W Indies can learn from England

Dear Editor,

England are now officially the #1 cricket team in the world. A decade ago they were the laughing stock of international cricket; the team that everyone wanted to play if they needed to improve their batting/bowling average or were looking for a whitewash. Even their club tournament – County Cricket – was derided as being substandard.

England’s status a decade ago reflects the W/Indies present position.

Yet, England was able to rebound from their debacle and now sit on the pinnacle of Test cricket.

All of the comments from cricket knowledgeables point to the coach, Andy Flower, as the main reason behind England’s success. As South Africa’s former captain, Kepler Wessels, stated in a recent article: “Flower takes a hard line, he’s meticulous on fitness, there are no short cuts and he sets very high standards. The players and management can either buy into it or not be part of the team. He runs a very tight ship and the players have bought into it.”

Wessels’ description of the England coach mirrors what our W/Indies coach, Ottis Gibson, who was previously a part of Flower’s coaching staff, and indeed the WICB has been preaching recently, but which is finding so much opposition among players and cricket administrators and supporters. It is time that we start to realize that there can be no W/Indies revival unless our management is allowed to take the “hard line” approach to change our present cricket psyche. It was never a lack of talent which caused our demise.  It was the indifferent attitude to the other aspects of our cricket such as discipline, fitness, mental strength, administration, etc, which brought about our downfall. Our players need to either buy into this philosophy or ‘ship out.’

A lot of positives have already been gleaned from Gibson’s management of our W/Indies team and this can only be further developed if he is allowed to continue to manage the team according to his vision.

There is an obvious improvement in the discipline in all aspects of their cricket. You can see the hard work being put in, but the results will take some time to become obvious. We have to trust in the coach and his principles.

Our bowling has become extremely competitive and may even be considered world class after a few more tours. What is even more exciting is that we are starting to get quality even in our reserves, which is a hallmark for long term success. Our fast bowlers include Edwards, Roach, Rampaul, Sammy, Taylor, Russel, Bravo, who are all genuine quality (Sammy must be included because he is getting wickets). What we really lack in this department are those very tall fast bowlers who can give the extra bounce. For our spinners we have Bishoo as the real quality player, but there is also Benn and possibly Permaul. This is not a very large stock but it is definitely something to work with.

Our batting is a little more worrisome but not something of critical proportions. The quality and potential is there but it is not yet clicking together. The nucleus of this group are Chanderpaul, Samuels, the Bravo brothers, Bharath, Simmons, Sarwan, Kirk Edwards and even Gayle if he buys into the new W/Indies model and tows the line. A key factor noted in England’s success is their persistence with the promising players for extended periods so as to give them the confidence and experience necessary to be a success. Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson are prime examples of this as they were supported even when they went through lean times. That confidence is now being repaid by these players.

Gibson and the selectors need to set up a core group of players whom they will support and develop even in the lean times. The key ingredients for these players need to be youth, talent, discipline and commitment. Some of the players that need this support at present include Roach, Russel, Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Llendl Simmons, Kirk Edwards and Adrian Bharath. They are all fairly new to Test cricket and there will inevitably be periods of failure. However, once they are fully supported by the management they will eventually come good – really good.

W/Indies are fairly lucky in that they have a bunch of extremely promising youngsters plus another batch of fairly experienced players who still have age on their side and a very well performing veteran. If they are properly combined then we can have a competitive team in the not too distant future.

What is absolutely vital is that the present management of the W/Indies team be allowed to develop according to their vision. All signs seem to indicate that they are heading in the right direction. We need not look too far for evidence of such a system being successful since England has used it and they are now on top of the world.

On another positive note, special congratulations must be given to the Berbice Cricket Board for their team which recently won the Jamzone T-20 tournament. Few believed that they could have succeeded without an injection of the ‘superstar’ players but they had enough confidence in the ability of their own players and it was repaid handsomely. Bishoo continues to provide evidence that he truly is a superstar in the making, and expect mega bids for him at the next IPL auction. However it was mainly a team performance that ensured their success. It was pleasing to see them going through their warm-up sessions as a true team while the other teams did so disjointedly. It seemed almost inevitable that they would have succeeded such was the evidence of their unity.

There is one other Guyanese player who deserves special mention, and he is Trevon Griffith of the Georgetown team. His cameo displays as opener point at something really special. His batsmanship stood out, even above the W/Indies players, for its quality. His handling of the fast bowlers was classy, cutting, driving and pulling with aplomb, and even the way he played the spinners in the final was good. Some of his shots pointed to a special talent.

Though he lost his wicket to a rash shot in the finals he has displayed enough talent to be someone that Guyana and the W/Indies should invest in. It would be criminal for a struggling team such as Guyana not to have a guaranteed spot for this player. In this time when quality openers are at a premium he should be carefully nurtured and exposed.

Yours faithfully,
M Abraham

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