The rot will continue unless….
April 12, 2007
Since my article on West Indies cricket was published in yesterday's edition of this newspaper, the phone has been ringing off the hook. I have been bombarded with compliments about my article and specifically about the need for a revolution in thinking about the way our team is selected and administered.
One caller even went as far as suggesting that my article be used as an official working document for a committee that should be established to push the development of West Indies Cricket or better yet for a specially convened meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government aimed at addressing what seems to be the terminal decline of the regional cricket team.
In all modesty I would simply reply and say that I do not believe that I have the specific answers to all that needs to be done but I am convinced that we need to begin thinking outside of the box if we are to resuscitate West Indies Cricket.
Some friends have taken umbrage with my opinion that Chris Gayle should not be part of the nucleus of a future Test team. I will defend my position by saying that I prefer this hard-hitting batsman as a lower-order batsman, and not as an opener, for the one day side. For years, cricket commentators have pointed out the limited movement of his feet while batting and this will always pose problems against top-class bowling on pitches that give some assistance to bowlers. Since the coaches have not either seen it necessary or have not been able to remedy this problem, I do not think that it would be good to start now but I still view Chris Gayle as an important member of any West Indies limited-overs side.
With the retiring of Brian Lara from one-day cricket after the World Cup, I think that Gayle can even establish himself as a permanent feature of a West Indies side in one-day cricket, and who knows, can even earn back his place in the Test side. I am not writing him off completely from the Test side.
In fact, I am not writing off anyone. I am simply saying that there are some players with experience such as Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan around whom we can build a formidable Test batting line-up. However, for all others, seniority should be thrown out of the window and everyone else should be expected to earn his place in the team.
The point was also made about simply throwing raw talent into the fray on an England tour where the conditions can be very testing. It is a valid point, but what else can we do on such short notice, other than go back to the same old bunch that has brought so much pain and agony to West Indian fans.
The rebuilding process cannot go forward with utility players or with medium pacers. We are not going to compete at the international level with this formula and since the talent has to be nurtured and since we cannot escape our obligations to go to England this summer, I would think that we have no choice but to take a team that is a blend of experience and fresh blood.
We cannot however simply lead the development of the new team to the international cricket itinerary. In fact, the Peeper feels that having exposed some fresh talent in England , we should work upon their return home with these players. I for one would love to see some of our cricket greats work with these young players over a period of time so that we do not leave their technical development simply to the coach while on tour.
I am not convinced that the problem with West Indies cricket has to do with the absence or lack of appreciation of what it means to play for the region. I am not convinced that this problem is one involving a lack of pride. I am not convinced that it has to do with off-the-field activities.
I do not believe that it has to do with the technical competence of the coaching or the management of the team. We have tried an array of coaches and managers with little or no success and therefore I would suggest that we need to adjust our thinking about the way we think about the game.
I believe that we need to groom a team for the future. While this will involve some chopping and changing, we must quickly move to identify talent and give that talent the exposure and time to develop.
Caribbean people are running out of patience. They want results and they want it quickly. Unfortunately this will only put more pressure on the administrators and players of the game. If we are in a rebuilding stage we should not expect too much from our players at this time because West Indies Cricket is at one of its lowest points despite the enormous talent that is within the team. And this fact in itself points to the need for a new type of thinking in regional cricket.
In the days ahead, we will have to see whether this new thinking will emerge. The team that will be selected to go to England will determine how much this new thinking has taken root. If it does not, the rot will continue.