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Interview with Fazeer Mohammed : Part 2

With Faz after the interview.

Cricket Web’s Ganesh Venkat caught up with Fazeer Mohammed during the recently concluded Third Test between West Indies and South Africa at Bridgetown, Barbados. Fazeer is a well known Commentator and Broadcaster from Port-Of-Spain Trinidad and one of the few commentators who has not played the game at the highest level. In short you can call him the “Harsha Bhogle” of West Indies Cricket. Faz is taking over from Tony Cozier as the face of West Indies cricket behind the microphone. In the first part of the interview Faz talked about how he ended up commenting on cricket, problems facing West Indies Cricket, past players, current players and captaincy issues. In the second part we discuss about coaching issues, the roles of WIPA,WICB, ICC in helping the West Indies cause. We conclude the interview with Fazeer’s view on T20 and an Interesting anecdote of his.

In any sport, the captain, the coach, and the players should get along and be in Synchronization. Is there some sort of a disconnect here between Otis Gibson and the players and Chris Gayle? And in such a scenario, would a foreign coach be more helpful to avoid all this regional, territorial differences? John Dyson was a very good coach and West Indies made a significant progress under him, and they sacked him.

I remember India went through a similar patch during the later 90’s and John Wright came into the picture in 1999, and we know what happened. So would you recommend somebody like John Wright somebody/anybody else who is totally oblivious to all this regional, political pressures?

As you mentioned, we had a foreign coach before, John Dyson, we had a foreign coach before him in Bennett King, and it didn’t make that much of a difference. Bennett King, unfortunately for him, was in the midst of all sorts of disputes involving the players and the West Indies Players Association and the West Indies Board.

John Dyson seemed to be making a positive difference, but also that fell apart after a while, because he had his issues with the West Indies Cricket Board, again, with the disputes involving the players and he had his contract terminated.

The issue in the West Indies is not so much about a foreign coach or a West Indian coach, it’s about whether or not coaches or anyone in an authority is given the authority to take whatever action is necessary.

For example, you have got Ottis Gibson now, who has worked as an England Bowling Coach. Is he working in the same sort of structure? That means that, if a player doesn’t perform, if he doesn’t reach the required standard, that Ottis Gibson has the authority to say, well, you don’t belong in this setup right now, you are not performing, you are not being productive in the group, you are not being the sort of player we want you to be, go back to your territory and work on it. Or is he being interfered with by Board members to say, no, this player must stay, this player must stay, that player must stay? I am just speculating here.

But it will only work if coaches are given the authority, if captains are given the authority, if individual players recognize, if you don’t perform on a consistent basis, you will lose your place in the team. So there are a number of factors. It’s not just about a local coach or a foreign coach.

Would it be fair to say that the West Indies were making a fairly good progress until they decided to take industrial action last year after the England series.if you recall, I think they wore duct tapes around the sponsor’s logo during that series, and ultimately the Bangladesh tour turned abysmal and the Champions Trophy was a disgrace. Pretty much the WIPA was wielding the whip at this point of time.

Do you think WIPA has become more aggressive and a militant organization rather than trying to work hand-in-hand with the Board? Because the Board seems to be making fairly decent progress, at least in the last couple of months, like the planning of the Twenty20 tournament. They have got a high performance center opened. They seem to be fairly transparent during the last few months although there have been many mess ups in the past, However WIPA’s agenda aways seems to be at loggerheads with the board.Your Thoughts

Well, I would say that the Board is extremely weak, the Board might be trying to do good things but they are extremely weak. Because in any other part of the world, players here would not be allowed to get away with what they get away with, because if you judge it on performance, these players should really have nothing to stand on as far as the demands that they keep making. Yet, they continue to make them and they continue to have their way, simply because the Board is basically incompetent.

The Board, whenever they have come up against the West Indies Players Association, have lost out in a number of arbitration, some seven of them, they have lost our in those arbitration, and it speaks to the failure of the Board to properly prepare and properly execute its plan for the development of West Indies cricket.

So the fact that the players, the West Indies Players Association, is seen as militant or seen as aggressive, it’s only because it’s a direct reflection of how weak the West Indies Cricket Board is, because these same cricketers who we are looking at right now have been losing left, right, and center for the last 5, 10, 15 years, yet they continue to make demands and get their way, courtesy of the West Indies Board.

So you say that the Board is pretty weak, but most recently we have heard from players and their commitments to the national team. Without naming those players, there were a few who wanted to go and play the IPL, others wanted to go and play the Big Bash, few others wanted to go to England for the County Cricket. Why can’t the West Indies players put country above club, county, etc., who is at fault here?

It’s a fault of the entire system, the structure in West Indies cricket. How many of these young players, for example, know anything about a Sir Garry Sobers, about an Everton Weekes, about the three Ws, about the great fast bowlers. A lot of these young fast bowlers who want to aspire to play Test level for the West Indies, how many of them know about Mike Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, and so on?

We have a problem in the Caribbean, where we have almost what we call a lost generation, where you have got young people who seem to be disconnected from the realities that would have been experienced by an earlier generation. So the situation in West Indies cricket is reflective of the situation in West Indies society, where young people; a lot of talent, I don’t think they have any less talent than the players of an earlier era, but they don’t seem to be connected into the pride and the history and the whole question of the dedication that is associated with West Indies cricket, and that is a fundamental problem, where the players don’t seem, most of them anyway, to get a sense of what it means to be playing for the West Indies.

The West Indies, we have to remember, are different territories, it’s not an England, it’s not an India, it’s not a Pakistan, it’s not a South Africa, it’s not an Australia, we are different. We play every other sport as individual territory, but we play cricket as one united body, and if players don’t appreciate what it means to play for the West Indies, then half of the battle is lost.

Talking of fast food cricket, what do you think about T20 Cricket and all these leagues that are going on around the world?

Well, I have no problem with T20 Cricket. Whether I am a fan of it or not, doesn’t matter, because it is very, very popular, it is bringing in the fans, it’s bringing huge revenues. Kieron Pollard hasn’t played a Test match for the West Indies and he is a millionaire many times over. He is in demand in the IPL. He is demand in Australia. He is playing in England now.

And I have no problem with players making huge amounts of money from any form of the game. It’s about time that players are richly rewarded and all power to them. But whether or not it is causing players to lose their sense of what it means to play Test cricket or to play for their territories, that might be a concern.

I think more and more you are going to have players, especially in the West Indies, wanting to be almost freelancers, not really caring if they play for the West Indies, but happy to play for many different territories.

And that’s one of the consequences of T20 Cricket, it’s the same as in football, where you get the sense, especially in England, that more players have a greater desire to play for their clubs; the Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, than to play for England.

With so much turmoil going around and many people, including you, advocated, going it alone as a territories. Your comments on that.

No, I have never advocated going it alone. I have never advocated that the West Indies, that Trinidad & Tobago should go it alone. If it was, then I would have been misrepresented.

Probably You could have been. But do you think that would be a feasible solution?

Because it was said by the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board that they were looking at a prospect of going it alone in One Day Internationals, but I have always maintained that West Indies cricket has too much of a history, has too great a history, to just simply think of going it alone on the basis of going through a rough patch.

So Do you think ICC is kind of irresponsible on this part? instead of trying to save the legacy, that’s West Indies cricket, rather than trying to improve games in like unknown parts, like China or the United States or Afghanistan?

Well, that’s the issue that I have, because I have no problem with the growth of Afghanistan, I have no problem with the growth of so many other parts of the world, but how many of these countries will actually become Test playing countries?

The ICC maintains that Test cricket is its number one priority, it is the pinnacle of the game. Well, if it is the pinnacle of the game and you have got a team that was dominating the game like no other for 15 years, and they are heading down towards the bottom of the barrel, then surely there should be some concern by the ICC.

I don’t think it’s right for the ICC to say, well, we will just leave it to the West Indies Cricket Board to sort out their own issues. I have no problem with them pumping money into developing territories, but look at what’s happened to Bermuda. Millions of dollars have gone to help Bermuda, and where is Bermuda? They are nowhere in international cricket. And that same money, or maybe the same advice or the same structures could have been used to try to get West Indies cricket back on some sort of reasonable track once again.

What do you see the future holding for the West Indies?

I see the future as pretty bleak. We might do well in Twenty20, we might do well in One Day Cricket, but at Test level, we are going to struggle for some time, because more than anything else, our players now find it very, very difficult to concentrate for long periods, to focus on the game for long periods, and to be consistent. And if we are not going to be consistent, we will struggle still in Test cricket.

Thanks for your time and your candid views on things Faz.It was indeed my pleasure talking to you. Now, Most of us would know the story, even my taxi driver was telling me this story on my way to Kensington Oval. You have told the story on air more than once. For the benefit of many people in cricketweb I want you to tell the famous betting story of yours.

The famous story of my father, 1983, my father, big fan of Sunil Gavaskar, he had this bet with a friend that Gavaskar would score more than Greenidge and Haynes combined in the First Innings of the 1983 Test match at Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad; Gavaskar was caught behind of Michael Holding on the first morning for 1, so my father paid-up.

On the second afternoon, after India were all out, of course the money had been paid up already, and Balwinder Singh Sandhu dismissed Greenidge for a duck and Haynes for a duck. Of course by then my father was looking for the guy and never found him, because he had gone off with the money. He didn’t get the money, But he won the bet. It was one of the great gambles of all time.

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