Vicious circle undermining Windies cricket
Stabroek News
August 2, 2002

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YOU didn’t need to read between the lines to detect unmistakeable frustration in Joel Garner’s interview with Philip Spooner in the Weekend Nation.

The players he managed on the West Indies ‘A’ team’s tour of England that ended recently appeared not to have grasped some of the finer points of the game, he complained.

He spoke of over-ambitious shots and “tactics that have been a bit baffling”, specifically bowlers placing seven fielders on the off and two on the leg and aiming outside off-stump.

“The key to taking wickets is bowling at the stumps, not outside,” was his basic, undeniable message. Even if this was not obvious to his present charges, they might have taken notice from a bowler who claimed 259 wickets in 59 Tests at the remarkable average of under 21.

The 7-2 placing is just one of the many tactics that are more than just “a bit baffling” but have become standard operating procedure in contemporary West Indies cricket.

They now pervade every level of our game and bewilder those, like Garner, who know that there are certain tenets of the game that have stood the test of time and remain rudimentary.

How he reacted last Friday while his team couldn’t prevent a blow strength Somerset team rattling up 453 off 90 overs to earn an incredible tie is not difficult to imagine. The walls of the dressing room he knew so well during his many productive years bowling for the county might well have cracked from all the head butting they got.

It is exasperation several others in similar positions have experienced in recent times.

Garner has managed ‘A’ teams on previous tours to South Africa and Bangladesh and India and was a senior selector for two terms until replaced in May. Almost all of the young players now in the Test team have stepped up the ladder under his direction, in one guise or another.

What with under-19 and under-15 tours and the Shell Academy of St. George’s University, there is no reason for anyone to advance into the ‘A’ team without grasping the finer points of the game.

That they have, and that West Indian bowlers now repeatedly operate to 7-2 fields and adopt other strange methods, suggests either that coaches, from top to bottom, are delivering the wrong tactical advice or no advice at all.

It is a subject that requires a sizeable section of the West Indies Cricket Board’s new coaching manual.

Unfortunately, that document cannot erase the mental block that now seems to overwhelm West Indies teams once they get outside the West Indies and prevents them from pressing home even the strongest advantage.

Last Friday was simply the latest manifestation of it.

The most glaring recent examples were in Sri Lanka last November when the West Indies lost by 10 wickets in two Tests after they were 408 for four at lunch on the second day and 327 for three after the first day.

But there have been others in New Zealand, England and Australia.

It comes mainly from a lack of self-belief that is born of repeated defeats that are often caused by “baffling tactics” and a “failure to grasp the finer points of the game”.

It’s a vicious circle.