King hails 'willing bunch'
Bennett King, the West Indies coach, has hailed what he described as "a very willing bunch of players" for the way they performed in troubled circumstances on the tour of Sri Lanka.
"The whole Caribbean can be proud of the players who were here," King said after a severely depleted West Indies were eliminated from the IndianOil Cup on Sunday night with their seven-run loss to India. "I believe it was a tough decision to come and they've performed creditably."
The tour went ahead against the backdrop of chaos and controversy as 10 of the originally chosen squad of 13 withdrew as a result of the continuing impasse between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) over sponsorship and players' personal endorsements rights.
Eight replacements were drafted in from the A team that was also on tour of Sri Lanka - six after signing a joint statement accepting the WICB's offer of selection - and two others were called up from league cricket in England.
Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul of the eventual 15 had more than 13 Tests to his name. Five of the others had none at all. Although competitive, West Indies lost both Tests after leading by 58 runs in the first and trailing by just two in the second.
Their solitary victory in the IndianOil Cup was by 33 runs in their second match against Sri Lanka that presented them with the chance of advancing to the final with a win on Sunday.
In an interview with Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) in Colombo, King acknowledged that he and his players were "all disappointed".
"We actually thought we had a good chance of getting into the final of the tournament and of at least getting a Test win," said King. "Experience probably hurt us a bit in the end. [We needed] people who'd been through the process a lot, knowing how to play the game." This was especially so in Sunday's critical match against India which Chanderpaul was forced to miss because of a viral infection. Even then, they were just seven short of their challenging target of 262.
King indicated his regret at the absence of some of the initially selected players. "One con [negative] was that not everyone who's going to play for West Indies was actually here to experience these conditions because they're pretty hard to play on."
But this was outweighed by the fact that there was now what he termed "a good cluster of players who stuck their hands up and have a really bright future in West Indies cricket."
"We've nurtured them well and have to make sure that when they go home to their regional sides they are nurtured in a similar way." He identified the improvement in the bowling and the fielding as other positives. "The bowlers have learned how to take wickets. [An inability to bowl] sides out was a nemesis of ours in the past but it's not much of a nemesis any more. I think our ground fielding can still improve a lot but we've certainly got some talented athletes out there and I think our fielding is very pleasant for the future."
West Indies dismissed Sri Lanka for 227 and 150 in the first innings of the two Tests but the failure of the batting led to the defeats in each. "It's now more about getting the runs and consistently getting the runs."
It was King's fourth international series in charge since he was appointed as the first foreign coach for West Indies last November. The ongoing WICB-WIPA dispute meant that 31 players have appeared for West Indies in that time. King said he and his all-Australian staff had stressed the importance of hard work and "work on areas that have to be worked on".
"Everyone's really got to put in the yards and work at improving their skills and making sure we isolate the areas that need improvement." King referred to the fitness regime under Bryce Cavanagh, the strength coordinator. "With this tour in mind, we planned to do our physical work a little bit differently," he said. "We were pleasantly surprised with the levels of some of the players who came in but four or five hadn't been exposed to Bryce before so they were a fair way behind."
He explained that fitness levels enhanced basic skills. "When you're playing so much cricket in such a short time, you need to have that basis in fitness for speed, agility, strength, power and endurance just so you can recuperate and play back-to-back matches and over five days of a Test."