West Indians are not the only cricket lovers who seem preoccupied with West Indies cricket. Raul Dravid, a very thoughtful observer of the game, called it “Not organized.” He seemed to have thought very carefully for the right word. Strangely, West Indian administrators, journalists and many fans do not seem to find the “problems” so difficult to identify. Many point to terrible governance, in which there is clearly some truth, others to lack of talent, in respect of which there is I think, less truth.
Most, I believe, associate the problems with player attitude, an amorphous concept that is grounded in the belief that a region that produced the quality of players who formed the core of the teams from the nineteen fifties to the early nineteen nineties could not be in the doldrums for so long if the modern players were as committed – as would be seen from their work regimes – as those of the earlier generations. That viewpoint is most noticeable in the pronouncements of people like the great Joel Garner and the equally great Sir Andy Roberts. They would both, I believe, support the notion that the modern player is too soft, too pampered and too money oriented to compete effectively with the top teams. There probably is something in what they say, although I suspect the problem goes either deeper or should be sought in a different direction.
I would like to suggest that as an experiment WI administrators accept the annoying idea that the game has changed, and that what their players need, above all else, is help to become better cricketers more prepared for this new type of game.
It is notable that, of the fourteen teams at the World Cup, the WI is the only one without a head coach, and indeed the only one among the major nations without a full complement of coaches and support staff. How often do we hear that player X always seems to exercise bad judgment, or player Y seems to lose his composure.
International cricket is beset with pressure. No one will always make the right decision. The job of the support staff is not to eliminate errors of judgment, but rather to limit the team to numbers consistent with winning. Just as it is a lot easier to lecture someone on the need to eat less than it is to teach them techniques for reducing food consumption, so it is a lot easier to warn a batsman about the need to be less aggressive early in his innings than it is to help him learn self-control techniques.
Some will learn more easily than others, and none will completely master the technique once and for all. It is about increasing the odds of improvement, sometimes incrementally, sometimes substantially. That kind of approach requires specialized professional help.
Preparation for international encounters involves planning for the whole game, for all reasonable contingencies. It is a question of reducing the margin of error, of creating security zones, of finding ways to reduce pressure, which will not be successful at all times, but will be more and more successful over time. The WI team does not always have to be ill prepared.