West Indies may have beaten England impressively in the One-Day series but they have a long way to go before declaring that their decline is truly over. Somehow, I don’t think we’ve hit rock bottom.
This was absolutely the worst prepared team in Test history that arrived in England. No wonder the West Indies Cricket Board is a laughing stock and has been for years. A calypso song doing the rounds in Caribbean radio stations mocks the Board’s inefficiency. Take a Rest, by Dave Martins of the Tradewinds band, is spot satirically. I’m surprised it has taken an enterprising musician this long to record one.
The Board focuses on the commercial side of the game far more than the practical one. It has led to utter despair in Caribbean cricket circles and more misery looks certain unless someone with a better understanding of the players’ needs replaces recently-resigned Ken Gordon, the latest in a row of presidents who have failed to restore our pride.
To show how badly organized the Board was, West Indies only had one warm-up match before the first Test against England, a three-dayer against Somerset. It was mostly rained off so they went into battle with the Old Enemy with virtually no long-match practice having just competed poorly in the One-Dayers at the World Cup – on home turf.
West Indies were ill equipped for English conditions and it was no real surprise when they lost by the biggest margin in their Test history. They lost the Test series 3-0 and are now ranked eighth – and last out of the major cricketing nations – by the International Cricket Council in both formats of the game. No one could have predicted that only 12 years ago when Richie Richardson led the side to a record 27 consecutive Test match victories. .
Past legends like Desmond Haynes, Wes Hall and Richardson have offered to help sort out the malaise but what they can offer is too little too late. The players are still unhappy with their financial arrangements imposed by the Board and the lamentable partying culture remains. Players are still more interested in earning and having a good time than winning.
When an 11.30pm curfew was imposed at the start of the tour, Chris Gayle – who should have known better as one of the senior players – complained bitterly. Crazy, but true.
Despite his dissent, Gayle ended the series well, captaining the One-Day side and scoring consistently.
Brian Lara was missed for his batting genius on the tour but at least overall team spirit improved.
Another example of Board incomepetence manisfested when the captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan, dislocated his right shoulder and had to return home. It took his replacement a week to arrive, too late for the game against MCC so Marlon Samuels went into the fourth Test jet-lagged and without any match practice. An efficient Board would have had visas for reserve players sorted out.
It was the same incompetence when West Indies played England A. The tourists fielded a team half-filled with league cricketers because their one-day specialists had not arrived.
Neither cricketers nor their supporters are being well served by their national administrations – “people fed up wid allyuh man” the song goes.
Vice-captain Daren Ganga stepped in to lead the side but played so badly that he was left out of the One-Day series. Once again, the Board were at fault for choosing Ganga in the first place because his record does not stand up to scrutiny.
So what’s next? A governance committee chaired by the former Jamaica prime minister, PJ Paterson, will recommend that the West Indies Cricket Board is taken over by Caribbean prime ministers. At least they can’t do as badly. Can they? In theory, it should work, but what are the odds that it won’t? That could lead to another five years of humiliation.
On the plus side Shiv Chanderpaul regained the batting form that made him a sensation a decade ago.
Gayle took responsibility as captain well, despite his spat with the Board. New coach David Moore motivated the players to come back from the first Test embarrassment and deserves to be retained for at least the Twenty20 World Cup, and the next West Indies tour, both in South Africa.
Some players enhanced their reputations, but not collectively or consistently enough to inspire confidence for the future.
Gayle, Devon Smith, Runako Morton and Marlon Samuels had reasonable Test and One-Dayers.
Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith and Denesh Ramdin were effective in the short games, but need to improve at Test level.
Fidel Edwards would be a world-beater if he could harness that sizzling pace with better line and length.
Great to see Daren Powell improve because West Indies need more consistent fast bowlers. They all seem to have the speed but accuracy and variation of attack is always an issue.
Allen Stanford, Antigua-based Texan billionaire, is promising to revive West Indies cricket like Kerry Packer did for the Australians in the Seventies. Stanford has announced he is pumping $100 million over three years with most of the funding going towards grassroots development.
His largesse will be handy but if it’s not judiciously spent then we’ll have plenty of blinged-up players but still be searching for a return to the glorious days of supremacy.