Physiology and money will rescue West Indies Cricket
December 22, 2006
Every time the West Indies Cricket Team plays at home, there is usually a great deal of excitement, since our players relish the slow, docile pitches that we have in the Caribbean . Whenever we leave these shores, just after a home series, hopes are high that the team would continue the good run they had in the home series.
Unfortunately, our performances on tour are nothing short of disastrous. For example, having raised the hopes of regional fans with a good performance against the Indians at home this year, we failed to perform in Pakistan , and took a drubbing in both the one-day and the Test series.
This has been happening repeatedly, and yet we hear talk about how we are improving and need to be more consistent. If by now we have not recognised that a radical change is needed in the way our cricket is organised, and in the manner in which our teams are selected, we will never learn.
I was once asked what I would do if I had to come up with a plan to ensure that West Indies regain the position of the number one team in the world in both the abbreviated and extended versions of the game.
In order to answer this, I have to address the issue of the philosophy that is presently guiding West Indies Cricket. The first thing that must be noted from our history is that batsmen do not win games for the West Indies . We have had great batsmen-- some of the greatest in the history of the game. However, even when we had the 3 Ws, Sir Garfield Sobers and Rohan Kanhai, West Indies simply did not dominate world cricket.
That dominance began under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd, who had a top class batting line up with the likes of Haynes, Greenidge, Kallicharran, and Richards. However, it was really the fearsome quartet of pace bowlers, which Lloyd patented, that won the matches for the West Indies .
The team knew that even if the powerful batting order made 150 runs in an innings, the bowlers would go to work and dispose of the opposition for under that total.
The theory that great batsmen do not win matches for the West Indies is supported by the fact that even though, for over ten years now, we have been gifted with the greatest player to ever hold a cricket bat -- Brian Lara -- West Indian dominance has waned. It is also supported by the current evidence in world cricket.
Therefore, my first solution to address the decline in West Indies Cricket would be to begin a talent search to find bowling talent. The present crop of fast bowlers that the West Indies possesses will simply not do the job. We have to find fast bowlers who can win matches.
A key characteristic of most of the great fast bowlers, both in the contemporary game and in the past, is that they were generally tall, big men who could deliver thunderbolts from high, and so unnerve the best of batsmen, who were intimidated by their pace and the height from which the ball was delivered. These men need to bowl fast, and need to be trained to have a probing line.
We, therefore, need to go around the region and find those young, able-bodied, tall men, who can then be put in training to become fearsome fast bowlers. We cannot simply expect top-class bowlers to come through the ranks.
Within the NBA, there is talent scouting, looking for huge players, and the same must be done if we are to find a crop of fast bowlers who can be developed into a fearsome quartet as the one the West Indies possessed many years ago.
It does not mean that there should be no provision for the smaller men. In fact, the best fast bowler that the West Indies ever had was Malcolm Marshall, and he was a small man. But he was also a special talent who does not fit into the traditional mould of a successful fast bowler.
The same can be said of Anderson Roberts, who, like Marshall , was extremely deceptive off the pitch. Generally, we have to look towards the big men for speed and intimidation.
The second thing that the Peeper would do to revive West Indies Cricket is to publish the sort of money that players can make for playing for the West Indies . I have been hearing so much about a lack of interest in the region for the game. Nothing revives interest as much as money.
I believe that when our young people hear of the sort of money that can be made through playing for the West Indies, when they appreciate the sort of fame that comes with being an international player, when they think about the many countries that they will see when on tour, we will have thousands of youngsters taking to the game.
The surest way out of poverty is to play a few Test matches for the West Indies . The surest way to see the world is to be an international sportsman, and one of the ways to fame is to be a cricket star.
Readers will notice that I have said nothing about the need for academies, the need for raising the standards of domestic and regional competitions, and the need for improved administration and coaching.
I believe that all of these things will fall into place if we do the two things that I mentioned earlier.
We need a change of philosophy. If we scout for talent, and if we declare the opportunities than can be had when playing for the West Indies , our cricket is sure to get better sooner, rather than later.