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Trying to make sense of West Indies cricket

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I had vowed not to write again about West Indies cricket, because it seemed to have defied understanding and had some inner logic that could not be easily followed. But there is always the challenge to make sense of what is happening. The truth is that there is never a dull moment in West Indies cricket. This isn’t to say that what is happening is meant to excite us, but that something is always happening, the good at times, but more often the bad and ugly.{{more}} Cricketers rebelling in India and doing something that was unprecedented and an embarrassment to us, then politicians asking that they be not penalized; and later when things did not work out as they wanted, attempting to dictate who should not be the president of the Board and indirectly who should be selected on the team. There is a lot wrong with West Indies cricket, but the way to deal with this is not to get the politicians involved. If they want to play a role, let them try to influence the Board in agreeing to the many recommendations about management restructuring.

I have not looked at a whole ODI game played for almost a year. Their victory over South Africa in the 4th ODI forced me to watch all of the 5th ODI, if only to see whether the team would, as they often do, flatter to deceive. And certainly they did! With the World Cup weeks away, we don’t seem to have a ghost of a chance. Others don’t necessarily think so. Yepme, an on-line shopping company based in India, will sponsor the team for the World Cup. In a statement it issued, it said “We look forward to a mutually beneficial association as the West Indies team remains one of the most attractive teams in the world and will be one of the favourite teams in the World Cup.” Attractive, I have no problems with, but a favourite! They are seeing something we are not seeing.

I have always felt that one of the major problems with West Indies cricket had to do with the management of the Board. Changing faces at the top will not make a difference. There has to be total restructuring! Now, let us look at what happened after the Indian debacle. Many West Indians felt that the players needed to be disciplined, but they had agreed stupidly not to penalize them, then they dropped two key players from the ODI team, the selectors claiming that they were attempting to rebuild the team and wanted to invest in younger players. Everyone could easily see through that. If they wanted to penalize the guys, do so and let them know, but to pretend not to and to do something which obviously points to victimization is total madness. Then, how did they arrive at that decision on who should be axed? Were Bravo and Pollard the only ones that could be blamed for what happened? We have to bear in mind that the Task Force set up to investigate and make recommendations after the abandonment of the Indian tour did indicate that the three parties were equally to blame – that is, the players, their Association and the West Indies Cricket Board. But only the players, or at least some of them, appear to have borne the brunt of the fallout from the fiasco.

The decision to change the captaincy of the ODI team just weeks before going off to the World Cup is quite strange. I am referring here to them giving the task to young Jason Holder. This I consider to be unfair to the young man. He has limited time before the World Cup to put his stamp on the team. Moreover, he is still trying to cement his place on the team and you have imposed on him an extra burden. And then you send him to South Africa to play five ODIs in preparation for the World Cup. The South African experience could easily break his spirit. At this stage, when so many mistakes have been made by all and sundry, the best position to have taken was to send the squad as it existed then and begin to rebuild a team after the World Cup. Young Holder would have benefitted from his experience at the World Cup and would have had more time to grow with the team.

The decision taken by the players to abandon their series in India would have been taken knowing that over the years the WICB appeared to be reluctant to discipline its players. One remembers Gayle being called back after the parade he had in SVG. We might like Gayle or any other player for that matter, but they should not be allowed to do what they like, as had been happening over the years. When I said earlier that the performance of the team lacked any kind of coherence I was pointing to the lack of discipline and pride and a total unawareness of what the team means to West Indians. Take Gayle in the fifth ODI! The team is facing a mammoth total that depended on a major contribution from him, but he goes into the wicket and with the first ball stretches his bat outside to a ball that was as wide as it can get. What nonsense was that? Does he not realize that he is a team player, or is he just not concerned. That is West Indies cricket for you and dedicated fans are getting to the stage where they really can’t take any more of this unprofessional and uncaring display. Something has to be done, but we have to start with the restructuring of the Board and take it from there.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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