The regional domestic four-day cricket tournament got under way on Friday and fans around the region – jealous of the wonderful cricket and high standards elsewhere – are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping and praying that it will be a season to remember.
After years of weak cricket and poor standards of play, reflected by mediocre and abysmal performances, the West Indies Cricket Board has finally decided to listen and, for the second time, the regional tournament will involve return matches with each team playing a total of 12.
With things such as ambition and setting goals, pride in performance, dedication and commitment, a sensible and healthy lifestyle, coaching, guidance and grooming being of equal importance, a longer tournament will not necessarily improve the region’s standards.
Return matches and a longer season, however, will assist in doing so, and the wish of every West Indian, and especially so those longing to see West Indies cricket move from the embarrassing state it finds itself in today and get back to its days of glory, or close to it, must be hoping, and praying, that it does.
Right now the top six teams in the world – Australia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan, in that order – are far much better than the West Indies and that it is frightening.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul is a wonderful batsman; Chris Gayle, on his day, is a dangerous and exciting batsman; Ramnaresh Sarwan is an attractive but far from consistent batsman; Jerome Taylor is a lethal fast bowler; and Fidel Edwards can be dangerous.
Every now and again, the West Indies do something good, as Taylor’s batting showed during the first Test against New Zealand when he scored 106 off 17 deliveries; Gayle’s batting during the second Test when he scored 197 after batting for 514 minutes, facing 396 deliveries and still stroking 20 fours and lashing seven sixes; and, the performance of Sarwan and Denesh Ramdin, 58 runs off 5.2 overs to win the second one-day game.
That, however, is usually followed by some embarrassing situations and performances such as Marshall falling four times before changing his boots.
And performances like West Indies crashing for 128 in the third one-day international with batsmen Marshall, Sarwan, and Findlay getting out like novices.
These performances suggest that despite the presence of what some may call ‘talent’, when it comes to batting, bowling, and fielding, West Indies cricketers do not know, or do not appreciate the basics of the game.
It is either that or, as Daniel Vettori, the bespectacled school teacher and captain of New Zealand said, it is simply a case of too many West Indies cricketers not understanding the game – not even the basics of the game.
Some of them, including one like Marshall, have what so many call ‘talent’, and if they do not end up at the bottom of the pool before, may one day become good cricketers, good batsmen.
Right now, however, even without mentioning wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh Jr, with the bat in his hand, to see the likes of Sewnarine Chattergoon, Marshall, Shawn Findlay, Kieron Pollard, and despite his patience, even Brendan Nash, representing the West Indies as batsmen, is disappointing.
Every now and again, on a flawless pitch, and against ordinary bowlers, which, but for Vettori, all the New Zealand bowlers are, one or two of them will make a few runs.
Once the pitch is doing anything, however, once the ball is swinging or is spinning, once the bowler can swing the ball both ways or spin it both ways, once they are good enough to vary the pace and the flight of the ball, all of the West Indies batsmen, with the exception of Chanderpaul and occasionally Gayle, are like sitting ducks.
As we usher in the new season and welcome the new format, the prayer on the lips of every West Indian who wishes for a return to the good old days, is that the West Indies selectors will look for players with special skills and character – the skills and character that will allow them to perform at the top, players with a passion for the game, a desire to climb the mountain, and a determination to reach the top.