Living the Dream
A very erudite and supremely well delivered documentary type advertisement going the rounds recently has asked in very pointed language whether the West Indies can once more live the dream of becoming world champions in one day cricket. It is well delivered on ESPN by an actor loaded with the right diction glistening with stirring oratory – the kind you would associate with the drive needed to launch men into battle on the national front, to save a people from dire peril and disaster! The words expressed are of the order used to light a fire of the emotions but, knowing what our cricket has been about in the last several years, one wonders if there isn't too much water in the wood to expect a conflagration in the next few days!
I say water, not to speak about the super-drenching of the material for the fuel that is at hand. Setbacks have not been absent in the West Indies campaign leading up to the World Cup 2015. The very apparent feature has been one of hastily inflicted lameness on what ought to be efforts at elevating the national psyche. The Indian debacle has been calamitous in the extreme. You can't go into battle with blunted swords and broken arrows – and maybe ill-fitting breastplates. No severe array of impediments in your logistics can be useful to your cause. It takes more than a sermon or fiery oration to ignite the cause.
All this has come down to the gravity of problems with administration. The worst situations seem always to crop up at the least convenient of times. The tour to India – under the best mental configuration – could only have been a means of preparation for the World Cup, a way of easing into acquiring a grip on a longer term mission. Then, alas, disaster struck. Our players did not shrink from opting for the unthinkable by finding themselves in the chaos of an aborted tour.
By no way should we deny responsibility on the part of the West Indies cricket board. However, it is the players who in largest measure have something to lose by a disruption with the process of their seeking a higher degree of enhanced professional livelihood. World Cups are made to order for Caribbean players; a shorter format suits the desperate and even the destitute constitution. In an encounter of 50 overs you can fire away as you would in a half mile – so different from the three mile race – the equivalent of the marathon that is a Test match.
Our players lack consistent focus because they are not adequately fit – in physique or in spirit or in mental toughness. Sir Frank Worrell knew it and he worked on it to smooth out the rough edges. Unfortunately these ugly edges have returned. And this is a consequence of not having instituted the right sort of molding mechanisms while we were on top of our game.
This is all past as water under the bridge. South Africa has clearly demonstrated to us the stark need to configure our aspirations towards scores nearer 400 in 50 overs rather than 300 as par for the course on a decent pitch. Above all, it cannot emerge from slap dash approaches to batting.
For many of us our hopes are pinned on the biff-bang-bash persona of Chris Gayle, complemented by the like muscle of Dwayne Smith at the start of an innings. Somehow, it is generally unlikely for both sticks of dynamite to blast off successfully in tandem. Inevitably this creates a rebuilding job for Samuels who of late tends to find the assignment irksomely repetitive.
Another fly in the ointment has to do with Gayle having expended much effort in hitting out at the authorities for the non-selection of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard in sequel to the India fiasco. In the ordinary course of things in most countries Gayle would face weighty disciplinary sanctions but the West Indies see themselves in the position of limiting the number of holes in their boat bottom.
It is difficult to dismiss a note of empathy under Samuels' skin in his disassociating himself from whatever hard line positions that led up to the Indian tour cancellation. He will obviously want to endeavor to achieve credible scores with the bat. However, his choice of location at the breakfast table will be made with a level of discomfort. Insularity creates its subtle disparities.
The grand spirited fairness of Darren Sammy calling for unmitigated unity behind the captaincy of Jason Holder is excellent. However, equally important would be an acceptance by Sammy of the need to temper the arrogance of his own batting by thinking in terms of building the West Indies innings assiduously rather than too heavy a reliance on wantonly strong armed methods.
From my rather arbitrary gauge of the required approach to building an innings of 50 overs I would suggest that 30 overs may have to be at the restrained rate of four per over. Then there will be eight at the mildly ambitious rate of 10 per over. This leaves way for judiciously taken six over at 12 and the forcefully targetted three overs at 16 and two at 20 somewhere in the power phases. All this always bearing in mind the need to keep wickets in hand.
Better said than done! Main hurdle for West Indies is getting out of their group into the semi-finals. The best of luck – I have said nothing about the bowling which can be frightfully frenetic! Nothing wrong in dreaming the dream of our winning the Cup!