I wrote this article a week or so back on the Windies cricket scenario
West Indies cricket : How gloomy will it get before some thing is done
"I don't know but something is terribly wrong. You can't tell these guys don't have the potential or the ability," Ambrose remarked. "We have seen patches of it from time to time. But we are still seeking some consistency and we are not having that and it's very frustrating." Ė Curtly Ambrose on the current crop of West Indian test players.
This is what Bennett King, coach of the West Indies national team points the problem as : "If you go and watch regional cricket closely the lines that they bowl aren't conducive to taking wickets at international level."
The West Indian squad in the first test against England in July 2004 read like this : Gayle,D.S.Smith, Sarwan, Lara, Chanderpaul, Bravo, Jacobs, Banks, Best, Collins Edwards.
The West Indian squad in the last test against South Africa April-May 2005, less than a year, later reads like this: Gayle, Hinds, Sarwan, Lara, Chanderpaul, Bravo, Browne, Deonarine, Powell, Best, Washington.
The batting is decent with Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Gayle to support Lara. Identification of a future opening batsman is required. Is Hinds, a person who has failed on many occasions the answer? We will see.
The keeper had to be changed after the retirement of Jacobs. The main problem is with the bowling. Banks, Best, Collins and Edwards a year ago and now Deonarine, Powell, Best and Washington. Best is making a return to international cricket and he hasnít done too well either with his line and length. A promise for the future? Sure. Test standard at the moment? Certainly not. Dwight Washington made his debut on the worst pitch one could hope to make a debut on for a fast bowler. Did he impress? No. Powell any one? Deonarine? Or do we bring back Fidel Edwards who is the squad. Pedro Collins is injured and he is reportedly missing the match because of that reason.
The question is why the West Indies selectors are trying so many players.
Number of West Indian test players in recent past series:
Vs South Africa 2005: 18 (even due to number of changes due to the sponsorship row itís a big number)
In England 2004: 17 (4 tests)
In Zimbabwe 2003-04: 13 (2 tests)
In South Africa 2003-04: 15 tests (4 tests)
And we havenít even gone into the number of different players who have played for the squad in the past one and a half Ė two years. I will go into one aspect.
Pace bowlers tried by West Indies: Dillon, Edwards, Drakes, Taylor, Collymore, Collins, Collymore, Best, King, Powell, Washington, Sanford
12 pace bowlers over 14 tests. Chances are I may have even missed some of the guys considering the numbers.
Number of first class teams in the West Indies: 6.
So the selectors have believed basically that two fast bowlers from each first class team is capable of playing international cricket on an average. They have believed that 12 players fast bowlers may be capable of playing international cricket.
There is talent in West Indies cricket as Ambrose points out. Else they would not be able to win the champions trophy in England 2004. But what we have seen in the recent past is not explainable. 25-30 players have played for West Indies in test cricket in the recent past. Do the selectors mean to say they have believed so many players to be of international standard? Certainly the results do not show it.
West Indies are ranked eighth in the ICC rankings and a vast gap exists from the number 7 team. Selecting a group of players who are believed to be good enough should be identified and backed with security of contracts. At the moment the board and players are tussling over sponsorship money which led to players like Lara missing the first test of the series versus South Africa. Solving this unnecessary crisis as soon as possible and focusing on more important things would be the sensible thing to do.
And we havenít even come to what Bennet King said regarding the way the bowlers bowl in first class cricket not conducive to taking wickets at international level. To understand this, notice how a debutant fast bowler (you will find one every couple of tests) pitches the ball. Short, trying to intimidate the batsmen. When Tino Best impressed a few people England, he had the raw arrogance about him that he could blast the batsman away. McGrath doesnít blast the batsmen away; Pollock doesnít blast the batsmen away. Even some one with the pace of Akhtar has learnt pace is not every thing in international cricket. Lee isnít playing for the test team at the moment. How many West Indian fast bowlers possess the pace of Akhtar or Lee to even think they can win battles at international level with pace.
Some one needs to just guide these bowlers and tell them what line and length to bowl. And the younger bowlers must have the humility to listen to the past greats and seek invaluable advice. Has West Indies cricket gone done the spiral? Yes. No question about it. Is resurgence possible? If things are attempted to be put at place right now with Brian Lara still there, it is very much possible. Two years down the line Lara would also retire. No one thought West Indies would lose series at home consistently, drawing versus the likes of Bangladesh when Ambrose and Walsh were playing. With Bangladesh improving, the West Indies may soon even lose a series to the minnows if things continue going down as rapidly as it is. Every one who loves cricket would like the West Indies to do well. We can only hope for the best for we love the flair, style and charisma in West Indian cricket. I would have liked to add passion to that list of adjectives. Sadly I cant.
Any one else welcome to list some problems and mention ways to dig them out of this deep hole.