January 20, 2014

Who will lead West Indies' regeneration?

After heavy losses in India and New Zealand there's a need for some serious introspection

Beaten and battered in two bruising campaigns, those West Indies players still standing finally staggered home last week with a bag full of questions to be asked and answered over what really went on in India and, especially, New Zealand.

Reports from media conferences on tour were filled with comments that need expanding on by the new director of cricket, Richard Pybus, and the cricket and executive committees of the West Indies Cricket Board. The claim by ODI captain Dwayne Bravo on arrival in New Zealand that a lack of unity led to the poor performances will be a prominent item in the debriefing. So would the allusion to players' indifference by the manager, Richie Richardson ("it bothers me when you see guys hang around the changing room at the ground, doing nothing, like they're still back at the hotel room") and the mysterious "personal reasons" given for the hasty exit from New Zealand of Darren, the younger Bravo, that set off widespread gossip.

Captain Darren Sammy's candid acceptance that he could be one of those on return home whose "careers are on the line", as he put it, has poured more fuel on a fire that has flickered since his appointment three years ago.

His obvious commitment to the team and the way he has handled the position in difficult times have earned Sammy a justifiable reputation as leader; the snag is that, as his stats indicate, he is a Test allrounder purely in name.

As always, it is who as captain if not Sammy?

While New Zealand present Corey Anderson, and England, Ben Stokes out of nowhere, there is no young allrounder of even that level to be presently found in a region that produced the greatest of them all.

Nor are there obvious future captains such as Virat Kohli currently is for India and Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke were when Andrew Strauss and Ricky Ponting stepped down from their posts.

Made skipper of the A team in its most recent series against Sri Lanka and India, batsman Kirk Edwards appeared the likeliest contender. The Barbados selectors essentially torpedoed that plan last week, inexplicably replacing him for the coming first-class season with Kraigg Brathwaite; it is a formidable challenge for the 21-year-old opener, who approaches his batting with single-minded Chanderpaulian dedication and for whom captaincy would be an unnecessary distraction.

It leaves Dwayne Bravo as the only like-for-like choice, should Sammy go, as he seemingly expects to. Bravo is 30 and as gung-ho as ever, yet he hasn't played a Test in three years, while prospering in T20 leagues. Nor is he nearly the super allrounder he promised in his early years in the West Indies team. His elevation to the ODI captaincy last year "to refresh the leadership", according to the selectors, was a clue to their thinking. Sammy remained at the helm for Tests and T20s; it has understandably proved a divisive arrangement.

It leaves Dwayne Bravo as the only like-for-like choice, should Sammy go, as he seemingly expects to. Bravo is 30 and as gung-ho as ever, yet he hasn't played a Test in three years, while prospering in T20 leagues

Other long-serving candidates have been suggested. Denesh Ramdin has intermittently been the West Indies vice-captain, as he was in India and New Zealand, and a successful skipper of Trinidad & Tobago.

To dovetail with Bravo's West Indies' position, he has been shunted aside for the imminent regional Super50 tournament; Trinidad & Tobago would send an unequivocal message by retaining Bravo for the first-class season as well. Those in the know regard that as unlikely.

Indeed, the former T&T captain, Daren Ganga, has gone for a long shot. Ramnaresh Sarwan was Brian Lara's natural successor, taking over after the great left-hander's retirement in 2007. Untimely injuries opened the way for Chris Gayle, and Sarwan was never called on again. Over the past few years, he fell out with the WICB's former chief executive Ernest Hilaire and with Ottis Gibson, the coach. Sarwan claimed that episode affected his form; the last of his 87 Tests was in June 2011. He is 33, hardly old age for a batsman, and says he's committed to forcing his way back in with performances in the coming regional tournaments. As captain? Improbable, but not entirely impossible.

In addition to the captaincy issues, the immediate on-field focus is on the regional tournaments over the coming three months - the Super50 in late January and early February, and the first-class from late February. They assume added substance given Sammy's blast after the New Zealand thrashing that "we cannot continue like this".

His contention that some careers are on the line places pressure to perform on those who faltered in India and New Zealand, even those as established as Gayle and Marlon Samuels (average 21.6 in the five Tests).

At 23, the elegant left-hand opener Kieran Powell is still seen, along with Darren Bravo, as key to the long-term batting. He kept devising frustrating ways of getting out, didn't pass 50 once in ten innings, and averaged 22.50. He needs a productive season.

At 30 and without a hundred after 18 Tests, Narsingh Deonarine, the middle-order left-hander and useful offspinner, has surely come to the end of the line.

So too Tino Best. For all his 90mph pace, energy and enthusiasm, a return of 57 wickets in 25 Tests at 40 each is not a recommendation for continuation.

Shannon Gabriel, 25, and the left-armer Sheldon Cottrell, 24, carried real hopes of two tall, strong bowlers capable of intimidating pace to partner the injured Kemar Roach when his shoulder surgery mends sufficiently for his return. On the tour technical flaws were revealed that now need attention from the coaches.

Jerome Taylor's reappearance for Jamaica in the Super50 is encouraging news. His unforgettable 5 for 11 opening burst which blew England away for 51 in their second innings at Sabina Park in 2009 highlighted his quality as a pacy swing bowler. He had 82 wickets from 29 Tests, with a hundred and a 50 to boot, before, for several reasons, he disappeared off the radar in 2010. Now 29, there are hopeful expectations for his first season back.

There are a host of others who have already made their names with the A team - the left-hand batsmen Jonathan Carter and Leon Johnson, the quick bowlers Miguel Cummins and Delorn Johnson, for instance - who must realise that now is the time to seize the moment.

West Indies cricket is certainly crying out for a regeneration.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 24, 2014, 15:18 GMT

    West Indies cricket is in the doldrums.Top management need changes.They only talk what is happening and does not try to correct the situation.They are paid to do a job ,but failed miserably.

    Sammy is an all-rounder,not a captain .He palys cricket and enjoy himself ,not captaining the team as expected.Captains should have certain behaviour ,not like Sammy's.We need an approved test cricketer/ leader of men ,not boys. E.g --Sarwan,Kirk Edwards,V.Permaul. We need a coach who is a proven test cricketer as well, not a below average player.A coach should not tell a player how he should be playing.A player is picked based on his ability to do whatever he is done already.So selectors,whoever you are ,let us get some good team selection this coming seasons to follow and get West Indies cricket going uphill.

  • Carl on January 23, 2014, 10:07 GMT

    As short term leader, I would appoint Ramdin to lead the Test XI. This XI needs to comprise players suited to the longer - and only TRUE form of the game. The T20 and ODI squads need to be considered but cannot garner as much attention as the test team. Therefore, choose a separate captain (DJ Bravo retained perhaps), select players suited to that format - and never let them near the test team. Likewise, the young test players should never play T20 - at any level. Regionally, some fine young players are breaking through, so all is not lost - provided they are handled correctly. Speaking of the fast bowlers, Jerome Taylor's return does indeed offer hope - provided he still bowls with the pace and accuracy he used to. Ronsford Beaton is a potential world beater, but this young man needs very careful management - DO NOT EXHAUST HIM WITH T20 CRICKET! He really could become another Ambrose, as stated not so long ago by Yuvraj Singh when he played against him. Cummins+Johnson also offer hope

  • Sanjay on January 21, 2014, 23:12 GMT

    @Dhar40: Excellent comments, very insightful. I agree.

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2014, 20:59 GMT

    Deonarine and Best are at the end of the line ? Nobody told the WI cricket board...wasn't Best given a central contract recently. Also Shane Shillingford whose future in cricket right now does not look rosy ? Recently the names of Sarwan and even Nash were touted as having a possible return tot he side. Both men are in their 30's and bringing them back would be a retrograde step. Select a young team and build them up so that in say 5 years they will develop into top level players. Who but Sammy ? Who else but WI would persist in player who cannot justify his place in the team on a consistent basis ? By all means select a young player (SA did it!!!!) and provide him with the necessary training and support to mould him into a Test captain. In these days of science and psychology in sport captains are not just born but are also shaped into the role.

  • Pete on January 21, 2014, 19:53 GMT

    Do WI even have a pace academy? If not, they need one. If they do, they need a different one.

  • Nikhil on January 21, 2014, 14:26 GMT

    1. By far Sammy is the best captain that the Windies have available. The Windies have good players - they don't seem to remain focused. Not sure why Gayle has not performed. The management had a good thing going and an up-and-coming team - and then decided to tinker with the leadership role. The consequences are there for all to see. Give Sammy a second round, let him keep his team. Focus on results more and playing leader-tag less.

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2014, 13:32 GMT

    I have been a great west indian fans and supported them even when they played Inida. Who can forget the greats and Viv is still my hero.. The present west indian side is all brawn and no brains. No team in the world is so consistent in repeating the same mistakes over and over again especially in tests where in India & NZ they did not seem interested t complete the 5 days. Like Tony said no good players are in the horizon also.. very sad and upset to see the great team flounder like this.

  • Sajeesh on January 21, 2014, 13:25 GMT

    As of now, Sammy is the best option for leading West Indies in all formats. In tests, his batting has improved and his bowling is economical to keep pressure on batsmen which will help other bowlers to pick wickets. Don't expect him to pick more than 3-4 wickets in a test match. A player like him is very important to balance any team. No arguments on his place in ODI and T20 teams. He is capable of Winning matches with bat wand ball. My Teams: Test: Gayle, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Chanderpaul, Ramdin (wk), Sammy (c), Rampaul, Raoch, Narine, Holder (Bench: Permaul/ Taylor/ Brathwaite/ Samuels) (Both Ramdin and Sammy should improve their batting)

    ODI: Gayle, Charles, Darren Bravo, Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Pollard, Ramdin (wk), Sammy (c), Rampaul, Narine, Roach (Bench: Dwayne Smith, Holder, Badree, Simmons)

    T20I: Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Darren Bravo, Charles (wk), Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Pollard, Sammy (c), Roach, Narine, Holder (Bench: Rampaul, Badree, Simmons, Russel)

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2014, 11:52 GMT

    Dj bravo is the best leader.

  • Deena on January 21, 2014, 10:01 GMT

    West Indies are doing as well as can be expected. The Caribbean is now a developed region Barbados is officially a developed country, TnT, St.Lucia and Antigua are close behind. When we were poor little islands our boys played cricket all day and on every street corner. Now that we are developed the whole scene is different. This dynamic is particular true in Barbados and Antigua. Trinidad continues to produce some good players because the Indo-Trinidadian community still plays cricket and almost nothing else. Who could have imagined an Indo West Indian fast bowler! This goes with economic properity. We can realistically expect be competitive against NZ and soon Bangladesh will crush us. A bitter pill but this is a symptom of the better quality of life in the Caribbean. Jamaican track stars train locally and all the football teams are stronger thanks to these changes. West Indies should have a football team and one olympic team if we want to bring back the pride.

  • No featured comments at the moment.