As all the attention, understandably, is focused on the commencement of the Test series between West Indies and New Zealand, there have been some quiet positives taking place with the A team in Barbados. Sadly, little or no coverage, both from West Indies Cricinfo and our local sports reporters, is being given to this series between the West Indies A and Bangladesh A. So the public cannot fully comprehend whether the excellent performances by our young players are actually evidence of an improvement in the quality of our reserves.
With our regional cricket in a downward spiral for many years, fans have been waiting and hoping for some young talent to start coming through. Over the past few seasons some young players have started putting up their hands and getting noticed. Most of these players were selected for this A series and quite a few have performed exceptionally.
Sadly, the coverage of the A matches has been virtually non existent, so one cannot fully grasp the quality of these performances. What was the quality of the opposition? What were the pitch conditions? Were the batsmen making runs in a technically correct manner? Were our fast bowlers hurrying the batsmen? Were our spinners showing quality?
On statistical evidence, a number of positives emerged which indicate that our young players played some good cricket.
Firstly, it seemed as though the pitch was a good one where batsmen made runs and our fast bowlers performed excellently. In other words, a typical West Indian pitch with some pace but also encouraging good batting. It should be replicated throughout the Caribbean. Ironically, the quality of our pitches has gone on the same downward spiral as our cricket and, similarly, we seem to be finding it extremely difficult to find a way back up. From this performance by our young cricketers on a good cricket pitch, it must have certainly dawned on our cricket administrators that the quality of our cricketers is directly related to the quality of the pitches on which they play. Hence, the same way in which they are investing in academies to improve the cricketer, they must invest to have improved pitches.
Among the players themselves, three names among the batsmen stand out and two among the fast bowlers. Our spinners were not given much opportunity to showcase their abilities which in itself is a pleasing statistic since most West Indians would much prefer a dominating paceman than a spinner.
Among the batsmen, Kraig Braitwaithe, Leon Johnson and Jermaine Blackwood certainly did enough to show that they are ready for the big leagues and have given notice to the under-performing seniors that they are ready to step up. Blackwood in particular has displayed a penchant for big scores not seen in a young player since the Brain Lara days. Johnson has been very consistent over the past few seasons without making the big hundreds, but his time for a senior call should also be very near. Braithwaithe, in his ‘untypical’ West Indian way continues to churn out the runs. Another player on the verge of senior selection is Jonathan Carter, even though he did not make the runs like the other key players.
The young Barbadian pacer Cummins did not have the same regional season as last year and many were wondering if he was a one-season performer. But he has bounced back exceptionally and with the left armer, Cotterell, formed a lethal new ball duo. Both must also be knocking on the senior door along with other young players such as Holder and Carlos Braithwaithe.
There is much to be optimistic about in West Indies cricket. The talent cupboard definitely seems to be restocking. What is needed now is to stick with this core of players and allow them to be properly groomed and given the requisite exposure for international cricket.
An interesting conundrum is that for the past few seasons our A team has been performing creditably against other high quality A teams. But while the players from the other international A teams seem to have a seamless transition to their senior team and even become big name players, ours have not been as successful.
There is a common saying that whenever Barbados cricket is healthy then inevitably West Indies cricket is healthy. If this is the case then we have every reason to be positive because they recently won the regional tournament. But more importantly, some of the brightest young talents, especially in the pace bowling department now come from Barbados.
It is now left to the authorities to properly manage our players. The presence of Mr Pybus within the management structure is very encouraging in this regard. Once insularity does not impede his work then there is much to be hopeful for in the near future.
There also need to be some strong decisions within the senior team. Many of our so-called senior players are now baggage because of their low output. The two names that immediately come to mind are Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle. Yes, they have been our champions in the past, but with a new hungry crop raring to prove their worth we cannot continue to back them indefinitely at the expense of the younger up and coming players. A strong decision has already been taken in axing Darren Sammy even though he gave noble service to West Indies cricket. It shows the desire to move forward. Similarly the recall of Jerome Taylor after years in the wilderness is further evidence of a new dispensation.
Whatever happens in this series, W/Indies cricket is in for some exciting times and in the not too distant future we should be able to have a very competitive, even world-beating team again. That is if our present constraints, cricketing talents aside, can be overcome.