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.

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Posted by Android on (January 5, 2014, 3:00 GMT)

bring back shiv in odi. Gibson building team for the world cup and they can't even beat Zimbabwe right now.

Posted by Zeus on (January 5, 2014, 3:19 GMT) all I can say. As a committed West Indies fan I am no longer motivated to even follow the matches they play. I think the authorities and cricket think tanks in the Caribbean try to compare the present day teams too much with players of the past and expect them to perform in a similar fashion. What they haven't realised is that cricket round the world has changed so much over the last 20 years....the teams are fitter, the players have so much more physical and psychological support behind short, the other boards are investing a whole lot more money in their teams. Not sure what WICB is doing financially, but whatever it is, it isn't working....I hope that 2014 will open some eyes and maybe some pockets so that cricket fans in the Caribbean can get some PERSISTENT satisfaction, not just one match every 5 or 10....

Posted by dan on (January 5, 2014, 4:12 GMT)

the icc needs to step in and turn the tide with the west indies.

the west indies with Jamaica,Trinidad and Tobago,Guyana,Barbados,the leeward island and windward islands have combined population of 3 million people.

the west indies needs to expand to other Caribbean nations to boost their player base.

i would set up a west indies division 2 comprising of Bahamas,Belize,Suriname,Cuba,Netherlands Antilles,Dominican republic,Haiti(you could combine Haiti and Dominican republic into Hispaniola) and when they improve add them to division 1 to play in west indies domestic team.

edgar davids is from Suriname, thierry henri is from Guadeloupe,omari banks is from Anguilla, viv richards and curtly ambrose are from Antigua so small Caribbean islands can contribute to world sport.

on thier own Suriname,Bahamas,Cuba,Belize,Hispaniola,Netherlands Antilles would never compete in world cricket, but joining with the west indies they can contribute players and watch test cricket

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 5, 2014, 4:56 GMT)

Charles indeed score some runs as an opener early in the year - but in the second half of the year i'd say his batting was vey much that of a village slogger. I wouldn't have him in future ODI teams. Simmons batted pretty solid in the second half on the year though. I'd put Gayle down as the fading star more - Samuels certainly didn't maintain his 2012 exploits. Gayle has never been a technically sound player, but his technique looked a genuine mess all year. Just like how India dumped Sehwag - i have serious concern Gayle may go down this route in 2014. The Windies selectors the most slamming though. Their constant selection of Sammy in the test team & general squad selections have been mid-boggling: Why was Narine not playing tests? Why was Gabriel playing in recent test in IND/NZ & not Holder, why was Deonarine/Permaul in the test team ahead of Simmons/Miller, why has Barnwell played T20s & not Kevon Cooper, how did we let Jordan go to England ...the selectors have been HORRIBLE!

Posted by $$ milind on (January 5, 2014, 5:11 GMT)

Unfortunately there are a lot more cons than pros and it hurts to see a team whose attitude to play the game was appreciated by the whole world in 2012 in such shambolic state. West Indies would really want Samuels to stand up and the Bravo bros to rise up now. I fear West Indies will be nowhere in that 2015 WC.

Posted by dan on (January 5, 2014, 6:11 GMT)

one of the west indies advantages is most islands have small populations.

each island should have an academy with best 50 young cricketers for under 15s, under 17s and under 19s.

every island in the windward islands should have acadamy

Grenada should have a academy st Vincent should have a academy Grenadines should have a academy st Lucia should have a academy Martinique should have a academy Dominica should have a academy Guadeloupe have a academy

the leeward island should have a acadamy for each island aswell

Montserrat should have a academy st Kitts should have a academy nevis should have a academy st maarten should have a academy Antigua should have a academy Barbuda should have a academy Anguilla should have a academy British virgin islands should have a academy

also build academies for Belize,Suriname,Cuba,Hispaniola,Turks and Caicos islands,Bahamas to speed up their development from division 2 to division 1

with in 10 years the west indies would be good again

Posted by dan on (January 5, 2014, 6:32 GMT)

the west indies also needs academies on the traditional islands such as Jamaica,Trinidad and Tobago,Guyana and Barbados

the should get the best 50 young cricketers for under 15s,under 17s & under 19s

Trinidad should have academies in Port of Spain & San Fernando Tobago should also have a academy in Scarborough

Jamaica should have academies in Kingston and Montego Bay

Barbados should have an academy in Bridgetown

Guyana should have academies in Georgetown and surrounding areas, one in Barima Waini in the west near Venezuela, one in New Amsterdam in the east near Suriname and academies in the interior like east Berbice,upper Essequibo & upper Takutu and so on.

with in 10 years the west indies would be competitive with the academies and west indies division 2

they would be in a far better position than what they are today

i have always had an interest west indies cricket and it hurts to see them struggle, something has to be done to turn it around

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 5, 2014, 6:38 GMT)

well written, speaks the true state of west indies cricket.major changes must occur at the administration level. mr. clive hubert lloyld must be given a leading role in implementing these changes. he is the icon of what leadership is all about

Posted by ESPN on (January 5, 2014, 8:16 GMT)

Leaving out the Windward and Leeward Islands out of the academic setup is sending the wrong message. The bigger Islands critics are spending too much time worrying about Daren Sammy instead of the team as a whole.

Posted by Orlando on (January 5, 2014, 11:07 GMT)

This may be utter folly on my part but how about these 6 changes for the future. 1. Make the WICBC accountable to the people. 2. Find selectors who can utilize common sense and have a cricket brain. 3. Find a coach who is outside the petty politics of WI cricket and who can inspire and teach. 4. Pick only players who are in form and hungry, regardless of age or past history. 5. Find ways to get a core of 20 - 25 young players involved in cricket overseas when not playing WI regional cricket. 6. Pick captains on merit alone from the squad of in-form players. Sorry, I know this a load of nonsense so ignore it.

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