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Hoping for at least a creditable performance

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Do West Indians dare to hope that a few lessons were learnt during the fourth ODI against South Africa? I shall come back to that. First, the unceremonious and unjustified dropping of Bravo and Pollard from the WI World Cup X1 and the premature hurtling of Jason Holder into the breach as captain: It’s too painful to contemplate that WICB President Dave Cameron could influence the great Clive Lloyd into carrying out this deed.  

By the above my position on these matters is clear. But dwelling on the issue of the two players being sacrificed for being the ring leaders in India is to lose sight of the fundamental problems that have been at the core of WI cricket over the last two decades. And those problems reach way beyond the selection and non-selection of players.

The fundamental problems attendant upon WI cricket have been well-illustrated in the Test series against South Africa and the first three ODIs; and here I place them in no particular order of importance.

There is absence on the field of wise, mature, progressive and dynamic leadership, a leadership which can inspire and give sadly-lacking confidence to the team. There is the demonstrated mental incapacity of players to think strategically (individually and as a team) and to apply solutions to the problems; the inability of the players to absorb and apply the information, insight and guidance given them by the likes of Ambrose, Richardson, Williams, perhaps even Lloyd. 

Very discernible on the field is the absence of team spirit and togetherness; no spirit of co-operation, cohesiveness and the necessary unified aggression and spirit to compete successfully in international sport. Now it is not that individuals and even the team have not displayed, on occasion, elements of the characteristics required; but the disciplines are not structured into the team play, into their very make-up and so cannot consistently be displayed.

After two decades of being humiliated, on and off the field, confidence is low. But it is not as simple as not having enough of what it takes to stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world, the players and teams of the last two decades have come to accept that they do not belong amongst Australia, South Africa, India and the other top crust teams of world cricket.

The performance of a few critical players, among them Andre Russell, who underachieves in relation to his natural ability perhaps more than anyone else in the team, in the fourth ODI against South Africa is an example of what is possible when the players come to believe in themselves and are able to put together sufficient of the above elements of cricket over a sustained period.

The bowlers (no clearly world class performers among them) carried out their job with discipline and avoided the excessive and unproductive short-pitched bowling. New captain, Jason Holder, accepted the challenge to do it himself in the last over taking two wickets, limited David Miller, who was on the rampage, to facing only one ball off which he could only score two, and indeed he should have been out if Holder could have himself hung on to the catch.   

When they batted, after the usual gifting of wickets through the inability to apply themselves, WI batsmen, Samuels (who threw away his wicket in the first three ODIs and more than a couple times in the Test series) left his ego and seeming indifference in the dressing room and applied himself at the crease.

So too did Darren Sammy realise that if he resisted going for the big heave before catching sight of the ball and having it flow consistently off the bat, he could contribute 50 at a run-a-ball. It was noticeable that not once in his 40-ball 64, did Russell try the impossible. He realised that he could hit the ball on the ground at jet speed to the boundary, and that the longer he stayed at the crease, he was able to find greater degrees of confidence that he could do the job.

The salient point is that there is talent in the West Indies; there is the possibility that the players could build and develop on their basic skills and become top-class international players in all formats. Off the field, the West Indies Cricket Board (successive boards) have not been able to discern the deficiencies of the team and the individual players and so has failed to develop a structured framework to enhance the human capacity of the players.

Instead of taking guidance from the PJ Patterson report on the need for root and branch transformation, it engaged in what Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves termed “village vengeance.” 

Understandably, West Indian supporters will not be overly confident of their team achieving anything out of the ordinary in next month’s World Cup. But just perhaps, Lloyd, Ambrose and Richardson could inject a few of the disciplines and dispositions required for the team to perform at least creditably in New Zealand and Australia. To expect more would be unrealistic.


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