England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's May 16, 2012

Sammy's West Indies 'fear winning'


The West Indies team led by Darren Sammy have a fear of winning. That analysis was made quite recently by Rudi Webster, who has worked with some of the great West Indies teams as a mental skills coach over the last three decades.

According to Webster, each time Sammy's team have found themselves with controls in hand, they have retreated. That is because they found themselves in unfamiliar territory and did not know how to seize the opportunity.

"I don't think deep down the fellas believe that they can win," Webster said. "Consciously, they will tell you 'of course, we can win.' But when you question them and you get below the surface, belief is not there."

It is that lack of belief, he contends, that is negating all the other positives Sammy and the coach, Ottis Gibson, are steadily constructing in the background; the magic card that the likes of Frank Worrell and Clive Lloyd used to inspire their teams is missing.

"At this level performance revolves more around self-belief than around talent or potential," Webster said. "Worrell and Lloyd did one thing that lifted West Indies cricket to greater heights: they were able to get the players to change their self-image and to start believing in themselves. Their self-belief was so firm and strong that nobody could beat them."

Webster presented a ready example to justify his claim. "If you look back at West Indies they were in a similar position in the late 90s. Remember we went to South Africa and got beaten very badly. And then played Australia at home and almost won the series. Everybody said we were improving. And then see what happened subsequently. So, although we have performed better in the last two Test series, it does not mean that we have turned the corner."

The figures support him. In 1998 West Indies travelled to South Africa under Brian Lara's captaincy. They were mauled 5-0 in the Tests and then drubbed 6-1 in the ODI series. But Lara and the West Indies bounced back triumphantly when they fought hard against Australia to share the Frank Worrell Trophy 2-2. The ODI series was also shared, 3-3 with a tied game. Lara scored three scintillating centuries including a memorable 153 at Bridgetown when West Indies chased down 308 to lead 2-1 in the series. But just like a birthday candle, any hopes of a West Indies revival were blown away quickly as the slide over the last decade indicates.

Back in the present, the same sort of optimism has been present in the past 12 months. Late last year, West Indies lost the three-Test series in India 2-0, but on two occasions they relinquished a firm grip on the match. In the first Test in Delhi, West Indies had a 95-run lead but squandered it as they were bowled out for 180 in the second innings. India successfully chased the target of 276.

Then in the final Test in Mumbai, the West Indies batting bonded well to raise a formidable 590 and then took a 108-run lead as their bowlers responded strongly, too. But once again, as their hopes started soaring, they plunged equally fast as they were bundled out for 134. If there was any consolation, the match finished as a draw.

Then at home this April, Sammy's side initially dominated the first Test against Australia in Barbados. West Indies had made 449 after electing to bat and when Australia were struggling at 250-7, West Indies dared. But the bowlers suddenly lost the plot as the Australian tail wagged. Incredibly, Australia took the lead in the series with a three-wicket victory. In the third Test, chasing 374 with enough time in hand, West Indies lost the match by 74 runs and the series.

So here they are in England, where in the last ten Tests spread over three series, West Indies have lost nine. In these 10 matches they have scored six centuries, while England have scored 20 hundreds. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (3), Ramnaresh Sarwan (2) and Chris Gayle (1) are the only ones to score a Test century in England during this period. England's bowlers have taken a wicket every 46 balls in these 10 Tests; West Indies' have taken a wicket every 78 balls.

Much of the English media has been blunt in giving a thumbs down to Sammy and his team, even going to the extent of asking how Sammy could hold his place in the team when he has failed miserably as a batsman. At every given opportunity, the West Indies players have been reminded that their top order has a spine weaker than a straw, their bowlers seem to be unfit and how the best players are plying their trade in the IPL.

To their credit, Sammy and Gibson have so far successfully ducked all such arrows, while keeping their heads still. Both have been modest in suggesting the main challenge will be to last five days against the No. 1 team. Hence you can understand Sammy when he says that it is not as frustrating to lose players to the IPL as it is to hang the pendant of belief on the remaining players each time they take the field.

"It's about getting victories under our belt and that is something that will come when we play more together and believe even more in ourselves," he said on the eve of the first Test. "I'm not really frustrated by who's here and who's not."

In Sammy's 16 Tests as captain, West Indies have won 2, lost 6, and drawn 8. That compares favourably with the 17 Tests before Sammy took over the captaincy when they won 1, lost 8 and drew 8.

The major improvement has been in bowling. From a bowling average of 44.18 runs per wicket in those 17 Tests, West Indies' bowling average has improved to 33.61 runs per wicket during Sammy's time and you can definitely predict a strong hand of Gibson here. Although any batting improvement has remained insignificant (30.63 before Sammy, 28.96 during Sammy), there is more than a whiff of promise.

Sammy did not discount Webster's analysis. "We keep finding ourselves in winning positions and some way we keep letting it go," he said. "When you are playing against a champion team, they find a way to win so we need to have that way when we are on top not to collapse and stuff.

"That's been happening to us: in India, India in the Caribbean and Australia recently. We've been competing and pushing teams down to the wire, if you look at the last series, the 2-0 scoreline doesn't reflect the way we played. Hopefully we can eliminate these things in this series here."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 17, 2012, 14:37 GMT

    Perfectly said,but this is a process,take a period of time,will not come overnight,whether we like it or not.It is not so much about specific personel,it is about who ever is in the team as a unit making that mental adjustment,NOT having that 1 or 2 bad hours,and crossing that line which seems to be the biggest mental barrier.

  • Subash on May 17, 2012, 13:48 GMT

    WI have the bowling no doubt about that. I expect Roach and Edwards to do major damage in English conditions. WI board how can you not have Gayle, Narine in the team to play test matches. Narine is on the rise to become the World's best spin bowler. Don't waste his talents. I would also include Andre Russel as he is the best all rounder WI have. All WI need is one more batsman like Chanders to stay at the crease for as long as it takes.

  • anthony on May 17, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    @ryanharrisgreatcricketer, you really think the simple addition of lendl simmons,andre russsel and sunil narine will make the windies a quote "have self beleif".....simmons failed time and time again and isnt a youngster. Andre Russel and Narine may do okay, but they r unproven, and youngsters like barath, powell, edwards,bravo jnr bishoo r doin well themselves or will do in time...Its Gayle we need opening right now ,and that no 6 spot should either belong to pollard, or Sammy should b there. I do think Gayle, Narine,Pollard should be in the test side, and that for this england tour a sarwan or nash should have been put in at number 6 due to their success in england.

  • anthony on May 17, 2012, 12:33 GMT

    If we really wanna look at how the windies keep finding ways to lose, Sammys inability to hold catches is a big one. He has cost windies draws in the series in india and again this one against australia

  • anthony on May 17, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Websters views are half baked sports manual psycho babble!! The man seems like he wants to get his name in the newspapers.He is overestimating his own role if he thinks messrs lloyd, roberts, holding,croft and richards didnt have self beleif because of their talent and not some switch in their head. Who told him after the windies were wiped out in 98/99 against SAF 5-0 that the subsequent 2-2 draw with australia in 99 was "an improvment". All windian fans like me knew it was Walsh & Ambrose's last stand with Brian Lara singlehandedly being passed the baton. The win over pakistan that followed was the first of at least 2-3 false dawns in a decade of disapointment....what Gibson/Sammy have going now, seems the real thing.. The IPL has drawn the youngsters back to windies cricket and they r playing to win & I see good things. If they fail it will be cos they werent good enough not because they are "afraid to win" such nonsesense!

  • alfred on May 17, 2012, 8:51 GMT

    @ alexi, look at pollard's and russell's first class records... they are both very good players of the longer game, don't allow the wicb to brain wash you into thinking otherwise.

  • Dominic on May 17, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    Good luck to the West Indies, surprise us all, a good performance will be a pleasant surprise and maybe you can go one better "WIN A TEST"

  • WI_fan on May 17, 2012, 6:32 GMT

    I really don't know the modus operandi of WI cricket board whatever it may be they need to re engineer it otherwise Player like Pieterson comes back to England and Narine a new comer prefer playing IPL than WI? Purely lack of process,system and motivation as well. Narine and Gayle would be a HUGE addition in WI team. Even I think they could salvage their past glory by their presence along woth other talents.

  • Aswin on May 17, 2012, 4:26 GMT

    self belief will be there in a team only when its best xi are playing and not enjoying themselves iin the ipl

    this is wi's ideal test XI

    Lendl Simmons, K Powell, S Chanderpaul, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Denesh Ramdhin, Andre Russell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Sunil Narine, Fidel Edwards or Devendra Bishoo

    No Gayle because slogging in the ipl on flat tracks against mediocre bowlers is different from taking guard against anderson and broad at lords

    anyways he has no commitment and just like sehwag his 2 triple centuries were fluke

    he has been sorted out in last few years: bouncers yorkers bowling at one end with offspin from the other end is the way to geet him out

  • Dummy4 on May 17, 2012, 3:52 GMT

    Sunil would strengthen the bowling and I imagine negotiations are going on with Kolkata Kn Rs to see if we can get him for one or two of the Tests. But the proven class of Bravo and Chanderpaul alone wont be enough if the sun doesn't shine, and if Barath, Edwards, and Samuels don't contribute one century each in different matches. Lack of confidence may be part of it but I am afraid the batsmen have to be taught to concentrate and I would begin by banning Barath from all T20 cricket until he starts delivering centuries in Tests. I sometimes wonder if Sammy can command a regular place but he is there and it may well be that he can be the stock bowler allowing the others to strike. In the last few Internationals he has shown some fight as a batsman. So to be fair let us stop getting at him and see how well he bats in English conditions.

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