December 6, 2007

Lloyd's no magician

Clive Lloyd shouldn't be expected to turn things around for West Indies as manager

Clive Lloyd had his share of problems when he was manager of the side in the late 90s. Will it be different this time? © Getty Images

Last week in Trinidad, close to 50 people gathered to have Sir Everton Weekes sign copies of his book Mastering the Craft and to share cocktails with the legendary cricketer. There was an intimacy about the gathering, comprising as it did mainly those of his generation and the one after, members, in one way or the other, of the West Indies glory days cognoscenti.

At the podium to give the feature address, Deryck Murray opened his remarks on a slightly curious note, asserting that having played with Sir Frank Worrell, and under subsequent captains, he was convinced that Sir Frank was by far the best West Indies captain ever. Perhaps Murray felt it necessary to make that declaration, given that a few days earlier the West Indies Cricket Board's website had published a letter from its president, Julian Hunte, to Clive Lloyd, the team's new manager.

Outlining the board's expectations for the Zimbabwe and South Africa tours, the president wrote to Lloyd: "We cannot change the past. However, we can learn from it. As the greatest cricketing leader this region has ever known, you have a tremendous task, yet it is one that is not beyond your capacity or your courage. You are the pivotal figure in what we see as a West Indian renaissance."

Murray, as head of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board of Control and a member of the WICB, was diplomatic enough in his presentation, but it seemed clear that he felt compelled to make his opinion known. Murray had served as vice-captain to Lloyd and is on solid enough ground for his statement to merit consideration.

The letter had referred to the "Clive Lloyd era", that time of now forlorn memory, when the West Indies were the prime force in world cricket. What has become somewhat blurred in nostalgic recall is the distinction to be made between leading an extraordinary team and being an extraordinary leader of men. Now this is not to diminish the quality of Lloyd's leadership but simply to assert that as a leader Frank Worrell was peerless. To place on Lloyd's shoulders such a massive weight is to add unnecessary baggage as he heads off to manage the West Indies team as replacement for Michael Findlay.

There are those who will resent the cavalier dismissal of Worrell, the rightful owner of that title, and who will use Hunte's letter as a needle to puncture whatever Lloyd tries to do, just to pull him down a peg or two. It is also tremendously misguided and narrow-minded to tell Lloyd that he is to be the pivotal figure in a West Indian renaissance.

Great leader though he may have been, Lloyd had his share of problems with the team of this generation when he was manager from 1996 to 1999. He had complained in 1999: "A lot of people don't know what I have to put up with ... People feel that because I'm Clive Lloyd, I'm going to wave a magic wand and everything will be fixed. But it doesn't work that way."

It appears that in terms of expectations the same thing is happening again. But this time around Lloyd has a lot more responsibility within the board. He is currently chairman of the WICB's cricket development committee and must certainly have some all-round influence on what happens within that realm.

During his last stint as manager he had complained about his lack of power, and constant interference from the board. He lamented that the board acted too late in every situation, never taking the opportunity to train young players and preparing them to move forward in a natural progression. He had spoken then of the need for an academy to provide services of that sort. None of this is aligned to the board's gushing about Lloyd being a pivotal point in a renaissance.

Lloyd may still carry confidence from his days as captain. In 2003 he had said that it wasn't fair that people kept saying that his team was the true reason for his success. "I don't know why people keep saying that I had a good team. We had guys like Lance Gibbs and Rohan Kanhai who were on their way out. And then we had some youngsters who came good," he said. "But the point is, at that time we didn't know how good those youngsters would turn out to be, because often you start with a huge amount of ability, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll turn out to be very good cricketers. The point is: we managed to get the best out of those young men and the team gathered momentum along the way."

The intervening years and the shabby treatment from the WICB may have whittled that confidence somewhat, but it is nothing compared with the discouraging effect of watching the team stay in the doldrums for more than a decade. There is no magic wand to be waved, and Lloyd of all people knows that. Given the first defeat of the current tour, against Zimbabwe, in a performance described by Cricinfo's S Rajesh as "utterly listless and lacking in intensity", it is all the more mournful that the magic has gone out of the game.

Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad