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Talking cricket again


Writing about West Indies cricket is a challenge, because it seems to function by a different sense of logic and by its own screwed up internal dynamics. I seem to have a love hate relationship with the West Indian team and its functioning. I have spent and enjoyed so many years listening to West Indies cricket, even staying up most of the night for games played in Australia. Now that we have the benefit of television, I fear looking to avoid continued disappointment. {{more}}Like other fans, my hopes have been so often lifted and then deflated. At first, I accepted this with the rationale that they were in the process of rebuilding, but that was since the last century! Our team blows hot and cold and flatters to deceive!

After their performance against England in a series which they should have won, except for the shameful batting display in the second innings in Grenada, our hopes are once again lifted because there appears to be a glimmer of hope, since we believe we see signs of something new or perhaps something of old coming back. New coach Phil Simmons appears to be putting emphasis on attitude and approach and on physical fitness. The team, described as mediocre, put English cricket in shambles, facilitating its team’s drop from third place in the ICC rankings. So, there is hope and the short series against Australia will tell us whether it is business as usual, convincing us that the more things change the more they remain the same. Braithwaite, Blackwood and Holder show promise and the chance of a reshaping of our team. The selectors and management appear to have detected something in Hope. I was going to add Fudadin, but he has apparently vanished from the radar. Powell, from whom we expected so much, has also disappeared. Lendel Simmons has, we have been told, resigned from Test Cricket. Can we continue to rinse out Devon Smith and expect different results?

DM Bravo has been one of the biggest disappointments in West Indies cricket, despite his six centuries. Something is seriously wrong with this guy. Many outstanding batsmen appear somewhat vulnerable at the early stages of their innings, but how many times have we seen Bravo get into the 30s and 40s and then blow it. Check also the number of times he has not made it into the 30s. He is our number three batsman, occupying a critical place. We expect our numbe three batsman to help to build the innings and lay a good foundation for the middle order, but in recent years it was the middle order that had to try to rescue us. We were all impressed with his performance in the second innings of the third test against England in Barbados and hope that he has overcome whatever bogey had infiltrated his psyche. With a smile, following the recent series against England, he reported in answer to a question that he had gotten over the ‘personal’ problems that kept him away for a short time. Will we see a new Bravo against Australia or will it be more of the same?

As we prepare to do battle against Australia the major issue that has surfaced has to do with the fate of Chiv Chanderpaul. He has been a bedrock for the West Indies, although in recent years displaying signs of selfishness. He has held the team together on so many occasions. Not attractive to watch, but dependable and performing a role that was needed. Chanderpaul is now 40. His recent performances are not what we have come to expect from him, but he is 40 with the obvious slowing of reflexes and with eyesight not as it used to be. How much more can we expect from him? The challenge is this: Are we rebuilding a team or are we going to provide him a swan song by holding on to him until he gets the 86 runs to surpass Lara’s 11,953 runs made in 232 innings as opposed to his 11,867 made in 280 innings? Some persons argue that there is no one around to replace him and play the role he plays. This argument, if carried to its logical conclusion, could mean having him around for another five years, while we hope someone will emerge. Is the WICB made of the stuff that will allow them to call the ‘Tiger’ and thank him profusely for his service, indicating that we have to move on and continue to build a team for the future with persons who are expected to be part of that future? Surely left to Chanderpaul, he will continue to play as long as he is physically able to make it. This issue is a serious one. We cannot just discard him, as we have done others in the past. But how we bid him farewell will be our real test.

Well, the West Indies Cricket Board! Not much more can be said about it! It has a culture that is difficult to comprehend. I still blame it for the state of West Indies cricket. Curtley Ambrose, in his recently released autobiography, singled out the difficulties with Lara and the impact on the team. One has to ask, where was the West Indies Cricket Board in all of this? It has pampered some of our cricketers and condoned a lot of nonsense. This is why there was such a reaction when, hiding behind the selectors, they recently took a stand against some of the players. I notice that they are once more organizing town hall meetings throughout the region. I am not sure what they are expecting from these, because certainly they are not devoid of recommendations about the future of West Indian cricket.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.