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A Plea for Change

Academic websites tell me that Professor Keith Sandiford taught history at the University of Manitoba from 1966-1998, and that he is one of the pioneers of the historical sociology of sports and has published extensively in that field. A couple of years ago I was looking for some contact details from him because, as an adjunct to that field of expertise, he has also written extensively on West Indian cricket, and I hoped I may be able to enlist his help in tracking down a copy of an obscure cricket book that was published in Jamaica in the early 1960s. He was kind enough to offer his advice on that and, more importantly, agreed to cast a critical eye over the features I have written on West Indian cricketers since that time. He is fortunate enough to count Garry Sobers amongst his personal friends and his passion for the game, and his West Indian roots, has shone through in all his communications with me. Like so many he is caused much distress by the current state of the game in the Caribbean, and has given vent to his frustrations in this open letter:-

It has become increasingly difficult for me to conceal my anger and disappointment. Here am I cheering fervently for the West Indies, as usual, and watching my team sink further and further into the morass of defeat and humiliation. I would not be so frustrated now had we been losing simply because of lack of skill. Over the past two years, however, we have been losing largely because of managerial incompetence and stupidity. The litany of fundamental errors committed by the WICB is too long to be repeated here, but surely there are enough of them for the Caribbean community to bestir itself at long last and rid our cricket of this gigantic albatross that has become the laughing stock of international cricket?

I am frustrated and angry because the time has come for us to turn the proverbial corner. Over the past few years, we have unearthed some potentially world-class talent in Barath, Bishoo, DM Bravo, Kirk Edwards, Martin, Narine, Rampaul, Roach and Russell. We are also witnessing the maturation of Deonarine, Fidel Edwards and Samuels. These players provide a solid nucleus around whom a powerful team can be built. But the Board has not understood that it is impossible to reconstruct a team by first removing its very foundations. It is absolutely essential to provide promising young cricketers with world-class veterans to offer example and guidance. The rookies can never receive inspiring leadership from a mediocre and inexprienced player who cannot otherwise command a place in the Test XI. The complete melt-down of our Top Four both at Lord’s and at Trent Bridge was the major cause of these two losses. It is highly unlikely that with Gayle and Sarwan, we would have found ourselves so often in such desperate straits so early in the innings.

Had we the intelligence to secure the support of Gayle, Sarwan and Taylor (our very best players), we would almost certainly have won all of our tours and tournaments since 2010. But the sad fact is that we began on the wrong premise. Ernest Hilaire, our CEO, has obviously taken the view that the WIPA has been the root of our difficulties since 1998. He is therefore committed to its destruction by bringing the international career of all of its veterans to a summary conclusion in the hope that the inexperienced substitutes would be more docile. I have gathered from reasonably reliable sources that he has privately declared (and publicly hinted) that such players as Benn, Chanderpaul, Gayle, Sarwan and Taylor will never represent the WI again so long as he can help it. This incredibly jaunticed attitude should immediatelty have led to his own dismissal. The WICB ought to be conscious of these fundamental truths: the players are always more important than the administrators; and the players are always the Board’s most precious assets.

The WICB argues that, since we did not win anything of substance when Chanderpaul, Gayle, Sarwan and Taylor were playing, it does not matter now if they are dropped. This is really so absurd that it is unbelievable. The WI were not losing because of their finest stars. We were losing because our best players were not accompanied by an adequate cast. Anyone with a passing knowdge of cricket history will remember that the the WI did not win a single Test match of the 20 they played at home during 1967-73. This protracted stretch of futility included 10 Tests against India and New Zealand who were then not very highly regarded. Should the WICBC (as it then was) have dropped such stars as Gibbs, Hall, Hendricks, Kanhai and Sobers?

Apart from our failure to select our very best squad to tour England this spring, the Board was so lax as to fail to procure the necessary visas for three of our players. What manner of professionalism is this? The WICB also failed, quite signally, to negotiate a reasonable programme for our players. Everyone knows that West Indians, even in our Glory Days, have never performed that well in an English spring. Predictably, our inexperienced batsmen had no hope of countering the swinging ball effectively and our inexperienced bowlers did not know how to utilize the favourable conditions. Asking our team to play a Test match at Lord’s on 17 May was cruel and unusual punishment. I was frankly astonished that we were able to prolong the mismatch beyond three days without the intervention of the elements. It would have been much better to agree to play a few warm-up matches, all the T20s and the ODIs BEFORE embarking on the more important Test series. This would have made the competition a lot less one-sided.

All we have done in the past several years is to shoot ourselves quite expertly in our collective knees. We shall continue to do so, I very much fear, until we rid ourselves of Hilaire, Gibson and Sammy. I am more and more convinced that WI cricket will continue to suffer until we can somehow reconstruct this arrogant and dysfunctional Board.

Comments

Interesting point about the scheduling. Yes, because of their minor status as a nation at the moment, they were never going to get the marquee time from July onwards, but why in recent times has the ECB scheduled Tests before the One Dayers in the early part of the season?

The OD games would allow the countries to get better used to the conditions before the Tests, and there’d be better preparation for the Test matches and less IPL issues.

Comment by vic_orthdox | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

[QUOTE=uvelocity;2862389]”Had we the intelligence to secure the support of Gayle, Sarwan and Taylor (our very best players), we would almost certainly have won all of our tours and tournaments since 2010.”

I’m sure he’s your friend and all, but really??

“The rookies can never receive inspiring leadership from a mediocre and inexprienced player who cannot otherwise command a place in the Test XI.”

I’d like to know why so many have a problem with Sammy. He seems to me the least of West Indies problems. I guess this is a dig at Sammy anyway.[/QUOTE]
There’s a clear implication though, and that is that Sammy is the board’s lackey. Which in some respects is hard to argue against, because – while his performances have been pretty good since coming into the side – his place in the side, and especially the captaincy, he is indebted to the board.

He’s hardly going to stand up against their wishes, is he?

Comment by vic_orthdox | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

[QUOTE=GIMH;2862386]All English Tests come before the ODIs nowadays, since 06, and I think it should be changed, for the first series at least, for all visitors.

However, I think the reasoning behind the scheduling being the way it is may be to avoid Tests clashing football where possible. If the next Test goes five days then day five will clash with England’s first Euro game, which is unusual, but the bulk of the Euros will clash with ODIs. This has been the way the schedule has been set up of late.[/QUOTE]
It’s not just Euros years though, is it? Last year the Lankans played their limited forms after the Tests, didn’t they?

Comment by vic_orthdox | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

The other thing is that ODIs before the Tests are probably more of a help for the hunter rather than the hunted. Such was the case in the 2005 Ashes, and helping out nations with acclimatisation isn’t probably in England’s best interests. But with the “weaker” sides coming early, it will probably help ECB’s coffers by letting the games get into fourth and fifth days!

I guess what I’d like to see is a big bloc of Tests during the middle, the ODIs acting as book-ends for the summer. But the players would probably argue that the load would be excessive, especially for the quick bowlers, if the Test schedule were being crammed into too few weeks. A couple of week break in the middle might then allow a few of the Test players to slide back into their county teams for a T20 or two, as well. The second side coming over has ample time before the Test series to help organise their own preparation, and be ready for the Tests.

Again, this is from the perspective of wanting to watch the best quality Test cricket possible. It’s probably not in England’s best interests, so they have every right not to implement it.

Comment by vic_orthdox | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

All English Tests come before the ODIs nowadays, since 06, and I think it should be changed, for the first series at least, for all visitors.

However, I think the reasoning behind the scheduling being the way it is may be to avoid Tests clashing football where possible. If the next Test goes five days then day five will clash with England’s first Euro game, which is unusual, but the bulk of the Euros will clash with ODIs. This has been the way the schedule has been set up of late.

Comment by GIMH | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

[QUOTE=vic_orthdox;2862391]It’s not just Euros years though, is it? Last year the Lankans played their limited forms after the Tests, didn’t they?[/QUOTE]

Oh yeah, it’s not just tournament years but I suspect one of the reasons behind the scheduling change was to avoid such clashes, given that if we qualify then it’s every other year that it would happen.

Tests before ODIs also reduces the likelihood of rained off Tests in the second summer series, as well as the fact that the whole series would clash with the start of the footy season.

No reason, though, why:

a – the ODIs and Tests couldn’t be a different way round for both visitors
b – The schedule has to follow the same formula each year

I’ve no evidence for my claims btw, just something I’ve noticed. I would personally always rather the ODIs were first. I remember watching an ODI game in the pub before the 05 Ashes and my mate, not much of a cricket fan but will watch it, said “these games are alright but it’s a bit like those friendlies England play before the World Cup isn’t it?” And now we get the anti-climatic feeling each time.

Comment by GIMH | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

[QUOTE=Spark;2862393]Yeah given that they were hardly beating all and sundry [I]with[/I] Gayle/Sarwan/Taylor I find this hard to believe in any shape/form even accounting for wild exaggeration.[/QUOTE]
During the last Test, someone wrote into cricinfo saying that the performance at Lord’s this time out, where they were about to lose by nine wickets, was a wicket better than their ten wicket defeat on their previous visit to Lord’s with Gayle et al. SLightly tenuous argument but made me laugh.

Comment by GIMH | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

[QUOTE=uvelocity;2862389]”Had we the intelligence to secure the support of Gayle, Sarwan and Taylor (our very best players), we would almost certainly have won all of our tours and tournaments since 2010.”[/QUOTE]

Yeah given that they were hardly beating all and sundry [I]with[/I] Gayle/Sarwan/Taylor I find this hard to believe in any shape/form even accounting for wild exaggeration.

Comment by Spark | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

I think the schedule’s fine as it is. Besides, the Tests being first fits in with the English domestic season, where the bulk of April and May is filled with Championship cricket.

Comment by GingerFurball | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

[QUOTE=vic_orthdox;2862390]He’s hardly going to stand up against their wishes, is he?[/QUOTE]

well vicaroo I have no idea about the politics, only recently invested in foxsports so I’ve seen precious little of sammy outside of our recent tour and theirs in pomgolia.

On the basis of those performances and WI’s relative upswing I can’t see any blame laid at his door, yet I’ve heard holding and others from WI keep harping about his failings while ignoring the most glaring – top order and usually fidel edwards with the new ball.

I don’t really want to go there but I keep thinking in the back of my mind that there is some island origin or racial issue going on, because it just doesn’t make sense to me. The team is going better, the dramas are getting less, and he is performing above most of the team – so why the hate?

Comment by uvelocity | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

Always thought the ODI’s were better before the tests. The One Dayers before the 2005 Ashes series were like a starter and provided us with a taste of a great Test Series to come. Could have been the same for any series, especially the upcoming SA one which has a lot riding on it and has the potential to be a cracker between two top sides, the ODI’s could have given us a nice wee taster if played first.

Comment by VCC44 | 12:00am GMT 6 June 2012

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