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Veteran writer and commentator on Caribbean cricket

West Indies regaining strength? Hardly

The board thinks the team can be No. 1 in one of the formats in about half a decade. Going by the recent showing against Ireland, they have another think coming

Tony Cozier

February 24, 2014

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Andre Russell was yorked by Tim Murtagh, West Indies v Ireland, 1st T20, Kingston, February 19, 2014
Andre Russell and Co could muster only 116 in the first T20 against Ireland, a match they lost by six wickets © West Indies Cricket

Only a couple of days after the administrative leaders of West Indies cricket spoke with heady optimism about the future, the team's two T20 internationals against Ireland at Sabina Park last Wednesday and Friday brought them back to the present, stark reality.

The reigning World Twenty20 champions were beaten by six wickets in the first and, after the indignity of 96 for 9 in the second, were made to scrap down to the last ball to keep the Irish to 85 for 8.

The victory, by 11 runs, did no more than assuage the humiliation. These were opponents, not even with full ICC status, who couldn't make it past the qualifying round in the recent regional Nagico Super50 tournament.

In the interim, the Irish remained in Trinidad and prepared for the official Sabina assignment with two matches; they were beaten in the second by the Trinidad & Tobago B team.

It was too much for even the most ardent West Indies' supporter to take. Patrick Rampersad, an executive member of the Trinidad and Tobago board, reflected the wide consensus. "You are the world champions and being beaten is not out of this world but being beaten by a minnow like Ireland, in your own backyard, is not acceptable," he said. "Imagine: a T&T B team defeated this Ireland side."

At least Rampersad took an interest. Thousands of others have long since abandoned hope.

The brief Irish interlude ended with an ODI at Sabina on Sunday. It is the West Indies' first international series since the chaotic, concurrent tours of India and New Zealand where they endured defeat in four of five Tests; three ended in three days, one in four.

The Irish embarrassment at Sabina was the fifth successive T20 loss, following two to Pakistan in St Vincent last year and two against New Zealand in January.

Undeterred by such irrefutable evidence, West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron and chief executive officer Michael Muirhead were both upbeat about the future at a media conference at the Trinidad Hyatt last Monday. "As the West Indies team continues to regain strength, the WICB will be able to negotiate more for our brand, which is a most significant consideration," Cameron said, once more reiterating the reasons why the WICB backed the contentious proposal for a takeover of the ICC's leadership by India, England and Australia.

With the increased revenue that would result from the ICC shake-up and what he termed "a fortified development programme", West Indies would be "nowhere near" the No. 10 position in the Test rankings that would entail a demotion/promotion playoff against the top team from the Associates' Intercontinental Cup. But given recent results, West Indies' drop to No. 10 is not as completely out of the question as Cameron makes out.

Richard Pybus' appointment is an indirect, but obvious, response to the self-evident truth, as stated by Darren Sammy following the series in New Zealand, that "we cannot continue like this"

Muirhead was even more forthright than his boss in his prediction. He was "fully confident" that West Indies would be "in the driver's seat… at No. 1 in at least one form of the game" by the end of the current cycle of the FTP, in 2020. Such a position that would give them more power in negotiations with other ICC members. Considering they are presently No. 8 in the ICC's Test and ODI rankings, it would require a remarkable turnaround to fulfil the assured expectations of Cameron and Muirhead.

There certainly has been no sign of West Indies continuing to "regain strength"; whenever they have taken one step forward over the past 20 years, it is inevitably followed by two back. Having gone up to No. 6 on the Test ladder last October, they are now back at No. 8.

The WICB is pinning its hopes for a revival on the overall plan of the new director of cricket, the Englishman Richard Pybus, who was appointed last November. It includes a complete review of systems, from grassroots and schools through to first-class and international cricket. While the WICB hierarchy puts a brave face on the team's present plight, Pybus' appointment is an indirect, but obvious, response to the self-evident truth, as stated by Darren Sammy following the series in New Zealand, that "we cannot continue like this".

The Test and T20 captain foresaw "tough decisions" for Pybus and for head coach Ottis Gibson. "Some careers are on the line," he said.

Gibson's opposite opinion was instructive. "We can get home, let the dust settle and assess where we are," was his counter to Sammy's plea for urgent action. "We can come up with a plan, but also decide who the right personnel are."

The WICB allowed the dust to settle for five weeks before holding its debriefing last Monday with the relevant tour individuals. As it usually does, it then swept the dust under the carpet and continued with life as usual.

The selectors (the same panel that chose an identical squad for New Zealand to the one that had been thrashed in entirely different conditions in India) predictably stuck to their tried and trusted. No one's career was on the line.

Chris Gayle had not played a match since tearing his hamstring in India last November 21; Marlon Samuels and Sammy were sidelined with contrasting injuries after the first ODI in New Zealand on Boxing Day. Yet all three were included for the series against Ireland; the only newcomer was fast bowler Miguel Cummins, who wasn't picked by his own Barbados selectors for the preceding Super50 tournament.

It was ill-judged complacency. The thinking, clearly, was that Ireland were of a standard that would ease Gayle, Samuels and Sammy back into action without any pressure. West Indies are in no position right now to underestimate any opponent. Not even by 2020, when, according to the CEO, they'll be No. 1 and demanding top dollar for their brand.

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

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Posted by lugujaga on (February 26, 2014, 1:35 GMT)

lets get one thing very clear the wicb main concern is making a lot of money and not improving cricket in the region. they singed that new icc mandate with $ signs in their eyes. every time the wicb guys talk in public its about the future mega bucks they gonna be making.this is a message to cricket lovers in the west indies; its now all about money first and cricket has realy died in the west indies for the past ten years or so

Posted by   on (February 25, 2014, 17:06 GMT)

funny selector. still on chair? should b changed as quick as possible.

Posted by Arvin5721 on (February 25, 2014, 6:29 GMT)

Mr. Cozier, I must absolutely agree with you 100%. Let me clarify something which I've seen many people have been curious about in their posts; West Indies in general is a 'die hard cricket region!' T & T, Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, etc. are proud cricketing nations and despite the turmoil that the WICB have positioned our team in over the past decade the people have stood by our team! I've seen local cricket matches at Providence in Guyana and trust me, the love for the game is still there. Now, it has become crystal clear that mr Cameron and muirhead lack basic reasoning skills to not understand what the long term negative effects of the proposal on WI cricket. I really wonder why guys like Ambrose, Hooper, Ganga, Wavel Hinds, Walsh, Lara, etc. doesn't have a larger role in the WICB. I always felt these guys know the game and they still have a lot to offer, besides they can't possibly do any worse. Ottis could barely play a few games for WI and now he is coaching them, ridiculous.

Posted by bri_hold on (February 25, 2014, 3:25 GMT)

Tony Cozier you are absolutely correct. To simply put it, the deterioration of WI cricket over the past 2 decades is largely due to a lack of standards regionally that has plagued and embarrassed the team internationally. Teams such as Ireland and Bangladesh and soon to be Canada can now and in the future thrash West Indies, in the West Indies because they have all implemented more infrastructure in all aspects of their cricket programs, from players to administrators. In the modern game, all are held accountable to very high standards, a prerequisite to any win. Sadly, the WI cricket administrators are leading far, far from behind conventional wisdom each year by choosing not to be mindful and realistic of the evolving game and continuing to offer a false sense of bold and foolish optimism; a trait that is just as indiscipline and reckless as the players and selectors themselves. As cricket has evolved to be a more challenging game, so too must the WI cricket establishment.

Posted by ShutTheGate on (February 25, 2014, 2:36 GMT)

Is cricket still popular with the majority of the population in the Caribbean?

I remember in the late nineties as their golden era was coming to an end people were saying that many young athletes were taking up basketball instead of cricket.

Posted by yoadie on (February 24, 2014, 23:44 GMT)

If the president of the WICB speaks to complacency (at comfortably being No. 7 in the Test rankings), and not to ascendency, then the current crop of players can not be blamed. They are only taking their cue from their `maximum leader'.

Posted by Insightful2013 on (February 24, 2014, 20:50 GMT)

I think it's important to clarify, that their society places less stressors on them and their perception of success is different. They appear to be happier people and less introspective. Which is reflected in their gregarious outlook. Wish I could be that way. Too many judgmental folks in my coterie! I say, each to their own. They are less complicated people and maybe us uptight Westerners could learn a thing or two. Which is why the KP thing is so frustrating! He is a West Indian, with their mentality and repertoire! Yet, he was able to curb his talent and buckle down when necessary. My opinion. West Indians have Chanderpaul to emulate! Why reinvent the wheel. The guy is perfect! Give him complete control of West Indies cricket and with his discipline they would be back to No 1 in a jiffy. Instead, has beens, like David Williams and Otis Gibson, negligible players at best, are the coaches. Really, just how incompetent are Windies administrators?

Posted by android_user on (February 24, 2014, 20:46 GMT)

Chanderpaul should be playing the ODI. Gibson done waste 3 years of the man career saying he building team for world cup and he can't even beat Ireland after 3 years

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 20:19 GMT)

Short memories and big brains; the position adopted by Earnest Hilaire re the way forward for West Indies cricket drew ire from many of the Caribbean fraternity of cricket journalist to the point of describing Mr. Hilaire as a nonentity; in hindsight it is evident that a new mind set must now be considered if we are to realise the speck of the future illumination.

Posted by Insightful2013 on (February 24, 2014, 20:02 GMT)

So right you are jb633. I played against West Indians in England and America. Former and current test players and and also whilst working in Trinidad. That is exactly the impression, one gets. They have talent but no discipline. However, the coaches are supremely woeful. There is absolutely no understanding of psychology, aspirations or analyzing oneself. Going back ten or so years at, Comet Alsecon, I heard Suruj Ragoonath and Darren Ganga chatting with players and both appeared invested and competent. The team reflected this coaching with good success at local levels. However, players seem to only need marginal success to obtain for them, good rewards. Cost of living was cheap so money wasn't an incentive and they the players were local celebrities. Even schoolboys. It's their mentality, that is so frustrating, however. I met no one who was capable of wanting real success. They simply are very, very afraid of responsibility because it would interfere with their partying and fun!

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 19:38 GMT)

There are so many things wrong with WI cricket, and necessary drastic actions are not being made to correct them. Pitches, players' technical issues, selection and the number and quality of the regional games are probably the major ones. Unless all (or a large subset) of these issues are fixed, WI cricket will continue to slide downwards. We are already dismissed by all major teams as serious test contenders.

The WICB continues to turn a blind eye (or so it would seem, they are not as transparent in any decision they make), so I see little hope there. If something is not done soon, WI cricket will continue to slide, and fans will continue to lose interest.

Posted by Frayninho21 on (February 24, 2014, 19:07 GMT)

I was really hoping that the squads for the T20's / ODI's for Ireland / England would give prominence to players like to promising players such as Jonathan Carter, Nkrumah Bonner, Ronsford Beaton and Sheldon Cottrell (who was binned far too early after one bad game in India) West Indies keeps returning to average players or players who have peaked.

Test Squad moving forwards: K Powell, Brathwaite, Barath, K Edwards (vice captain), DM Bravo, Chanderpaul, Carter, Ramdin (captain), Holder, Rampaul, Roach, Narine, Shillingford (if he can overcome his 'action' issues)

ODI squad moving forwards: K Powell, K Edwards, Charles, DM Bravo, Bonner, Carter, Pollard (captain), Pooran, Sammy, Holder, Rampaul, Roach, Beaton, Narine, Miller.

T20 squad moving forwards: Gayle, DR Smith, Charles, Pooran, DM Bravo, Pollard (captain), DJ Bravo, Holder, Rampaul, Narine, Sammy, Russell, Beaton, Cottrell, Badree.

Posted by AJMoore74 on (February 24, 2014, 18:49 GMT)

Looking at this article from an Irish point of view I'm surprised you didn't set fire to the bails and write an obituary to West Indian Cricket. You had nothing to gain and everything to lose. We have the players now with the skill and experience to take Full Member teams if they are not playing to their potential. You had too many players undercooked. Our performances in the Nagico 50 were disappointing but the lose of John Mooney a proven hard nosed competitor to a stress related illness of all things has to have affected the team. The return of Ed Joyce for the Internationals who is Sussex Couny captain cannot be understated. He is a fine player and delivered in the first match. I think the England series is a better test of where this West Indies team is. You only have to beat them you don't have to thrash them.

Posted by jb633 on (February 24, 2014, 17:53 GMT)

Obviously alongside school cricket there seems to be no structure in place to see WI come out of the mire. If you look at ENG/AUS/IND/SA they have youth development programmes with national academies and can highlight talent early and hone it to test standards. I understand this is incredibly cost bearing and the board needs money to do this. The fact the stadiums are never full surely has something to do with the turgid nature of the wickets and the lack of fast bowling. People of the caribbean love watching a quickie running in on a rock hard deck. Why not at least give them what they want? These slow, low rank turners are just not what people in the regions like and therefore people are not interested to come and watch the cricket. At least give yourself a chance and produce wickets worthy of international standard so people can come for a day's entertainment.

Posted by jb633 on (February 24, 2014, 17:48 GMT)

Cricket in the WI is actually a tragic case. My favourite player in world cricket is Darren Sammy. He is not great and he maybe he doesn't even warrant a place in the side, but he really cares about WI its welfare. The problems with WI cricket are related quite highly to the lack of any discipline in school cricket. If you hear a lot of the greats like Holding talk about their school cricket masters you will hear tales of how they were sent to do laps for bowling no balls or getting out slogging etc. I have toured the WI twice as a schoolboy cricketer (Trinidad and Barbados) and whilst the sides undoubtedly had ability they had zero discipline and just could not have cared less whether they won or lost. If that attitude is not stamped out at an early age it will just continue and get worse. So many of the WI players over the last 15 years have had zero discipline. The WICB seems happy to let things drift and let the fans down time and again.

Posted by Roysingh1972 on (February 24, 2014, 15:24 GMT)

West Indies cricket board is the reason that cricket is declining in the region, there selectors is the worst in the board history! Tony is right!!!

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 14:28 GMT)

I do not believe that the people who are at the forefront of West Indies cricket have the correct vision for the ascendency of the team. Really, if we want to return to the status we were in the eighties, we need to revisit the schools and ensure that talent spotting as well as nurturing begin there. Indeed, grassroot cricket should be so organised and structured that it forms the bedrock from which we begin re-organising. Our present crop of players are not properly nurtured for the demands of the sport and cannot win for us because they do not have the requisite skill, discipline and mental strength. The current board is clueless and is more and more alienating itself from its hurting supporters, the West Indian public. The present selectors pick teams on 'names' rather than performance. They need to be more accountable to a cricketing public that is longing for the day when our team plays competitively in a series. We have too many square pegs in round holes making unwise decisions.

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 14:02 GMT)

Replying to Kent Jones and Four Real Quicks, if you watch footage of the tests featuring the "greats", the grounds are full, the pitches are fast and true, batsmen play shots and fast bowlers get wickets. Proper Caribbean cricket. Now, the pitches are slow and low, spinners hold sway, few shots are played, and grounds are empty. Darren Sammy, whatever his faults (he is not a test quality all rounder and, to be fair to him, I think he knows it) has WI's best interests at heart: not convinced Gibson or WICB does. Or at least they don't seem to be able (or, perhaps, willing) to do anything about the sad decline in WI cricket. How much better they would be with a coach would could instill some pride in playing for West Indies (Big Clive?) with respected expert batting (Viv, Gomes, Haynes) and Bowling (Roberts, Holding Ambrose, Garner) coaches.

Posted by kentjones on (February 24, 2014, 12:56 GMT)

It appears to me that people are just not getting it. Some people complain about the selectors, others about the players selected (wrong batsmen or wrong bowlers, more pacers, more spinners etc), others about the wrong captain. still others about the type of pitches in the WI, and others about too much T20, or even the amount of 1st class matches in the WI, the list of wrongs go on and on:ad nauseum. ALL these comments are justifiable, but we must see the common link between all these wrongs in WI cricket: WICB. they administer the game and are therefore ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE for ALL of the above.If after the recent debacle in India and NZ, the coach says,no problem, "Let the dust settle" (and nothing is done for 5 weeks) and the selectors who are not bothered by the performance, then pick the same team and the President says, you know, things are quite fine, "WI continues to regain strength".Do we have to read and spell here? Get consensus restructure the administration of the game.

Posted by UsmanMuhammad on (February 24, 2014, 12:40 GMT)

WI cricket has been on decline and will remain, unfortunately, on the same path unless drastic changes are made in the system. Whilst I believe that growing popularity of football has played its part but certainly not be blamed for cricket's downfall in Caribbean!! When country's current cricket icons, Gayle and co., don't even like to part of test team how come a system could product test class players??

PLEASE save this kid, Nicolas Pooran, from under19 WC team from IPL and T20 leagues. He is a class of his age and needs to taken care in good hands.

Posted by ricardowill on (February 24, 2014, 11:47 GMT)

West Indies is on the down and needs a rescue mission. We need a fast bowling coach like Michael Holding whose focus should be developing aggressive pace bowlers like Mitch Johnson. We need to work on developing Narine and making him the brand name for spin. We need to play players like Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuel like chess pieces making them the strongest pieces on the board only to be used in crisis. It means they will bat lower down the order as needed.

Posted by   on (February 24, 2014, 11:10 GMT)

They the administrators and coach should call it a day.Our cricket has sunk to such an extent that revival is no where in sight.Where are the talents which were once in abundance? Are we going to see players in the likes of a Clive Lloyd,Richards or a Kallicharran again.Holding,Ambrose,Walsh,the whistle of death are missing in our bowling attack.Chanderpaul a world class crusader cannot find a place in the OD team where his records are as good as any of his world class contemporaries.What has the administrators done to our cricket?

Posted by FOUR-REAL-QUICKS on (February 24, 2014, 11:07 GMT)


How sad, but how true...

A complete overhaul is in dire need...immediately. well shy of the required level.

How can strokeplaying batsmen and genuine quicks be produced playing on those surfaces? How can youngsters be developed without using the expertise of Holding, Lloyd, Richards, Lara, Garner, Ambrose etc? How can the players stay fit when their strength is not worked on consistently (Best is the least injured of our bowlers, due to his own strict weights coincidence he's over 32 years old and still 90mph). Get players back in county cricket, facing the moving ball and bowling on various wickets.

We have some promising young quicks - Beaton is express, Jordan will be very good and is plenty sharp enough, Johnson should have already played test cricket...that's just three of them. These guys, if handled correctly, could forge a fine pace attack...get back to what we did best, nobody plays well against pace

Posted by kentjones on (February 24, 2014, 8:56 GMT)

I want to challenge the WICB here. At least I hope that they read comments made on these columns, even if they do nothing about it. I challenge the WICB to evaluate the state of the game from the point of view of the spectator. If you do not believe Mr. Cozier and others, then hire a pollster to research the level of interest in the game and what the people of the WI want from the administrators. Run a poll in every cricket playing country in the WI. Ask the right questions concerning the game of cricket. Then be guided by the results. If this is done the process of turning around the game would have begun. The survival of WI cricket depends upon it. Go to the people, evaluate the game, here what people think, then based on feedback, take the necessary action. Cricket in WI is dying. Urgent action is needed. We cannot allow the heritage of WI cricket, the magnificent contributions on the field of play of the WI masters to be forever buried in the past. How far down must we go!

Posted by everfaithful77 on (February 24, 2014, 7:43 GMT)

The only way foward for West Indies is for Mr. Cameron and his executive team to resign along with the panel of selectors and head coach Gibson. As long as these guys remain in charge the only No.1 Windies will achieve is No.1 to be RELEGATED. My advice to them is to select an ALL-STAR team from the recently concluded Super 50 tournament and let them play the current Windies selected team in ODI's and T20 and that will give them a good indication of where they've gone wrong.

Posted by kentjones on (February 24, 2014, 7:41 GMT)

Tony, your words as usual right on the button, and as I have always maintained in my comments, you are a true crusader for WI cricket. But as I have also said, you are a voice crying in the wilderness, no one of significance in administration is listening to you and cricket in the WI is dying. As you have correctly said, thousands who followed the game with earnest have 'abandoned hope'. The WICB fail to recognise that without the WI supporter and without interest in the game in Wi, without youths showing a desire to play the game, then having a Board and a representative team is meaningless. The crowd support in recent times except for maybe a final is consistently poor. It is not just about making a profit anymore. it is about the game's survival. The administrators are losing touch with the WI supporter, people are fed up and just turning away from the game. Plastering the sore is not going to help, Go back to the people, restructure the administration, start over from scratch.

Posted by Dirk_L on (February 24, 2014, 7:16 GMT)

West Indies is one of those chameleon sides. Put them against opposition they think is not very good, and they sink to the perceived level too. Put them against a side they think is good, and they rise to the occasion. They will think England is good. I'm not sure they're right, but England can be prepared for much stiffer opposition than Ireland got, even if the squad stays exactly the same.

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