By Orin Davidson
Christmas brings much goodwill, but the endless stream of plaudits being showered on the West Indies team after their losing Test tour of Australia is becoming grossly overdone.
It’s quite okay to feel good about an improvement in the team’s performance, compared to its last tour Down Under. It’s all right to be happy about the emergence of Adrian Barath and Kemar Roach and the application shown by Travis Dowlin and Narsingh Deonarine, but the reality is that West Indies still came out losers.
The 2-0 margin of defeat might not have reflected the true nature of the series, but the world Test rankings don’t give points for closeness of defeat, the bottom –line score is all that counts.
“People look at us now and might look at us differently even though we lost the series 2-0. I definitely know that we gained respect from Australia and we showed them we weren’t going to be a pushover after the first game.” That was captain Chris Gayle.
Coach David Williams said the tour went well for the rookies and manager Joel Garner had lots of harsh words for Australian media which thrashed West Indies after the first Test loss. Such sentiments might be true, but it is inappropriate for this West Indies team. This is not a nation team just out of a slump, rather it one that has been rebuilding for almost 15 years now. And not just from an ordinary reign on top of the world, as this rebuilding phase is preceding one of the greatest team accomplishments in all sport, that of the West Indies Dream Team that played unbeaten in Tests for 15 years while reigning as world number one. For a team of such calibre, needing a decade and a half and more to rebound, means plenty of faults are inherent in the system.
Therefore you would expect officials to be more guarded on their pronouncements on the players’ performances and be loud in their appeal for the necessary infrastructure needed to take West Indies close to where it was in the 1980s.
The worst thing that can accrue from those reactions from this Test series is to lull the West Indies Cricket Board regime into a false sense of security, into believing it can relax and do nothing to speed up the development of its young players, thinking those encouraging displays will blossom by themselves. Just like previous administrations did, when they expected world class players to fall from the sky when the Dream Team of the 1980s ended its superlative run on top of the world.
One famous reaction was the retort from WICB officials when Clive Lloyd who moulded that champion team under his captaincy, called for the setting up of an academy. He was told that West Indies not need to follow the Australians. That turned out to be one of the biggest blunders of all time as the subsequent plunge in performances of the team, is still rock bottom years later.
And, the chances of inaction from the current Julian Hunte-led WICB regime are huge as its track record of politicizing the administration of the board seems to mean more to the president and his executives than cricket development.
Don’t be surprised if advertisements suddenly pop up in the regional media proclaiming the team ready to regain its world number one status based on the promise of Barath, Roach and company.
The reality is that West Indies badly needs a professional league and at least one high performance training centre to nurture the talent of those young players.
Talent abound endlessly in the islands and Guyana, but the majority is wasted due to nonexistent infrastructure.
This West Indies bowling attack had no depth in Australia which is why it failed to win any of the three Tests. Roach had little support after Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards were sidelined. The bowling attack could not finish the job in Adelaide and allowed Australia to amass too huge a score in the Perth first innings, that was the difference between losing and winning that third Test. And a turnaround will not happen with this continued laid-back approach by the administrators. Capable reserves cannot be had without professional grounding.
These days all of the major Test playing nations are acquiring adequate replacements for injured star players. India has invested a lot in cricket schools which is why unknown players are hitting the ground running with big performances on the international scene. Who would’ve heard of Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma, Amrit Mishra etc. prior to their successful career starts?. England got immediate results from the likes of Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Graham Onions etc, Australia’s Brad Haddin appeared out of nowhere to replace wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, so did Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus in place of injured paceman Brett Lee.
When South Africa introduced pace merchant Dale Steyn he became an instant match winner, so was JP Duminy and only recently Friedel de Wet is making is a big impact in the former’s absence.
These players are helping their teams win, but West Indies cannot emulate them with only Roach. Additionally, the team is not helped without the services of adequate support staff like physical trainer, bowling coach etc,
The well worn expression of sowing what you reap is very appropriate in West Indies’ case. Yet, instead of pushing on, you have the WICB going backward by resorting to the one round, five-match a team for the premier regional championships starting next month, after a two-round format this year.
If money is the problem, because from all appearances it seems the said regional four-day championship will once again not have sponsorship, you once again have to ask the most pertinent question in West Indies cricket. Why is it these WICB officials think it is appropriate to continue to seek office?.
It is now two years the major West Indies competitions have not attracted sponsorship, which is bringing the management of regional cricket to an all time low.
And you don’t need Einstein’s qualities to conclude that incompetence is the cause for the drought of investment in West Indies cricket.
For the regional game to become relevant around the world it needs financing to develop infrastructure.
President Julian Hunte and company would give the long suffering West Indian cricket public a huge Christmas favor by making a New Year’s announcement of resigning en-mass to make way for more competent officials.
Or else, we run the risk of another 15 years in the doldrums.