West Indies in New Zealand 2013-14 December 29, 2013

Internal strife pulling West Indies down

West Indies cricket has endured some low points in the last two decades, but the discord between the team, visible on the tour to New Zealand, is perhaps the biggest challenge for the side

West Indies cricket has repeatedly endured horrific times over the past two decades.

None have been more ruinous than the latest strife, on and off the field, that has engulfed the most recent trial - the back-to-back tours of India and New Zealand, now mercifully drawing to its end.

The results have been dreadful enough - defeat in both Tests in India by an innings inside three days, in one of the three in New Zealand by a similar margin; another by eight wickets just after lunch on the fourth day. The solitary draw was as much due to the weather as their dogged second-innings revival.

These were compounded by the International Cricket Council's suspension of the one wicket-taking bowler, Shane Shillingford, for the second time because of his illegal action.

A solitary ODI victory in India was little consolation; last Thursday's in the first of five in New Zealand was compromised by Marlon Samuels' wrist injury that ended his involvement, another key player to add to the absentee list of Chris Gayle, Kemar Roach and Kieron Pollard, all unfit.

Even more disturbing was the internal discord revealed in the comments by the two captains on tour, by the coach and by the manager.

Friday's withdrawal from the tour of Darren Bravo, the established No. 3, "for personal reasons", added to the intrigue, although it would have to be extremely urgent for him to quit at a time when his brother is captain.

Nothing so undermines any organisation - more especially a sporting team losing heavily in a distant land - than disharmony. It was a charge levelled by Dwayne Bravo once he was in New Zealand to take over from Darren Sammy as captain of the ODI team, with Test captain Sammy now under him.

"Before we played the game, I really stressed on unity as the team was lacking in that lately, and hence the reason why we have been playing so poorly," he said.

Whether intended or not, it was an indictment of the leadership of Sammy, head coach Ottis Gibson and team manager Richie Richardson.

It also amounted to a dismissal of the relevance of the laid-back, expensive week-long "Elite Team Tour" in Florida prior to departure for India that board president Dave Cameron saw as an exercise aimed at creating "a culture of unity, winning and overall success". Certainly Bravo observed no "culture of unity" as a result.

Before Bravo's comments, Richardson spoke of indiscipline among the players, as manager surely a matter for which he is responsible, while Sammy and Gibson were at odds over what the repercussions from the overall debacle would be.

In a wide ranging interview on New Zealand radio, Richardson declined to blame the players for everything.

"You have to blame the system," he said. "If people are allowed to do certain things and get away with it then, you can't blame them. It's tough for me; that's not what I'm accustomed to."

He spelt out what he was accustomed to during his years on one of the most committed, disciplined West Indies team in the 1980s.

"As soon as you get on the (bus), you need to be ready," he said. "The opposition needs to know you're serious and ready for business. You put on your game face and you're ready for action, ready for business, ready to work, ready to go to war." It bothered him "when you see guys hang around the changing room at the ground, doing nothing, like they're still back at the hotel room".

It was the authority he commands, as a former West Indies captain with 86 Tests to his name, that presumably influenced the WICB to appoint him manager to deal with such indifference. Instead, he chose to simply blame the system.

The most pertinent comment out of the whole sorry mess was Sammy's - "We cannot continue like this". It is a no-brainer. "There are tough decisions to be made by the coach and the director of cricket (Richard Pybus)," he acknowledged. "Some careers are on the line, could be mine as well, you never know."

As coach, Gibson's position is clearly as tenuous as Sammy's; he sees it somewhat differently.

"When you've just lost a series, and the way we've lost, emotions run high and people start talking about careers being on the line and it's a bit premature," he told the media after the third Test defeat in Hamilton. "We can get home, let the dust settle and assess where we are. We can come up with a plan, but also decide who the right personnel are."

In the end, it is up to the selection panel to decide on the "right personnel"; it is by no means premature for the present trio to be replaced.

Their complacency after four years was palpable in their decision to pick the identical squad for New Zealand as was thrashed in India. Chadwick Walton, in the redundant role of reserve wicketkeeper, has not played a Test or an ODI in either, Sheldon Cottrell was not called on in the three Tests in New Zealand, Shannon Gabriel in one.

Chairman Clyde Butts and Robert Haynes are in New Zealand, where they can observe the contrasting conditions and opposition in the two countries. Unfortunately, it's too late.

The ramifications from a similarly disastrous tour of New Zealand 13 years ago may be instructive at this time.

West Indies were then beaten in both Tests, by nine wickets in four days in the first (after ending the first day 282 for 1) and by an innings in four days in the second; they also lost all five ODIs.

On return to the Caribbean, Brian Lara resigned as captain and took a complete break from the game, stating that "after two years, the moderate success and devastating failure that has engulfed West Indies cricket has brought me to the realisation that there is need for me to withdraw from my present leadership position".

He was replaced by Jimmy Adams for the home series against Pakistan; the venerable Clive Lloyd, disenchanted with limitations on his role, quit as manager, a position that went to Ricky Skerritt; Sir Viv Richards, then interim coach, was supplanted by Roger Harper; Dennis Waight, the admired, long-serving trainer/physio, retired after more than 20 years.

"These are traumatic times for the West Indies," Lloyd said at the time. "There are a lot of things wrong at the moment."

Not much has changed in the interim. They hardly will now but, as Sammy observes, "We cannot continue like this".

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kamau on January 4, 2014, 23:06 GMT

    Here we go again!! While alot of what has been said (including by the knowledgable Mr Cozier) I do not see or hear any tangible solutions. Sack Gibson. Sack Sammy. Divide the region. In my humble opinion these are all weak reactions. One thing I do believe is that the tenures of the board should be electable on a yearly basis for the time being. Why? Because those whose 'heart & soul' is in the region will focus on the job in hand. Those out for themselves and who attempt to position themselves unaccountable will not see any long term financial benefit. The next solution I propose is that the home support boycott all home matches (whether Test, ODI, T20 or CPL) until the board make themselves available for an open panel meeting the 'real' support groups of WI cricket, the fans. Let the WICB sit in front of the fans and firstly state that THEY are responsible for the current state, and not hide in their respective executive boxes. Then, we begin the process to rebuild...

  • Dummy4 on January 3, 2014, 7:46 GMT

    it is perfect time for west indies team step down from international cricket and play with india-A team,aussie-A team and SA-A team...

  • orsca on January 2, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    SIMPLE,SIMPLE, SIMPLE, NO Gibson equals to improvement.

  • Derek on January 2, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    The present system is broken one possible solution is for T&T to break away. Recruit and build the structure needed for the future. I suggest T&T as it holds its own in the champions trophy, has more 'marketable' professionals and can easily recruit at grassroots. Once such a structure is in place it the replaces the current outdated system.

  • H on January 1, 2014, 21:39 GMT

    A lot of folks are blaming Otis Gibson for the WI problems. Some are saying that the problem stems from not including certain players, and that those players could have been used to build the team around. Well the players mentioned, all senior players, were part of the losing that was going on for years. I can bet that those same players are the ones that Richardson and others referenced when they talk about the lack of pressionalism and work ethic. Gayle, Sarwan, Samuels and Dwane Bravo should have been the ones along with Chanderpaul driving this team and setting the professionalism and work ethic for the younger players coming in. I can assure you if they were, the WI team would be in a much better position. Instead, what do you have? Players that do not take their profession seriously enough to put in the hard work that's necessary to achieve success. THAT IS THE PROBLEM. IT IS NOT GIBSON.

  • John on January 1, 2014, 11:37 GMT

    I said after the first year that Gibson started his coaching that he is not a coach. Absolutely nothing has improved. As a matter of fact, Gibson, the politician, has made the situation worst than when he started.I remembered what he tried to do to Gayle, chanderpaul and sarwan. He could have used these guys to build a better W.I team. Even Sammy is turning against him. When are you going to save face by resigning Gibson? Of course you are not the only problem but you have to go first and then the selectors.

  • Dummy4 on January 1, 2014, 0:22 GMT

    Gibson walked in Fired players that Ave. over 40 in all formats ... Sarwan, Chander, Gayle, Etc. He choose players with no of limited first class experience. After Deonarine completed a full A Team tour of India He dropped Deonarine from India first Test. He told Deonarine he is selected but on playing probation....never heard of that. Gibson Get real.

  • quigley on December 31, 2013, 16:44 GMT

    This is a very sad time for our cricket, growing up it was almost impossible for WI to lose but now it is as hard for us to win a game. what is going on with our cricket. many people are blaming the coach, captain, sectlors. but it is the guys who are payed thousands refuse to get the job done. let us face the facts if you are paying a man to do a job for you will you keep on paying him if he is not doing the job. this so call stars are so terrible at their job it is unbelivable. yet they are payed. i watch this guys batted, i know i am better than this guys, they have no idea of how to play the moving ball. samuel after 11 years in international cricket would stand in the crease and wave at the ball. the truth is non of this guys can bat. on a given day they will give you some runs but that is not their quality. Brovo scored a double in one inn but did not reach 250 in the next 3 inn. Shanda is the only batter in this side; it is not captain or corch but every man must stand up.

  • kent on December 31, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    Mr. Cozier, thanks for your article and more importantly for all your years of journalistic vigilance you have freely given to WI cricket over so many years. Sir, you have done a fantastic job.In the filed of journalism, you are a giant in cricket over all and WI in particular. I dream of the day when there is drastic and revolutionary change in the administrative structure of the WICB and the infrastructure of the regional bodies. Suspend cricket for a period of time, mandate all stakeholders (WICB, regional associations and the island governments) to come together in a symposium in one of the islands and broadcasted live to all territories, allowing inputs from the WI people to form a new body to administer cricket in the region and chart the way forward. It is the only way to advance from this point, we cannot continue to apply clean bandages that only conceal a large festering gangrenous wound. We need to perform urgent surgery. But then I am only dreaming, aren't I?

  • Orlando on December 31, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    So much of what has been said here is totally true, in addition to the points made with typical journalistic diplomacy by Tony Cozier. One of the roots of the problem is the fact that the WICBC and its selectors etc. are NOT ACCOUNTABLE TO ANYONE! In every other cricket playing nation the board, selectors and management in general are answerable to the fans. Not so with WI cricket. As a result they can do whatsoever they wish and all we can do is sit on the sidelines and gripe. When people with worldwide acclaim like Tony Cozier or our great players (Holding, Lloyd,Viv, etc.) are totally ignored, that tells you all you need to know about the people running our cricket and how much trouble we are in. We have seen democracy brought to some of the remotest areas on earth but it hasn't yet reached WICBC? Why? And what are WE going to do about it?

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