever since his back started acting up last July in Zimbabwe.

It seems incredible he has been carrying this injury which has forced him out of the team six months after sustaining it.

The WICB's reluctance to acquire what is now considered a basic requirement for sports teams, has cost them one of the side's best batsmen at a crucial time of his and the team's development.

The players have to be content with someone who acts as a physiotherapist/trainer and has been unable to maintain their fitness because he is incapable of so doing.

This might explain why the Sri Lankan doctor was seen attending to Lara on the field after he injured his elbow in Colombo.

West Indies needs such a professional to correctly administer treatment and who is trained to identify potential injuries and act accordingly.

It does not require the WICB to call a special meeting of the team's management and board officials to discuss the injury problem, as was recently done in Antigua.

It is embarrassing to know that the region's ruling body for the sport has to go to such lengths when it is crystal clear that all the WICB needs to do is find the money to employ a doctor trained in sports medicine to provide full time service to the squad.

There is also a dire need for a better physical trainer and specialist bowling and batting coaches for every series the team undertakes.

More than ever in this modern era of professionalism in cricket, West Indies cricket needs capable administrators as it needs quality players to achieve even moderate success.

But sadly it seems we are some way off reaching either of the two levels which many rival countries have attained and surpassed.