Where was the captain?

As much as the Windies coach John Dyson has accepted responsibility for the embarrassing loss of Friday’s one-day match at the Providence Stadium one can’t help but ask where was the captain, Christopher Gayle? Not where he was physically at the time of this gross carelessness which has been dressed up as a “miscalculation” but where was he in the boiler room of the frenetic ball-by-ball decision-making? Where was he in the battlefield hierarchy? Apparently not with eyes fixed firmly on the prize and always glued to the correct column. It was the captain, not Dyson, who should have been dramatically and triumphantly marshalling his troops off the field after a strategically engineered win in the greying light of the fast approaching Guyana dusk. It was the captain, not Dyson, who should have been holding himself responsible for the various decisions made that day.

But this is the state that West Indian cricket has found itself in progressively and depressingly over the last two decades save for ephemeral highs and cameos like Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s astonishing destruction of Harmison in the 40th over on Friday only to see that labour of love demolished by the amateurishness of checking the wrong column. Can one envisage Clive Lloyd in the glory days leaving anything to chance on the field of play, let alone to a coach? Certainly not Steve Waugh and probably not Ricky Ponting and this is what now separates the team at the top of the heap from the rest.

It is part of the fundamental rot that his gripped the Windies. After all of the heavy lift on Friday, after all of the brilliant stroke play and strategizing, after all of the heart warming support from the ever loyal Guyana fans and the hundreds who came from the diaspora to pay homage to the sport they love, we diminished ourselves by following the wrong column.

After the sandy scandal at the Antigua stadium conjured by the region’s administrators who would have thought that the team would have been so slipshod in their attentiveness in the most crucial moments of the match.

The captain and each member of the team should have been following the Duckworth-Lewis formula like a song sheet knowing full well that with the time lost and the fast dying light it was definitely in play. Instead the whole region was left gutted and incandescent with anger. The exasperating DL was not introduced last week. It has been around since 1999 – what a way to mark its 10th anniversary – and the Windies have both benefited and lost from its cold, complex calculations. If you’re paying rapt attention as you should you don’t lose by this rank carelessness and schoolboyish reverie. There have, of course, been other humiliating lapses none more devastating than Shaun Pollock’s at the 2003 world cup but that is no licence for a team struggling to recapture the summit of its former glory to meekly submit to this carelessness. Interestingly, England captain Strauss was following his chart and by his own account was immediately convinced they had won by one run, why not the rest of the Windies and captain Gayle?

With the inauspiciousness of the players’ strike earlier in the day and the effacing of the sponsor’s logo on their garb one would have though that the Windies would have gone the extra mile to prove to their fans that they were professional, meticulous, clinical and unrelenting. They have shown the opposite.

If winning unspectacularly was what coach Dyson desired on Friday that could be understood. He is an Australian seeking to do a job for pay and to use it as a stepping stone to other things. Those who entered the playing field on behalf of the West Indies were in a different arrangement. They undertook to live up to the hallowed traditions of their esteemed predecessors and to take the entire region with them on this still elusive dream for a single nation. In the end, by their captain’s nonchalance they showed that they still have a far way to go before we can repose our hopes unhesitatingly in them.

The coach is the coach. If somewhere along the way we in the West Indies have made him the overall captain of the team this is something that the fans are wholly unaware of and would strenuously protest. What’s next for him? Will he decide declarations in test matches and beckon in the players to the pavilion with equal fervor? The captain was always and should always be in charge of everything that transpires in the centre and certainly should know whether a win has been achieved by DLt. If he subjects that decision to further vetting from the coach and others that is all well and good but the decision ultimately remains the captain’s.

Reviewing a Lloyd biography in The Guardian in 2007, Mike Selvey had this to say about the man.

“Lloyd’s take on man-management, team ethics and discipline should be taken on board for he can be credited with redefining the modern game, taking a side beaten heavily in Australia and transforming it, with the aid of some brilliant cricketers, into a ruthless, utterly uncompromising team. It ruled international cricket for a decade and a half until the complacency endemic in Caribbean cricket authorities helped bring about a dearth of talent and resulted in a downfall of mammoth proportions from which West Indies may never recover.

“His strategy was simple: brilliant batting and relentless pace, wolf-pack bowling, a ceaseless interrogation of technique and ticker. At times it was brutal, but those sides that suffered the bruises did so in the certain knowledge that given the weaponry they would have acted no differently.”

Would this man have left DL and the team’s fate in the hands of the coach on Friday afternoon?

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