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Some Thoughts About West Indies Cricket

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In March of this year, after a period of cricket drought at the Arnos Vale Playing Field, we will see some cricketing action. While many cricket fans will be glad to see some international cricket action, there will be uncertainty or rather fears of what our Team will produce. The team generally flatters only to deceive or as someone said they go up and down like a yoyo. Despite the criticisms and scepticism of West Indian cricket fans, they are generally eternal optimists.{{more}} Some argue that the team is still in a rebuilding stage, but one has to ask how long is this expected to last. Many see bright signs on the horizon. Cricketers coming out of the Sagicor High Performance Centre are said to be bringing something new to cricket in terms of their maturity, confidence and cricketing skills. Their performance in reaching the semi-finals of the Regional Super 50 Tournament has been identified as a source of optimism. Some of the young players like Darren Bravo and Kirk Edwards show signs of promise, along with some of the others like the injury prone Adrian Barath, Kraigg Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell. Some of their averages are not particularly striking but a few are relatively young and if handled correctly might live up to their promise.

The term associated with cricket and made famous by CLR James, “Beyond the Boundary,” is very applicable to what is happening. While we expect good performances on the field, little will be achieved while the problems beyond the boundary continue. I refer, of course, to the constant bickering and conflicts between the West Indian Players Association and the West Indies Cricket Board. The administrators of the Association do not convey the impression that they have the future of West Indies cricket as a priority. Of course, their objective is to represent the players and ensure that they get the best of what is possible, but there is more at stake than this for the hopes and aspirations not only of cricket fans but of West Indians as a whole and West Indian Cricket are at stake. Some blight appears to have been affecting the functioning of the Board for quite a long time. If as Tony Cozier suggested recently, the President and Executive Secretary took time off to go and assist their party in campaigning during the last elections in St.Lucia, one must begin to question their priorities. That apart, the Board, as has been the case in recent times, does not impress with its handling of cricket in the region. Regardless of one’s position on the Gayle affair, it has to be admitted that the Board’s handling of the matter leaves much to be desired.

Then there is the Darren Sammy issue. One cannot help but be sorry for Sammy. He was handed the captaincy at a time when his place on the team was far from being secure. There is nothing spectacular about his captaincy, although he appears to have brought some sense of discipline and togetherness to the team. His on- the- field tactics, setting of the field, in particular, do not impress, in fact leave much to be desired. Sammy has played about 21 tests with a batting average of 17.38, scoring only one fifty, his highest score being 58. He has taken in tests 59 wickets at an average of 30.05. For One Day Internationals he has a batting average of 18.99, having scored two fifties. In ODIs he has 49 wickets at an average of 45.59. Based on the stats his place on the team is not guaranteed or really should not be. I have a lot of confidence in Andre Russell who appears very enthusiastic about the game, is an excellent fielder, a good lower order batsman and a bowler as good as Sammy. Once Sammy remains Captain, there is unlikely to be a place for Russell and for Dwayne Bravo, who despite his recent poor performances is a superior all-rounder and an exceptional fielder. In my view, there is unlikely to be balance in the team while Sammy remains Captain. Sammy has tried. He is enthusiastic and appears to get the best out of his players. He is obviously affected by the criticisms levelled at him and by his poor performances in recent time. The poor performances, in fact, might be a result of those criticisms because every time he goes to bat or to bowl he is aware that a heavy weight rests on his shoulders and that there are persons waiting for his blood. In the recent series against India, in the last few games he did very little bowling. The Board has to make a decision about the future of Sammy.

Some of us who remember the glory days of West Indian cricket really have difficulty looking at the performances of our Cricket team today. At certain times you think they are on the path of getting our cricket out of the doldrums and then they simply surrender and disintegrate. It might be as some persons said that the team has lost the art of winning. I am in agreement with those who see a lot of promise in some of the players around at this time, with Darren Barvo and Kirk Edwards still young in the game having averages of 50. The players should not be left on their own to develop whatever potential they have. Measures have to be put in place to handle these young players, ensuring that the mistakes made with people like Lara are things of the past but then there is the Board. No one knows what to expect from it. Let us hope that in March the team plays some excellent cricket and helps to restore the faith of cricket fans here and in the region.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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