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Another Reality Check For West Indies Cricket

By Orin Davidson
If the 2007 World Cup failure was the latest lesson West Indies Cricket did not learn about the requirements for success in international competition, the humiliation wrought from the Twenty20 edition should hammer hard on the consciousness of new President Julian Hunte.

If he is serious about the team doing well and knows anything about professional sport, he would never allow another ill-prepared team go on suicide mission, like the current squad experienced in South Africa.

Hunte and the other decision makers on the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), some of whom have hands-on experience, enjoyed immensely the success of the teams of the late 1970s and 1980s, like every other West Indian. And they should know that the key to that success was the professional approach those teams instilled in everything they did before and after competitions.

These days the current players seem oblivious to or do not want to know what it means to be professional in their work.

And the WICB is not helping them one bit.

The team that failed to win any matches and got knocked out, first round of the current Twenty20 World Cup is a prime example of the administrative negligence that is the main cause for West Indies being left stuck in the doldrums of world cricket.

With no preparation whatsoever, the squad boarded their flight and before you could say six runs, was heading back home, courtesy of thrashings from South Africa and Bangladesh.

It is no coincidence, West Indies lost both games with two overs to spare, which in regular ODI competition, is not too bad but in this latest 20 overs version, is a sound whipping.

And you don’t have to be a Clive Lloyd to figure out that the defeats were due to nothing but poor fitness that amounted to rustiness in the field.

Appalling fielding and wild bowling ruined sparkling batting efforts in both games.

You don’t drop batsmen on the rampage in Twenty20 competition and escape with it. In this form of competition, the slightest slipup costs dearly and West Indies paid for letting off Herchelle Gibbs twice and Mohammad Ashraful once.

Those two players went on to bat South Africa and Bangladesh respectively to victories and left West Indies on a shameful early return trip home Dropped catches are part of the game, they happen now and again, but when you put down three vital chances in successive games, you are asking for trouble. Sloppy ground fielding did not help as were the spate of wides and no-balls the bowlers were incapable of avoiding.

Were the players sharp from a preparatory camp, you would hardly see Dwayne Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, two of the team's best fielders, grassing sitters. Nor would you have bowlers unable to hold their concentration to bowl on the right side of the pitch.

Captain Ramnaresh Sarwan had called for a camp before the competition and got none.

Yet he reportedly said players were shaping up very well before departure. But deep inside you got the impression Sarwan knew the team was not ready to win because, he said as much when he reportedly favored Australia and South Africa to take home the spoils on the team’s arrival.

It highlighted one of the differences between himself and Chris Gayle - who captained the team during the designated skipper's injury- induced absence for the England limited series.

Gayle does not beat about the bush, he says it like it is, publicly and privately. His criticism of the WICB for the said lack of professionalism in dealing with the team's needs, said it all. Even when he was threatened by the then president, he refused to apologize and backed up his words by leading the team to victory.

Now that the team has been disgraced, the new captain has to face the fire after being handed a team that doesn’t even seem to have the fielding coach they had in England, or the specialist bowling coach every other team has. Instead the technical team continues to comprise a head coach and one assistant, who both seem to specialize in nothing.

It is a sad irony that a nation of such rich tradition has come to such a sorry pass, where a relative newcomer like Bangladesh could embarrass West Indies, not only on the field but also in their seriousness of approach to competition. After the so-called minnows’ six-wicket victory Ashraful credited their intense preparation that comprised one month of commando training.

Their progression to the Super Eight stage is Bangladesh’s immediate reward.

And no doubt the same type of intense preparation could be talked about by all the other qualifiers.

What hurts so terribly bad is to see West Indies mired in mediocrity, simply because the abundant natural ability that could be honed to unimaginable levels of achievement, is being left in the rough.

Gayle's spectacular century against South Africa is an example of the physical prowess that is not being maximized fully, as is the hitting ability of Dwayne Smith and Marlon Samuels or the pace bowling attributes of Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor.

Now that West Indies is heading back home along with the likes of Scotland, Kenya and Zimbabwe, it will be interesting to see the type of support they get for their next engagement in three month’s time, back there in South Africa.

Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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