Martin Crowe
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Former New Zealand batsman and captain

Wake up, West Indies

The biggest difference between them and New Zealand has been the force they radiate on the field

Martin Crowe

December 15, 2013

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Tino Best drops Trent Boult's catch on the boundary, New Zealand v West Indies, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day, December 12, 2013
As a fielding side, West Indies are a shadow of their predecessors © AFP

When the once-mighty West Indies went down limply to a frisky and impetuous New Zealand, I began looking for the underlying reason why. Beaten easily, with the conditions all in their favour, after a gallant batting fightback by Darren Bravo only days earlier in Dunedin, West Indies defied logic this time.

After returning from Adelaide and concluding that Australia had superior hunger and conviction, I realised that the two Test matches revolved around one simple thing - the force of energy; of vigorous activity and exertion of such power. Australia and New Zealand, the hosts, each ranked below their opponent, had significant tension that needed to be expressed.

They both had built up substantial torque in their bones and sinew, which needed to be returned, rotated for positive effect. They had to see a return for their pain in recent times. This was their present status: wound up, coiled like a spring, bursting for air. They leaped into action.

More than anything, what both these winning sides displayed so organically in their respective Tests was the collective art of fielding. They were simply flawless. It was as if the white line, the boundary rope, was the trigger. The moment they all bounded on to the field together was the start of the release. No doubt, too, their preparation was building to this crescendo.

Energy emerged in all shapes and forms - chatter, facial expression, speed of foot, the zing of the throw, the acrobatic dives, and the stunning catches. Superlative fielding wins Test matches. This was proved again in these recent Tests, as it has been for decades. The inseparable team aspect of cricket was epitomised splendidly in these two teams' togetherness. They won because they cared enough for each other and for their nations' pining.

Fielding is often underestimated. It too frequently takes second place to bowling and batting. Well, it has to, by order, yet without its energetic presence the bowler may not feel a propulsion from the combined force around him, supporting him, and the batsman may not feel the squeeze of being alone as all opposing eyes are upon him.

The fielding collective is massively important. It's fair to say there hasn't been a successful side without it. From my memory, growing up, I remember the Chappell era, and that mighty slips cordon plucking thunderbolts from the energy force of Lilleenthomson.

The calypso genius at the 1975 World Cup final was a young fireball called Viv Richards, who stole the show from Ian Chappell himself. Breathtaking energy, low to the ground, deathly zinging throws of incredible accuracy finding a tiny target at a stunning velocity. Run-outs won that final for West Indies that day. From that moment they became an irresistible force for the next 15 long years. Fielding propelled them into a different sphere. Energy became their antidote and no one could stop them once addicted.

Fast forward to Wellington this week. The same cricket nation, selected from glorious idyllic islands in the Caribbean, came with no collective force, no hunger, and definitely no energy. Their fielding was the worst I have seen in all my time. Not just the catches that went down, or the misfields, no, it was the total abject failure to represent what we are on this planet to do - simply breathe in and breathe out. They looked as if they didn't even try.

Get the fielding right and the bowler starts the day with a whoop in his stride, a lift in his delivery, a snap in his wrist

Denesh Ramdin has a job to do as the keeper of the faith. He has to demand an energetic call to action to his troops and to lead by example in delivering his all-important directive. Instead he said nothing, he coughed up an appalling amount of byes, and within an hour of the Test, West Indies were a weak, meek mouse of a team. All of this with conditions in their favour.

It says a lot for New Zealand that they smashed the team ranked two places above them comprehensively in three days. New Zealand played the perfect game, with universal energy as their drive. They thoroughly deserved their win, especially after much recent soul-searching and rehab. However, to win inside three days by such a margin was also testimony to a lazy, careless opponent.

England have dropped their standards alarmingly in their fielding too. Yes, they are ageing, that won't help a jot. They need an injection of something, and youth will help. Probably a bloody good fielding coach, like Jonty Rhodes, would too. Get the fielding right and the bowler starts the day with a whoop in his stride, a lift in his delivery, a snap in his wrist. At present they are playing with dough in their bellies. Get the fielding right and the batsman feels entrapped, surrounded and suffocated.

Playing West Indies in the 1980s was fraught with danger for obvious reasons: Roberts, Croft, Holding, Garner, Clarke, Daniel, Walsh, and the greatest of all, Marshall. That dealt with the first half-dozen pair of undies you carried. Then, for good measure, came Greenidge, Haynes, Richardson, Richards, and the leader of the pack, Lloyd. That wore out the 25 pairs of woollen socks the bowlers packed.

What lurked with vicious intent as you somehow survived all that talent and muscle was not only the smell of those fine batsmen in the field, but more so of Harper, Logie and Dujon, orchestrating it all. This was not only the finest bowling and batting combo the world has seen, it was also the finest collection of outcricketers the world has seen collectively on the field.

That the present side has reduced that legacy to nothing is not only sad, it's a sporting crime. Maybe one day when they sit in an office and earn half the amount they do now, reminiscing about what could have been, they will realise clearly what a waste of an opportunity it has been.

For heaven's sake, wake up. You are fine, athletic specimens, yet you are throwing away the very thing you were given - energy to burn. Use it to field for your Caribbean. From there your batting and bowling desires will have a better chance of coming to fruition, of rising to the ranks where your predecessors once were.

Alas, the game has changed. Test cricket, for some, like West Indies, is not as important as the tiny titivating runaround in T20. Or the quick buck. Guess what, when you are old and slow, play 20-over cricket all you want. That's what it's good for.

In the meantime, think for a minute about what you are doing. Cricket offers much. It provides the team dynamic, the individual stage, and a universal energy to express. To be truly you.

Seize the day.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

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Posted by android_user on (February 10, 2014, 13:19 GMT)

I really on my heart of hearts that the team needs stability. Team members need to understand their role and play to that role.Let me put in a plug for the living legend Sir the right honorable Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Why on the name off God cricket isn't he playing one day cricket.If the others don't match up why are they even selected. Lastly I do believe that there needs to be a shrink to work with these guys some off whom quite frankly ate dizzy headed.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2013, 2:08 GMT)

Well written MC! I grew in the times of this legends! The reality is that is the end result of poor leadership at multiple levels, at the WICB, selectors, captains and senior players. The pride has been absent for more than 15 years. The importance of West Indies cricket is no longer in the DNA of the current WI players. While I am sure they hold ambition to play for team, the work ethics and commitment is totally absent. From the selectors perspective, why not select rampaul or holder. The latter a young man with pace, bounce and movement off the wicket. Rampaul gets swing as well. Gabriel is one dimensional and so is Tino. I have heard that the bowlers are not taking the advice from the Coach, well then drop them...its simple. The fielding is abysmal. I have seen domestic teams in the caribbean fielding of a higher standard. Its so disturbing. What ever more sadistic is that I get up off my bed so damn early in the morning to support these guys that seem to lack pride and heart.

Posted by BnH1985Fan on (December 17, 2013, 0:30 GMT)

Beautifully said .. fielding .. the most obvious is the most overlooked.

Posted by DJRNZ on (December 16, 2013, 21:11 GMT)

Recall as a kid watching in awe the likes of Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh knocking over the Aussies and intimidating anyone in their path Then I think of the likes of Lara, Richards, Sobers and all the other absolutely amazing cricketers the Windies have produced and think what on earth as happened? I support NZ and am always happy when we win but the current Windies are nothing short of pathetic on this tour. Forget the fact they are touring in foreign conditions and are minus some key players but when you contrast what they had and the current crop ya got to feel sorry for the Windies supporter because these guys make NZ look very very good and that is saying something!!! Cricket is all the better when the Windies are playing well so very disappointed.

Posted by   on (December 16, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

With due respect to Martin Crowe, most of these West Indies players are t20 contractees all over the world.They may not need to work in offices ever.

Posted by android_user on (December 16, 2013, 3:37 GMT)

I think j taylor, f edward and sarwan should be brought bAck and we need a new selection panel not want need!!!!! fast

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (December 16, 2013, 2:47 GMT)

That was Cricket in the 80's but today it's only Sponsorship Cricket for short term success.

Posted by mginom on (December 16, 2013, 2:30 GMT)

cricket doesn't offer much as a stage to truly express oneself. the author contradicts himself from his earlier article "the masks we wear"

Posted by   on (December 16, 2013, 2:26 GMT)

Well written article. I agree with every word.

Posted by 12th_man on (December 16, 2013, 1:59 GMT)

Another well written article MDC. I as a New Zealander I can unashamedly say as a kid I grew up wanting to be the next Malcolm Marshall (not Hadlee) and intimidate and scare batsman to get their wicket.

My advice to the Windies is never give up, you have the physical skills and attributes to beat anyone, what you need is to apply yourselves, work together and hunt for runs/wickets as a team. Maybe you need to get some of the former legends of the game together and fire them up.

Martin, let's not forget New Zealand has it's fair share of issues too, with the exception of the England series at home they have underperformed all too often recently.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (December 16, 2013, 0:26 GMT)

Nice piece but clearly from someone who does not watch Caribbean cricket everyday . The biggest issue w/ WI cricket is it leadership structure . Until the Patterson report is fully implemented our cricket will continue it's muddling ways.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 23:31 GMT)

Brilliant article! Reflects the frustration that is shared by West Indians and Non-West Indians alike.......

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 21:27 GMT)

After everything he has said, Josh from JamRock still wants to posit a change in player personnel??? PUH-LEASE!!!

Posted by portman on (December 15, 2013, 20:15 GMT)

@stormy16 - NZ doesn't ride off Aus success you are correct - we simply aren't arrogant enough to make comments about the opposition being scared and weak in a post match interview as the ultimate Aussie boozed up bogan D Warner did. As for England being a former no 1, well thats equal to saying so were the Windies. You're either no 1 or you're not, it doesn't matter how long ago it was.

Posted by venkat_75r on (December 15, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

Excellent Article Martin Crowe. The main problem for West Indies is the selection panel. Sammy should be part of T20 and ODIs' only whereas Dwaye Bravo should be part of Test Team (has got a very good technique) Chanderpaul should bat at No.4. Samuels with his poor technique should not be part of the test team. All is not lost for West Indies. The A team really played well in India. They have got some talented players like Carter,etc. It is the duty of the selectors to give the right opportunity at the right time. Players like Sarwan, J Taylor, Edwards should be brought back to the Test team

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 17:11 GMT)

A fighting spirit has been lacking in WI cricket for a long time... after the draw in the first test, I incorrectly thought that maybe they've found it again. To us fans, it seems as though have the passion to fight it out in a game, or the drive to better their skills when they're not playing.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (December 15, 2013, 16:34 GMT)

I think one of the biggest problem we have on hand right now is that West Indies have too much faith in a captain that dose not justify his place in the team... Another thing is that when the first class matches are played in the Caribbean the selectors dont pick the guys that a doing well an therefore we continue to struggle in the international seen. I truly believe that the pack we have out there representing us have no guts to put up a fight with a team that rank below us. It is really sickening to see a team that use to dominate the world fade away like this with all that legacy it had achieve years gone by.. It's time we take a stand an protect what those superstar left behind an make West Indies cricket rise again.. We really need to wake up because a think we have being sleeping an dreaming for far too long now..

Posted by Ethel on (December 15, 2013, 15:46 GMT)

The biggest problen is we do not have a coach!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 15:34 GMT)

May be, the Windies dont take as much pride in playing test cricket as they do in T-20 cricket.

Posted by stormy16 on (December 15, 2013, 14:54 GMT)

Well what a difference a couple of tests make it seems and I really dont see how the Kiwi's can ride off the Aussie success. Firstly Aus are knocking off a really good side while the Kiwis managed a win over a weak side which they couldnt beat in the first test! Windies have been poor in test for a long long time while Eng were not so long ago #1. Also I dont see how the NZ conditions are better sutied to Windies whose attacks most potent weapons are spinners. I agree the Windies have been poor FOR ONE TEST but surely some of the statements made in this article are way over the top.

Posted by tickcric on (December 15, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

The main problem probably is that WI cricketing culture has changed. I dont know how much playing for WI means to most of the players. They need inspiration and direction imo...Remember how Rod Marsh was a England selector. WI according to me need a similar influence from outside the Caribbean.

Posted by JoshFromJamRock on (December 15, 2013, 14:25 GMT)

This may seem drastic but Batting-wise maybe West Indies should bring in their more mature (30+) and experienced players combined with their best bowling line up.

1.Gayle 2.Devon Smith 3.Sarwan 4. Chanderpaul 5.Samuels 6.Dwayne Bravo 7.Ramdin(c) 8.Rampaul 9.Holder 10.Roach 11. Shillingford.

Honestly, this youth thing is not working and is a true reflection of youth in the Caribbean - misguided, lacking discipline and settling for mediocrity

True, these seniors might fail but its hard imagining that they would do worse than the current team especially with them knowing it might be their last chance.

If you look at almost all teams today, out of their Tests top six, 4 or 5 of them are 28+ which reflects the need for maturity in a batting lineup.

Powell, Braithwaite, Bravo, Edwards and Barath need to search for some contracts overseas (Eng>AUS>SA>NZ)

Cummings, Holder, Beaton, Narine and Permaul should do the same as in the next five years they'll be the makeup of the bowling attack.

Posted by WheresTheEmpire on (December 15, 2013, 13:55 GMT)

Agree with Martin. Cricket, like all sport, is played with both head and heart and those who underestimate the importance of energy and passion are wide of the stumps. Energy and passion are key factors in turning talented individuals and teams into champion ones (or average ones into good ones).

Recent artcles putting the recent Eng/Aus turnaround down to skill alone forget that many of England's team played and won with great skill in 2010-11 under Aus conditions. Has this skill been suddenly lost or are there other contributing factors?

Perhaps passion, energy and commitment are the reality behind the often mentioned "momentum".

Posted by thejesusofcool on (December 15, 2013, 13:03 GMT)

Thank you, Martin Crowe-brilliant article.

The Windies are currently playing like they are from the Haiti of ancient Holywood films-zombified & terrified. New Zealand are nearly always up for it, home or away, even if they sometimes fall flat on their faces in the attempt.

But the Windies? You feel like you want to strap them into dressing room chairs & force them to watch the guys Martin's mentioned winning Test after Test & just asking them why they simply can't go for it as well?

Posted by Arham9 on (December 15, 2013, 12:45 GMT)

Really a sportsman can tell wht energy means in game......!!!!

Posted by calcu on (December 15, 2013, 12:40 GMT)

WI has surely not played to their level, but at the same time you must give credit to NZ. They haven't won a test series against a top 8 side since 2005 and they are on the verge of doing so.

Posted by wapuser on (December 15, 2013, 12:00 GMT)

I think basketball is becoming big in the Caribbean.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 10:22 GMT)

New Zealand have become a strong team at home and have been doing consistently well in their own backyard. Boult and Southee are fine swing bowlers and they are capable of taking their team a long way from here.

What the West Indies lack is actually fast bowlers who can do some damage. Best, Gabriel and Cottrell are simply not good enough. You need good pace bowlers if you want to win in places like New Zealand.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (December 15, 2013, 5:44 GMT)

So true

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 5:28 GMT)

Strange the lacklustre fielding as this was a WI team that was snapping up everything in the field only a few months ago. But then again that was limited overs cricket...

Posted by anton111 on (December 15, 2013, 5:26 GMT)

West Indian problems begin with their selectors and end with not the best team being selected.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 3:50 GMT)

Someone should read this to the current West Indies squad.

Posted by   on (December 15, 2013, 3:18 GMT)

One wonders how cricket has changed. W.Indies, ones amongst the top - long back they changed cricket with late Frank Worrel, then the rest to follow. In my view, New Zealanders are a powerful allround outfit, and for sometime far beyond the results. A team that at inception did not win a test for 29 years. I remember Burt Sutcliff, as the best left hand opener, and all rounder John Reid. I think they are a very athletic side.

Posted by InsideHedge on (December 15, 2013, 2:35 GMT)

A brilliant read, thought provoking and the appeal to the West Indies: from the heart. Martin Crowe is a treat to read on these pages, it helps that he was a magnificent batsman himself. not that it's a pre-requisite.

That's three out of the last four Tests that the West Indies have lost inside 3 days. Fingers will inevitably point to Sammy and Gibson but the malaise is far deeper.

For NZ, Trent Boult should finish as one their most successful bowlers, and Ross Taylor in the batting category. They're looking good at the moment but only at home, the away performances need to improve. However, it should be noted that Bangladesh has defn improved at home and it's just a matter of time before they too become a typical Asian team which builds a fortress at home.

I hope that over the next 25 years the game spreads far and wide. It's too good a game to be only enjoyed by a handful of nations.

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