Walsh to help West Indies
Not long after West Indies' heavy loss to Australia in the first Test on November 6, among the first words heard in a dejected dressing room were those of encouragement from Courtney Walsh, the former West Indian captain.
Walsh was asked by the coach Bennett King to lift the gloom with his presence and his support. "I was happy to have the chance to go to talk with the team," said Walsh, now in Australia on a coaching and speaking tour. "It's easier for someone who is not playing to try to talk to them rather than someone who is playing and I just tried to encourage them."
Walsh pledged to help wherever possible during the two weeks he has left in Australia. He even hoped to find a space in his schedule that would allow him to come to Melbourne, where the West Indies start a three-day match against Victoria on November 11, to "talk to them, to watch them bowl, to join them in the nets".
"The team is not as bad as the result shows but the [Australian] victory by 379 runs should not have been as easy as it came about," he said. "I think they're lacking a little bit of experience and, if all of us get behind them whenever we can, it'll be all the better for them. I certainly think that the bowlers need to have someone to keep working with them, taking them through situations," he added. "It doesn't have to be me, it doesn't have to be Mikey [Michael Holding], but somebody who can say, look, this is what I want you to try to do now, for a session or for the day or whatever."
There was also need for similar assistance for the batsmen. "I'm not trying to take away anything from anybody because what I'm hearing from the players is that Bennett King is doing a good job with getting the right work ethic and discipline and that's important," Walsh said. "But I think they need that sort of encouragement from somebody who they can believe in or look up to. Maybe they need someone like that in the batting as well."
They are recommendations the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) need to seriously consider. They could do worse than negotiating with Walsh to immediately join the coaching staff for the remainder of the tour. When King was appointed, the WICB named Sir Garry Sobers as technical consultant. But the greatest allround player the game has known stated from the beginning he is unable to undertake overseas tours.
King, the former head of the Australian Academy where he succeeded John Buchanan, the current Australian coach, has introduced the methods that have made Australia the most dominant team in international cricket. He had had a frenetic introduction. The disruptions caused by the protracted row between the WICB and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) have meant 32 players have been under his charge during his year in the job.
His invitation to Walsh is a hint that he would appreciate a full-time appointment of a former West Indies cricketer with the knowledge, reputation and esteem of Sobers and Walsh. Rather than pressing them into practice and training, King preferred to give those players who wanted it the day off yesterday, presumably to quietly overcome the trauma of the stunning first Test defeat.
But five players - Corey Collymore, Daren Powell, Devon Smith, Dwayne Smith, and Denesh Ramdin - requested practice at the indoor nets at the Gabba to work on various aspects of their game and King was there to guide them through.
The team flies to Melbourne on Tuesday to prepare for the three-day match against Victoria, starting on Friday. It will give King and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the captain, the opportunity to assess the best combination for the final two back-to-back Tests in Hobart and Adelaide that immediately follow.
It certainly won't involve four non-batting fast bowlers, as was the case in the first Test, but rather the introduction of Dwayne Bravo to bat No. 7, bowl nippy medium-pace and add speed and certainty to the fielding. He won't have long to gain the necessary form. Another allrounder, Dwayne Smith, should have his first match of the tour. It could also be his last unless he turns in a spectacular performance that would prompt his inclusion over Bravo.