Sarwan needs WICB support, not performance targets
Says Donald Duff
May 1, 2007
In their drive to restore West Indies' cricket to what it once was the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has started off on the right foot by naming Ramnaresh Sarwan to the post of West Indies captain.
Simply put, there was no other logical choice. Sarwan had been deputy to Brian Lara since Lara replaced Carl Hooper as skipper for the 2003 tour of the Caribbean by Australia.
He was also deputy to Shivnarine Chanderpaul, both for Guyana and the West Indies and he also had the opportunity to skipper the regional side when he deputized for Brian Lara in the West Indies thrilling win over Australia in the fourth match of last year's Champions' Trophy tournament.
It would have been a backward step for the WICB to name anyone else, not to mention the problems that would have occurred as a result.
But in installing the `heir-apparent' Sarwan on the throne the WICB has gone further by giving the new captain performance targets for the upcoming tour of England in much the same way as the Pat Rousseau-led administration did with Brian Lara in the 1998-99 series against Australia; the board has missed the point.
That Lara single-handedly was able to bring about two victories for his team with his sublime batting in the home series against Australia did not mean that the underlying conditions that afflicted the team had vanished.
The WICB needs to understand that the captaincy of the West Indies team is not responsible for the decline of the regional team's performances on the international scene. It goes deeper than that.
The problems lie with the team - the entire team in its lack of discipline on and off the field, the absence of pride, and the poor physical and mental states of the players.
Instead of performance targets, what the WICB should really be giving Sarwan is their whole-hearted support. For unless the WICB is fully behind the captain they have chosen, the team will continue on its downward spiral.
In giving Sarwan performance targets the WICB is saying to Sarwan that the job is short-term not long-term and that based on his and his team's performance, he might be replaced.
In such a scenario it is very easy for players who might covet the captaincy not to give of their best in the hope that once the present captain fails they might be given the job.
If that is what the WICB is saying, then indeed the
captaincy of the West Indies' cricket team is a poisoned chalice.
Having given in to a number of demands from the players, the most notable made during the South Africa stand-off when Lara and Hooper held the WICB to demands over money and were sacked and then reinstated, the WICB has been unable to wrest control from the players.
The West Indies' players, after savouring `player power' (first under Kerry Packer, who signed up many of the star players at the time leaving established cricket to find new players), had again tasted the nectar of the forbidden fruit and found it delicious.
Player power had to rule.
The WICB needs to immediately grasp the reins of control from not only the players but from the Players Association (West Indies Players Association) which have fought the governing body tooth and nail at every opportunity.
In giving up control of the regional team the WICB has been left with little or no options. All it needed was a complaint from one or all of the players that the coach was speaking too harshly to them or that the training was too strenuous or that the performance enhancer was not doing anything and the WICB would rush to get rid of the offending person.
There is a long list of cricket personnel who have fallen afoul of the West Indies' team and have had to be removed. In order for the West Indies' team to do well on the international scene the WICB needs to change its management style.
Instead of jumping to every whim and fancy of their prima donna players, the WICB must remove those players who do not want to conform to the standards set by the WICB or any one of its officials.
Discipline, which went abegging at around the same time that the team's performances started to deteriorate, must be brought back as a matter of utmost priority.
The players on the West Indies' team must understand that there is a price to pay for success.
They cannot want to party until the wee hours of the morning before a game and then turn up the same day and play well.
This is not possible. This is where Sarwan would need the WICB's support.
Curfew times must be rigidly enforced by the tour management committee and supported by the WICB and those found wanting should be warned and fined.
Training sessions must be done with all seriousness and whenever possible should simulate match conditions.
The new captain as well as the new coach must be given the latitude to enforce penalties for tour-committed infringements; of course, after proper procedure is followed.
One is not suggesting a penal situation as it is understandable that the players need time to unwind, especially after a hard day in the field, but this period of relaxation must have time and place as well as limits since cricket is all-important to this region - a region that spent over US$500m to host the World Cup competition with facilities (stadia) accounting for some US$300m.
There is some salutary value in giving the new West Indies' captain performance targets because it gives him goals to pursue.
But unless the WICB understands why such a talented bunch of cricketers have been underperforming for so long and take steps to remedy the situation, blaming and changing the captain for the shortcomings and poor performance of the team just would not cut it.