England v West Indies, 2nd npower Test, Chester-le-Street, 5th day May 18, 2009

West Indian listlessness a sign of the times

As West Indies slumped to a series defeat, Caribbean ire has been as high as the jubilation a few weeks ago

Not long after lunch on the final day, West Indies returned the Wisden Trophy they had held for barely two months back into the English hands that had polished it for nine years.

If there was anything surprising about that, it could only have been to the president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), Julian Hunte, who had declared himself unaware that the Wisden Trophy was at stake. Could he be excused for hinting that the newly resigned CEO, Donald Peters, was responsible for agreeing to a two-match tour outside of the schedule? Whether it was the doing of Peters, the ECB, the ICC or the WICB, the series itself was devoid of anything but commercial meaning and the West Indies players were evidently not up to even those demands.

From the moment England lost the first Test in the Caribbean a few months ago, Andrew Strauss and his men played with the same formula that they used in this series. The difference this time around was the English weather.

Strauss went for first-innings totals and declarations that guaranteed draws under the Caribbean sun, but the ploy worked like the Snow Queen chilling out Narnia in England, freezing West Indian players to icy capitulations under four days.

Caribbean ire was as high as the jubilation had been weeks before. All the WICB components were branded as jokers: President, CEO, and the captain, Chris Gayle. Who authorised Gayle's extended stay at the IPL? How dare he come into the team two days before the match (against the expressed wishes of Coach John Dyson and manager Omar Khan) and complain about cold wind stinging his eyes?

What did he mean by yawning all over Test cricket and suggesting that it could never bring 'nuff love beads to break him into a sweat like Twenty20? He said it to the English but West Indians went wild. This Test business is where they had formed an identity. What made this upstart think he could dismiss it in favour of Twenty20 scintillation while he was captain of the West Indies Test team?

He should have kept it to himself. A few whispers in his ear later, he tried to backtrack, not recant, but soften the wounds which, like all West Indian injuries, lie suppuratingly close to the skin. Too late.

What had changed with Gayle? Absolutely nothing. As Tony Cozier said, he spoke just as he bats.

It took nearly 10 years of sliding for people to recognise that a cultural shift had taken place within West Indies cricket. It took another five to recognise that players carried different values, beliefs and knowledge. Basic skills and technical competencies were present, but they rested on flimsy platforms and crumbled easily.

Leadership that could help restore the missing discipline, commitment and fitness was what the times called for, and as the Brian Lara epoch ended, it seemed these would be key factors in filling the captaincy. Daren Ganga, working with a supportive Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board of Control (TTCBC) had built a formidable national team that carried these qualities as their esprit de corps. Proposals that Ganga be considered as the newly required type of West Indian leader were dismissed on the grounds of his low Test average. Gayle, with his big wooden bat and his cool nonchalance seemed to be just enough one of the boys to counter the aloofness that characterised the captaincy styles of Lara and then Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

In selecting Gayle, the WICB chose to endorse the same deleterious cultural attitude and actively promoted its spread. Curfews were scoffed at, training was a matter of convenience, the captain need not direct his team on the field; claps on the back and comradely jokes dissipated tensions that arose from poor judgements. A man could turn up when he wanted, forget the coach and manager.

Gayle, it must be said, has never claimed to be anything other than what he has consistently been. He's made it clear that what we see is what we get. He never lunged for the captaincy, and he has offered his resignation more than once, but gestures aside, the reality is that he holds the position whatever his reservations.

So having reluctantly accepted the captaincy, did he offer a strategic plan? Did the WICB enunciate theirs?

I don't wish to dredge up the past that infuriates contemporary players because of its whip-like application, but when Clive Lloyd became captain, he made it very clear what he saw as the thrust of his captaincy. He had talented players, but felt they lacked discipline, commitment and fitness, and he set those as his deliberate targets. His team became known as world champions when those elements coalesced with hitherto un-harnessed talent.

Whatever Gayle's talents, they are as much in need of focus as the rest of the team, and without someone like a Ganga to lead him, he will continue throwing his bat and his words intemperately.

But Gayle's words, as skanky as they may be, predict a paradigm shift which has already begun. A generation that is marked by the quest for instant gratification, where speed is paramount, where celebrity status is attainable right on the boundary ropes, such a generation cannot be induced to the often soporific pace of Test cricket. And nothing in Test cricket's stature can be enhanced by its custodians' preference to flatten pitches than to enliven the game.

This generation wants lights, action, cameras, raucous crowds and lots of moolah. Nothing suggests that this will change. Ian Bishop was making the point that within the Twenty20 folds there are several players who've never been seen in international cricket at Test or ODI level. This means that they are building their careers entirely with the Twenty20 parameter, and are not even bothering to aim for Test status.

Gayle was annoying, but he wasn't lying, and while his words seem blasphemous, they tell the story of our time because they reflect what this generation wants.

Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rajeendernath on May 19, 2009, 22:56 GMT

    odd how all analyses of what ails Windies cricket is conducted as if it uterly isolated from the society within which it is played and draws its players. look at West Indian society track its descent and there seems to me little doubt of the relationhsip between the two. A family member vsiited Jamaica a couple of years ago and was stunned by her experiences. For whatever reason, and I am disinclined to lay blame on the ordinary West Indian, it is a fragmenting collection of gradually disintegrating societies, linked only by cricket practically. In addition to its diminishing hold on these territories, cricket itself is in transition and to expect it to continue to perform this function is unrealistic. What then exists to combat the cool of maryjane and bling, and the great social ills of these societies. These people those descendants of man's most heinous inhumanity, the slave traffic of Africans, deserve better, not drugs, bling, and cool

  • Wayne on May 19, 2009, 20:48 GMT

    Hmm...didn't want to get mb1961 all in a twitter (not the website) about a "trivial article" that he posted long messages twice on. But now the half-truths have become just ordinary false statements. Who are those two slow bowlers used by the West Indies in the tests that Ganga captained? I suppose that Cricinfo should amend the player profiles of Taylor, Edwards, Collymore, Bravo and Sammy and change their bowling style from fast-medium, fast whatever to just SLOW. The plain and simple fact is that Ganga has been an excellent captain for Trinidad and Tobago as witnessed by their success in different competitions and conditions. When TnT beat Barbados in the Bajan's back yard in 2006 to win the Carib beer title, it was with a balanced squad. Don't know much about Tamar Lambert, but he did lead Jamiaca to the 4-day title this year, so if his batting improves maybe he can be considered. Slyvester Joseph is another 20/20 hound and should be completely ignored.

  • Damion on May 19, 2009, 14:05 GMT

    West Indies has emerged as the underdogs of cricket, rising from a poor nation and standing tall at the top of the Cricketing paradigm. The Youngsters representing WI cricket are finding it hard to walk in their fore fathers footsteps. They are no longer underdogs but players with a legacy they can't upload, thats additive stress. With lack of success WI is still the most watched team because they give nail biting matches, and they play for the fans. WI might not wing the hearts of their fans by wining matches but they are my favorite team to watch ANY DAY.

  • Thomas on May 19, 2009, 14:00 GMT

    I agree with sam.sowden. The reason why test cricket is under threat cannot be solely attribute to the IPL, or Twenty20 in any of its other guises. Flat tracks, rubbish balls and huge bats all favour the batsman too much. The Kookaburra ball stops swinging (if it ever starts) very early on, and becomes listless and dull to watch. An edge sails to the boundary because the bat is so large, and the tracks do nothing to help the game on. People want to see batsmen struggle through adversity, not have their centuries given to them in order to secure a 5th day's telly. Yesterday's swing bowling was great to see; it would never have happened with the K ball.

  • Harold on May 19, 2009, 11:22 GMT

    In response to "Decricket" who seems to do a good job of chirping I did mention half truths as I did not want to go into specificson and waste time on a trivial article and matter .I was present during the Carib Beer final and heard the president of T'dad cricket board said it was the worst behaviour he had seen at a first class game .In my opinion at least 4 or 5 players on both sides should have been fined.But the game was played in Trindad so that is precisely the bias I speak of. As a captain given the standard of cricket in the region, the only requirments are a dead pitch , 2 slow bowers post most of the fielders on the boundary and wait for the batsmen to get out. It is a sucessful formula for winning a regional cup .Darren Ganga did it well congrats.This tactic was exposed when he tried it in England on the last tour. Test batsmen simply bide their time and then pick the gaps saying thank you . Tamar Lambert & Slyvester Joseph are two of the better leaders in the region

  • Kamal on May 19, 2009, 7:40 GMT

    Chris Gayle does not represent the attitude or needs of the new Cricketing Generations. If people didn't notice, he was totally emotionless and unimpressive in the IPL as well. We're discussing someone who seems to have an attitude of a little boy.

    Next Article please.

  • Javed Munir on May 19, 2009, 4:47 GMT

    The not seems to have fully knowledge about cricket, it required years and years to become an expert on any subject, nevertheless I must say this West Indian team deserve such defeat because they lack the committment even their captain role was very doubious, he infact don't deserve a place in Test Cricket team, his performance was ordinary, he should vacate his place for someone more deserving

  • Wayne on May 19, 2009, 4:40 GMT

    I am always interested in cricket fans reactions to articles on West Indian cricket. Consider mb1961 and his first sentence, "It is precisely this type of skewed parochial logic...keep us in the mire.". He then completely reinforce that assessment with a a mix of half-truths and opinions. It's true than Ganga does not possess a good test record (although besides Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Gayle, his average is better than most other WI batsmen of the past 10 years), but his captaincy of the Trinidad and Tobago has been excellent. It is interesting that the players called before the match referee in this Carib Beer final referred to by mb1961 were all from Barbados (the opposing team). But don't let that get in the way of a "good" narrative. That said, I don't believe Ganga would be successful as a WI captain, but it has nothing to do with his tactical ability, which seems first rate. His major problem would be dealing with the insularity and divisions endemic between the WI islands.

  • Moe on May 19, 2009, 3:09 GMT

    Gayle lost a lot of possible income by having this test series rammed into the schedule. He's clearly upset by this. Why not let the WI players make their money and after that refocus and play a test series. I think the WICB should try to take care of their players as best as possible. Since Gayle is the only one with a lot to gain from IPL, why not let him stay in SA? I'm sure that are lots of WI players who would relish an international test shot while at the same time Gayle can enjoy IPL? Gayle was probably never going to have an impact arriving days before the test series and without preparation anyway. As for TV contracts and Ashes preparation, wouldn't England vs England A be a better Ashes preparation as they compete for spots on the final eleven and it would make for better television. Or, England vs Australia A? I don't see why an indifferent and unmotivated West Indies had to be playing test cricket?

  • Jeffrey on May 19, 2009, 3:07 GMT

    Ms. Baksh is correct. Darren Ganga is by far the most successful captain in West Indian Domestic Cricket. His Test batting average however does not warrant his pick.

    I do not believe that Clive Lloyd's emphasis on discipline, commitment and fitness had so much to do with our success. The West Indies could have called on no less than 30 players who were playing professional County Cricket. Many of our pro players were living in England.

    After the blackwash, West Indian players were no longer offered long term County Cricket Contracts. The only ones playing right now are off the radar types like McGarrell, Collymore, Collins and Best. Basically the ECB is no longer interested in developing our players.

    There is no Windies Pro League. Sponsorship is a joke and we have never had proper administration. People do not realize that the Windies did not develop their talent. England and Kerri Packer did it for us. It's up to us now. Scary thought that with all the back biting!

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