Generally it is agreed that the youth cricket team should in large measure provide a recruiting medium to bolster the senior West Indies Team. Substantially, the youth team ought to be loaded with players developing their portfolios strongly towards replacing their mirror counterparts established within the team. I use the word "established" advisedly and it applies to our own limited context, and certainly does not equate with "entrenched". When we observe the initial demise of the West Indies in their opening engagement against South Africa in the under – 19 World Cup in Dubai a few days ago there must be strong strengthening of the belief that much needs to be done for the West Indies by way of instant repair strategy.
Our cricket landscape was horribly tarnished by our youngsters capitulating for 109 in 26 overs after having been 36 for six in 16 overs — all this in reply to 198 for nine wickets. The task was less demanding than four runs per over. And even though South Africa may well be the strongest team on display, our boys cannot be excused for the poverty they displayed with the bat. More pointedly we might say the West Indies Board may not escape culpability for putting forward a team of such appalling inferiority. We must do much better than that.
Turning the searchlight on our senior side, it is difficult to pencil in more than a single player who holds up to proper scrutiny from the point of view of basic technical standards. That player is Shiv Chanderpaul. He looks unorthodox in his stance but he corrects this just before the bowler delivers and proceeds to be quite expressive of a sense of stability. Chanderpaul's record over the years places him among the top ten run scorers in cricket history and he can reasonably be expected to overtake Brian Lara in career aggregate. Such is his longevity and extreme tenacity.
The glare of our searchlight painfully portrays Kieron Powell as failing to compute his limitations into a sensible rationale for batting success at the top of the order. He is indeed loaded with talent but is deficient in the element shortly termed "watchfulness". Too often is he likely to do something stupid after he has done the hard work of laying the foundation for a potentially big innings.
Similar criticism falls at the door of Darren Bravo, another highly promising left hander. His patent flaw nearly always has to do with attempting to cut at balls too close to his stumps.
Of the older batsmen Marlon Samuels, Danesh Ramdhin and Darren Sammy all appear in the category of losing their heads at critical moments just when focus, concentration and justifiable resolve is of paramount importance to the interests of the team.
That is as far as our batting is concerned. What of the bowling? For various reasons we lack serious shock attacking pace bowlers of potent accuracy. Mitchell Johnson of Australia comes to mind in the present resurgence of that country in the recent 5–nil destruction of England and the current terrorization of world leaders South Africa.
Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach can all be overwhelming when things go right for them, but only for very brief periods. It is easily forgotten that West Indies in the last several years once had Australia 19 for five wickets in a Test match in the Caribbean, only to fail to sustain their grip– and eventually lose the match!
Incidents like this and several other feeble performances make me believe, without shadow of doubt, the fitness of our pacers is highly suspect—hence the consistent occurrence of injuries, all coming at most inconvenient of times! My assessment of these matters finds difficulty in concluding that the run of injuries is inevitable. We did not hear much about Curtley Ambrose, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Michael Holding or Joel Garner coming short with crippling disabilities. Something has to be wrong with the training done (at rather costly outlay) by our pacemen of this age.
As to our spinners, what can we say? Is it fair to ask how inspired are they? Not the kind of inspiration coming from spinner friendly pitches of an overwhelming sort. Alas, if we route the opposition, the likelihood of our batsmen being under equal demise would threaten termination of a Test match in under three days! Shillingford has come to grief with the law centred on his bowling action. Narine is less of a threat when batsmen are willing to wait patiently until he falters into bowling on their terms.
Yes, this is Test match cricket, which by appellation provides a true test of character and separates the best from the moderate in the final analysis. Deonarine, Bishop and others can only be useful in the slipstream of more feared practitioners.
This by no means constitutes an exhaustive probe. However, it is enough to achieve concurrence as to the much needed repair job waiting to be done on West Indies cricket. When the sheer evidence comes under review, that the defending champions in the regional Super 50 One Day Championships, the Windward Islands lost all their matches (to Ireland even) and that Jamaica who defeated Windwards were bowled out for 49 by Trinidad and Tobago, followed by the Trinees finding the going difficult on their home surface in the final against Barbados, there definitely is much to be said in weighing the quality of our Caribbean cricket.
Make no mistake, the need for serious diagnosis of defects in the techniques of our players has absolutely to come under proper and continuous scrutiny, and all this must be fully subject to useful therapeutic applications. Above all, there has to be a way to convince the players themselves of the paramount necessity to agree intelligently to reassess their performances in light of exhaustive proof concretely issuing from video evidence. More so the validity of imprinting on the minds of players to effect that they stand to make much more money from vastly attainable improved performances.