One stride forward, three back

West Indies were mostly sloppy and lacked the resilient spirit that had come to define their cricket in 2012
Garth Wattley January 5, 2014

Shane Shillingford was outstanding through 2013 and his suspension for an illegal bowling action was a body blow to West Indies cricket © WICB Media/Randy Brooks Photo

In 2012, West Indies were a team showing signs of improvement. Their efforts in 2013, however, represented definite backsliding. The cautious optimism the stakeholders in Caribbean cricket harboured at the turn of the year was quashed by a series of reversals. It was a year of regression.

The promising run of six consecutive Test wins that had began in 2012 in the Caribbean came to an abrupt halt in India and now West Indies have lost four of the their last five Tests. Unlike in 2012, there was no global title to celebrate. West Indies' journey in the Champions Trophy in England was ended by the combination of Duckworth-Lewis and an untimely Kieron Pollard dismissal before the semi-final stage.

They also had another losing one-day record, winning just nine of 24 matches. Their T20 showing was better: three wins and two losses. But it was the manner in which West Indies played, or rather, did not play, that was the real cause for concern.

In their seven Tests, they lost by an innings three times, including both matches on the belatedly arranged tour of India and then once more on the visit to New Zealand.

On home turf in the ODIs, after winning their opening two matches of the tri-nation series and seemingly well placed to reach the final, West Indies lost their remaining two games to India, the eventual winners, and Sri Lanka. In those matches and in the Test defeats, West Indies were sloppy and lacking the resilient spirit that had come to define their cricket in 2012.

The nucleus of the squad deployed in the various formats had not changed. The selectors attempted to show faith in the same group in the hope that the players would mature relatively quickly. They stuck faithfully with Kieran Powell, the Nevisian opener who had put together three centuries the previous year, including two in the same Test against Bangladesh. But Powell never reached those standards in 2013, ending it averaging an unsatisfactory 20.00.

The selectors had also introduced fast bowler Shannon Gabriel on the 2012 tour of England, and they gave him another go, following his recovery from a back injury, against Zimbabwe, India (as a replacement for Kemar Roach) and New Zealand. But after a promising effort against the newly reintroduced Zimbabweans in two Tests, he fell away so dramatically that he was out of the side for the final Test against New Zealand.

Roach and Ravi Rampaul, as productive a new-ball pair as West Indies have had since the retirements of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, could not stay fit enough to share the new ball for anything like a sustained period. Rampaul was either unavailable because of injury, or simply not risked in any Test, while Roach - one of the world's leading bowlers in 2012 - managed just the two Tests against Zimbabwe. Andre Russell's form was such that he played only four ODIs and three T20s all year.

Dwayne Bravo tried to bring energy and aggression to the one-day captaincy, but his lack of runs will have been a worry. Sammy's quiet year meant that his allrounder's spot remained under scrutiny

The absence of a settled bowling attack meant that by the latter part of the year, Darren Sammy's Test team had become overly dependent on Shane Shillingford's offspin; an option that ran out after his subsequent suspension from international cricket.

Just as debilitating to the team cause in the Test and one-day formats was the decline of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. Gayle averaged 19-plus in an ODI season, and in the four Tests he played before a hamstring injury curtailed his year, he averaged 40. The bulk of those runs came against Zimbabwe. But in general, Gayle's runs were not influential or match-winning. His quick exits put extra pressure on his partners - Powell in the Tests, Johnson Charles in the ODIs, and No. 3 Darren Bravo in both formats.

Pollard started the year strongly in the ODI series in Australia, but faded before injury ended his season too. His made six scores of 0 in 17 one-day innings.

The lack of production from those pillars of the team may have been due to a variety of reasons. But those failures gave the less established support cast the chance to embrace more responsibility. They did not quite do that. And that collective inability to handle the extra pressure and add quality to their individual games was as much the reason for West Indies' disappointing year as anything else.

Darren Bravo was fairly consistent in the ODIs, with one century and six fifties. But he needed to make more of some of those good starts. His double-century in the Dunedin Test was the highlight of a disappointing Test match run. It was an innings constructed under great pressure and was the difference between an honourable draw and a heavy defeat. However, two failures followed in Wellington. It is the sustained production of innings of both quantity and quality that the selectors still anxiously await.

His captains - Sammy in the Tests and T20s and brother Dwayne in the ODIs - badly need the support. Their own 2013 form was below par and neither could compensate for their failures in other departments of the game. Bravo, given the one-day captaincy, tried to bring energy and aggression to the job. But his lack of runs will have been a worry. Sammy's quiet year, with the ball especially, meant that his allrounder's spot remained under scrutiny.

Unsurprisingly, the veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul, now past 11,000 Test runs, was one of the precious few who maintained his level of performance, as did the offspinner Sunil Narine in ODIs and T20s. His six-wicket haul in his sole Test of the year also boosted what has been a slow start to his Test career.

Apart from those two, wicketkeeper-batsman and vice-captain Denesh Ramdin quietly shored up his place in the Test side in 2013. His century under pressure in the final Test against New Zealand contributed to a healthy average of 45.55 for the year. Three centuries in the last 18 months represent encouraging returns. At least in his case, the report card could be marked "improved".

Johnson Charles takes the aerial route, India v West Indies, 1st ODI, Kochi, November 21, 2013
Johnson Charles improved his credentials as an opening batsman in the shorter formats in 2013 © BCCI

High point
The biggest ray of sunshine was provided by the inaugural season of the Caribbean Premier League. The T20 franchise series captivated the public across the region, without exception. It brought atmosphere and fresh enthusiasm to grounds long devoid of those ingredients. It provided more work for players in the Caribbean, brought a few more into the limelight, and demonstrated the potential to get more youngsters genuinely interested in the game.

Low point
The three innings defeats, especially the two in India in Sachin Tendulkar's farewell series, were alarming and dispiriting. But Shilingford's suspension from international cricket for a second time for an illegal action summed up West Indies' year. The offspinner was prolific, bagging 36 wickets to emerge in 2013 as a bowler the team could rely on. His removal was a body blow, not only for the player but the team as a whole. It was a case of one stride forward, three well back.

New kid on the block
It was not his first year of international cricket, but Johnson Charles improved his credentials as an opening batsman in the shorter formats with some substantial innings. He chose a tough tour to Australia in which to score his maiden ODI century, in a series the tourists lost 5-0. He followed an even 100 in Melbourne in February with 130 against Zimbabwe later that same month. More prudent shot selection bore results for this fearless attacker. But choice of shots and choice of time to play them is an area that Charles will have to work on if he is to become a true asset to the side.

Fading star
Samuels, so outstanding for his focus in 2012, had a slow start to the year because of an eye injury. He never caught himself and did not seem to have the same resolve at the crease that had defined his batting in 2012. A chronic wrist problem, which eventually caused him to leave the New Zealand tour ahead of the limited-overs series, may have had something to do with some of those failures. Now that he is almost 33, there ought to be at least two good years left for Samuels to use his obvious gifts in West Indies' cause. The big question, however, is whether the motivation he seemed to lack in 2013 will return.

What 2014 holds
West Indies stumbled through the last two months of 2013 giving off a sense of insecurity and uncertainty that has come to define too many seasons.

For once, friction between the administrators and the players' body was not a source of turmoil. New leadership on both sides has brought more civil, less public exchanges. The Caribbean Premier League also put some wind in the sails of the WICB ship. But the disastrous results in India and New Zealand at the end of the year were a reminder of the rough waters West Indies cricket is still in.

The Darren Sammy-Ottis Gibson captain-coach combination that had coaxed, spirited and committed cricket from their charges in 2012, did not do the same in 2013. Darren Bravo's departure from the West Indies ODI series for "personal reasons" still unexplained at the time of writing, left room for unhealthy speculation. And comments about a lack of team unity by his brother, ODI skipper Dwayne, when he joined the tour, pointed to a team in crisis. In his comments after the Test series in New Zealand, Sammy, an admirable leader in many respects, sounded like a man who had reached his limit.

His time at the helm could well be at an end. But what new WICB president Dave Cameron and his board directors must also realise is that Sammy has done the best he could with what he has had to work with. The failures of technique and application that led to embarrassment and disappointment this year, were a reflection not just on individuals but of the problems existing at grass-roots level in the Caribbean. That state of play will not be changing in 2014.

Cameron boldly said back in June: "Anything that I am able to achieve in my presidency will be as a result of what we were able to achieve on the field."

He should brace himself for some trying times.

Posted by Alexei on (January 9, 2014, 19:33 GMT)

Wouldn't the new kid on the block for the year 2013 be Jason Holder? Everyone frm anywhere he's played has been impressed with him and has been the bowler that has featured in almost all ODI squads this year... Besides its his first year of international cricket

Posted by shetto on (January 9, 2014, 3:17 GMT)

I think the west indies can still have a good team - their fast bowler Kemar Roach needs a bit of coaching from the likes of someone like Dennis Lillee and he can be as threating and accurate as Mitchell Johnson.

My Test XI: Chris Gayle, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, Dwayn Bravo, Johnson Charles, Darren Sammy, Roach, Tino Best, Miller

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 23:06 GMT)

Sadly our crop of batsmen are technically deficient. We have to do so much work with the 6-11 year old kids. The encouraging thing is that a few of them understand the technical breakdown of an off-drive and many of the cricket shots including the back foot punch. We have to help our players understand the science of cricket, the use of angles and geometry. But all of this boils down to execution with the little that we have between the ears.

The current WICB grass roots program needs a shot in the arm. It is still consider what I call "lets pretend that we are doing something to improve", so typical of our Caribbean organisations. We need to look into the WICB' approach to Enterprise Governance. Cameron appears confused about his role as Chairman and behaves more like a CEO without the strategic focus. Cameron must understanding leadership is not about trying to befriend unprofessional players with no standards. What about all the great work that Dr, Hilaire started?

Posted by flickspin on (January 6, 2014, 3:21 GMT)

apparently thier is a lot of talent in the rural villages but thier are no academies to go to, and no public transport to get them to cricket practice in the major cities,

maybe the government can create scholarships and create academies.

a academy might have cost a $1000000 to build and $50000 to run

australia has the centre of ecellence with under 19s and younger, if you look around the world most teams have a very professional set up

rather than 1 centre of excellence, the west indies should have academies on every island and 2 academies on bigger islands.

the west indies have a combined population of 5 miliion people

only new zealand have a smaller population of 4 million

ban have a population of 120 million people ind have a population of 1 billion people pak have population of 140 million s.l have a population of 20 miliion aus have a population of 22 million u.k have population of 60 million s.a have a population of 50 million zim have a population of 15 million

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 1:37 GMT)

Werner Blomberg is on point here; otherwise, the quality of our thoughts here define the team we deserve...

Posted by   on (January 6, 2014, 0:38 GMT)

The downside started with the election of the new WICB president they were quick to give dwayne bravo ODI captaincy. All the hard work done by the guys down the drain all in the name of politics and that small islander cant be captain

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 23:49 GMT)

My wish for 2014 that West Indies Cricket Team change the following: Coach: Bryan Davis; Bowling Coach: Colin Croft; Batting: Desmond Haynes; Test Team: Keiron Pollard (Capt). 1. Chris Gayle; 2. Kraigg Brathwaite; 3. Darren Brav0; 4. Assad Faudin; 5. Shiv Chanderpaul; 7. Johnaton Charles (WK); 8.Sunil Narine; 9.Ravi Rampaul; 10. Jason Holder; 11. Kemar Roach; 12. Nikata Miller; 13. Lendel Simmonds; 14. Migeul Cummins; 15. Kirk Edwards; 16. Dwyane Bravo. 50 Overs: Keiron Pollard (Capt). 1. Chris Gayle; 2. Johnaton Charles;3. Darren Bravo; 4. Marlon Samuels; 5. Dwayne Bravo; 7. Andre Russel; 8. Darren Sammy; 9. Sunil Narine; 10. Ravi Rampaul; 11. Jason Holder; 12. Stephen Jacobs; 13.Ryard Emrit; Johnaton Carter; 15. Kris Santokie;

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 23:33 GMT)

Besides the obvious team selection issues: 1.Bring back the fun element into all aspects of Windies cricket. 2.Ensure continuity amongst test and ODI selections. 3.Ensure that fitness levels are not lagging other national teams 4.Choose 6 batsmen,a keeper batsman and the 4 best bowlers possible for tests. 5.Formulate a bowling strategy with a leader and accurate back up 6.Watch how the young Indian batsmen (Pujara,Vijay,Kohli) and guys like Faf Du Plessis leave the ball and construct a test innings. 7.Build an effective team around the squad. 8.Use the IPL as a win-win for Windies cricket-look at how Johnson and Warner benefited. 9.Keep it simple 10.Wear the cap with pride

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 22:47 GMT)

At last, an objective article about the state of West Indian cricket - the author also pointed out that Gayle (in particular) and Marlon Samuels have been disappointing. Very few commentators mention the fact that Gayle is technically deficient as a player in Test and 50 over crciket - Marlon Samuels, is a different proposition entirely, and one is surprised by his recent loss of form and confidence, perhaps his latest injury may have played a part? Darren Bravo, could be a hell of a player, but something is wrong - he needs to get it together and show more consistency. Our cricket is mediocre, and at the moment only a standard above Zimbabwe. A revolution is needed.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 22:28 GMT)

If sammy had Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Richardson, Kallicharan, Rowe, Dujon, Lara , Marshall, Holding, Walsh, Roberts, Crost, Ambrose I wonder how good a captain he would have looked? The answer you come up with in your minds should make you stop critisizing Sammy.

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