Remodeling the West Indies
The recent interview on television with Honorable Dr. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, declaring the absolute need to remodel the West Indies Cricket Board made interesting listening. It was indeed more than interesting – since, the whole subject, in my view, has moved for a long time into the acute area of the compelling. However, despite every need for drastic transformation, the question remains as to who is in position to enforce the much needed change. It is fundamentally indispensable to answer the call to manifesting all good sense towards achieving laudable objective of saving West Indies cricket, but it remains somewhat elusive – that is, who can take the bull by the thorns.
In a perfect world all cricketing matters would automatically be left to cricketers and the persons they elect or appoint to see about them. Yet, the imperfection of our world reflects a distortion in that our Test match venues are not the property of the West Indies board or even the regional cricket associations. They have been built by territorial governments in whom they are vested! It is a situation of relative discomfort. The Caribbean public has been begging for the regeneration of a viable West Indies team. All efforts – miscued into the umpteenth unending succession of editions of the board – have palpably and pathetically failed.
Mr. Mitchell's oration over the near lifeless body of our cricket stops short of expressing in clear words pointing to the guise of mutiny that would fit the extreme nature of the situation. He asks, though, for administration of cricket to be lifted out of the hands of the monstrously inept. Still, the record of our territorial governments in their long practiced realms has been consistently short of inspiring. There is no shortage of wondering how hot the frying pan, how hot the fire.
Like Mitchell, I stop short of suggesting the way along which the board can be modified, renewed or even abolished. My preference is to measure the technical dimensions of the task of adequately reshaping our prospective teams to represent us on the international scene. My task is not easy. It can't be, but it doesn't preclude my trying. Many very concerned individuals have been persistently asking whether our current players have the talent comparable with their predecessors of the glory days. They may not possess innate technical brilliance. And, as a bare start this may not be an irreparable limiting factor. Allow me to conjure up an example from the past, hoping it can be accepted as a desirably appropriate signpost.
The dateline is July of 1984. The venue is Headingley Ground at Leeds where West Indies squared up for the third Test against England. Our team reads: Greenidge, Haynes, Gomes, Richards, Lloyd (Captain), Dujon (Keeper), Baptiste, Harper (Off Spinner), Holding, Garner and Marshall.
England batted first and posted 270. West Indies' reply began badly: 16 for one, then 43 for two with both the renowned opening pair of Greenidge and Haynes back in the pavilion. But entering at No. 3 Larry Gomes bolsters the innings with a painstaking 100 not out.
Gomes provided dependability and grit by helping Lloyd in a 70- run 5th wicket partnership of which Lloyd contributes 48. Next, Richards having fallen cheaply, Gomes holds on to add 53 with Dujon for the 6th wicket and later engages Holding in an 82 run partnership for the 9th wicket.
All told, Gomes contributes 100 out of 286 scored during his stay at the crease. More than likely, nobody remembers any impressive stroke coming off his hat. However, West Indies are aided to a 32 run first innings lead, inspiring the bowlers to dismiss England more cheaply the second time around leading to an 8 wicket win.
How applicable is the Gomes episode to the present day saga? Not difficult to see. West Indies recently in Sr Lanka, lost the first Test match and our bowlers rose to the occasion in the second Test to dismiss the home side for relatively low scores of just around 200, only for our batsmen to fold, displaying an anemic failure to get 244 for victory. Absolutely, how essential would it have been for a Larry Gomes to have come to the rescue?
This is one lamentable case illustrating the damnable instance of the team not having dependable characters – worth their weight in gold despite an absence of flamboyant bravado. No wonder Sir Gary Sobers had difficulty in holding back the tears, all that was needed to beat Sri Lanka was nothing like glorious batsmanship but gutsy application of a decent sort compatible with regular commonsense soaked determination.
When you don't have eleven batsmen collectively capable of grafting a score of 250, given relatively unlimited amount of time to do so, it points to a number of failings in our cricketing mechanism. Some men can't play pace bowling. Some can't play spin. And, almost none of them can order their minds properly. Our batsmen have escaped the persuasions of a progressive approach to their development. That's where I would attach serious considerations to the elements in the so called retainer contracts. No such contract should exceed $20,000 (U.S), and it should entail stipulations about obligation on the part of batsmen to achieve minimum standards as to their batting averages.
No accredited batsman can meaningfully be expected to post an average lower than 25 – and that's for his initial appearance in the team. Then, by his second year his guidelines must require him to elevate to an average of 30. This must translate to 35 and then 45 in succeeding years. Needless to say, all this depends on a provision of certain quantum of training facilities and suitable technical personnel. The facilitites ought to be adequately distributed among member territories, with the aim of strengthening each of these units.
Not being in consultancy to the West Indies board, I need say no more. Who says what and who does what about West Indies cricket remains a big puzzle about straight forward approaches most times being made mysterious. Ironing out the mess could take much more time – allowing Mitchell to provide multiple orations, hopefully creating life support of a kind.