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West Indies cricket

May 7, 2014

Caribbean national sides, anyone?

Martin Jones

Darren Sammy and Andre Russell congratulate Samuel Badree, Pakistan v West Indies, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur, April 1, 2014
Despite their good recent performances in the World Twenty20, the West Indies are far from a cricketing force these days © AFP
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Teams: West Indies

Much as I'm sure everyone hates to admit it, Allen Stanford might well have been onto something. I'm not on about the whole billion-dollar fraud and landing his chopper on the Nursery Ground, I'm on about the West Indian islands fielding national teams.

It seems to be an odd quirk in cricket that the West Indies are united under a single banner for international cricket, similar in fact to east-European sports teams continuing to operate under a Yugoslavian banner. And however rich the cricketing tradition attached to the West Indies team, Coming to America puts it best when Prince Akeem says that "it is also tradition that times must and always do change". It's time that the West Indies changed.

Despite their good recent performances in the World Twenty20, the West Indies are far from a cricketing force these days. They regularly crumble against world-class opposition, and until Darren Sammy got everyone pulling in a similar direction, they went through a stage of struggling horribly for leadership too. Despite this, there are still loud and respected voices calling for Sammy's head with alarming regularity.

The West Indies Cricket Board comprises of six associations, representing Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands. The Windwards include Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines; The Leewards include Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis, St Kitts, St Maarten, and the Virgin Islands (both British and American). To co-ordinate these many organisations is a persistent logistical and political nightmare for all concerned.

Allen Stanford claimed that a Twenty20 knockout could reinvigorate cricket in the West Indies. In reality, he was just adding window-dressing to a competition that was at best illicitly-funded, and at worst a money-laundering scheme. Not that anyone was to know that, although perhaps the hosting of every game at the Stanford Cricket Ground indicated that altruism was far from his top priority.

All the same, Stanford got things done, by fair means or foul. His first tournament included nineteen teams, and the second made room for two more, although Cuba never made it onto the field. The format of pitting nation against nation was widely acclaimed as a fantastic initiative, but when Stanford went down in flames, the format burned with him.

West Indian cricket has always been dominated by four nations: Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and T&T. A look at their player pools reveals precisely why.

Barbados, for instance, have a bowling battery that includes Tino Best, Carlos Brathwaite, Miguel Cummings, Fidel Edwards, Jason Holder, Kevin McClean, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach and Javon Searles bowling seam, while Sulieman Benn, Ryan Hinds and Ashley Nurse spin the ball. When you add the batting ability of Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Kyle Corbin, Kirk Edwards, Omar Phillips and Kevin Stoute, then you get a good, if bowling-heavy, international team.

Guyana, too, showed against Ireland that they could mix it as an international team. Picking eleven out of Trevon Griffith, Shiv Chanderpaul, Assad Fudadin, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Narsingh Deonarine, Leon Johnson, Christopher Barnwell, Derwin Christian, Veerasammy Permaul, Devandra Bishoo, Paul Wintz and Ronsford Beaton gives you a well-balanced and powerful team. Of course, there is more talent also waiting in the wings. For decades, the Berbice-Demerara fixture used to hold first-class status.

Jamaica, meanwhile, have the drawcards. Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Andre Russell - these are the players who fill stadiums. It pays, though, not to forget the likes of Nkrumah Bonner, Chadwick Walton, Carlton Baugh, Tamar Lambert, David Bernard, Jerome Taylor, Sheldon Cottrell, Nikita Miller and Krishmar Santokie. It's no fluke that even when their big names are away playing Twenty20 cricket, Jamaica usually busy themselves with slugging it out against Barbados's bowlers for the Headley-Weekes Trophy. Jamaica have won it six times out of the last eight.

Trinidad and Tobago, though, are the ones that everyone talks about, the ones who grab all the headlines, the ones who play Twenty20 best. Of course, when your player pool includes Adrian Barath, both Bravos, Lendl Simmons, Jason Mohammed, Dinesh Ramdin, Nicolas Pooran, Kieran Pollard, Shannon Gabriel and Rayad Emrit, perhaps this isn't such a surprise. However, the real strength is in the spin department. As well as T20 trump cards Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree, T&T is also home to Ryan Austin, Yannick Cariah, Amit Jaggernauth, Kavesh Kantasingh, Dave Mohammed and Yannick Ottley. On low, turning home surfaces, this is not a friendly proposition. Additionally, the T&T domestic competition also once held first-class status.

But it isn't just the big four nations who would be competitive. Antigua and Barbuda (Austin Richards, Sylvester Joseph, Devon Thomas, Rahkeem Cornwall, Anthony Martin, Gavin Tonge), St Lucia (Johnson Charles, Craig Emmanuel, Keddy Lesporis, Darren Sammy, Garey Mathurin) and St Vincent (Sunil Ambris, Miles Bascombe, Romel Currency, Lindon James, Alston Bobb, Orlanzo Jackson, Delorn Johnson, Keon Peters) would all be testing for top-end Associate sides. The cricketing potential of the West Indies is best unleashed if it ceases to be the West Indies.

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Martin Jones is a teenage swing bowler. He blogs regularly at the Popping Crease, and has an avid interest in the game at all levels.

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Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 27, 2014, 18:27 GMT)

From a cricket fan's perspective, stay united. Cricket needs newer teams, not splintered versions of the existing ones!

Posted by Donna on (May 27, 2014, 14:39 GMT)

I think this logic is a bit flawed here. The first class cricket I'm watching in the Caribbean can hardly be called first class. How is it going to compete in the International arena? Make no mistake- it's united we stand a chance but divided we fall flat on our faces. And die! This Bajan isn't ready to finish watching cricket yet!

Posted by tarif on (May 12, 2014, 21:03 GMT)

the writer is just thinking about selecting a squad which is not a deep thinking at all. A nation can not emerge as a cricketing nation unless there are enough potential cricketer in hand. Just picking some names who have done well or average in the recent past doesnt mean the separation of the countries will still be good enough. I dont even think that these players can form a competing squad as a national team. West Indies should not be separated.

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 12, 2014, 13:42 GMT)

I think it is time when the W.I selectors start picking teams on average and not on looks . Cricket is played on the pitch , not in the board rooms.

Posted by Jaydeep on (May 12, 2014, 4:29 GMT)

Doesn't this already happen in Caribbean domestic cricket? I think the Pybus Report recommendation that international cricketers should be asked to play much more first class cricket than they do at the moment is the right way forward to make WI the force they used to be in Tests.

Posted by sachit on (May 11, 2014, 6:30 GMT)

Good Points, however it might be too drastic to immediately apply this to Test cricket. However it will be a good idea to experiment this in T20 cricket. For example, have a regional T20 tournament to select one or two national teams (not franchises) to represent the WI in the world T20. Also a tour by a full member nation to the WI could comprise of Test and ODI's against the WI team along with 4-5 T20's with national teams (Barbados, T&T etc.) If it seems to work then it can slowly be applied to ODI's and tests in the future. If I remember correctly during the 1998 Commonwealth games cricket event, WI were represented by national sides.

Posted by Jonathan on (May 10, 2014, 12:50 GMT)

Always nice to hear a left-field proposition once in a while Martin but I don't think this one has legs if West Indies cricket is to even try and regain its former glories.

I am not a close observer of cricket in the Caribbean so I am not sure of the truth of all the factors cited in its decline (American sports taking away fans etc), but it seems to me that the most successful period in its history (mid 70s to late 80s) was founded not only on terrific players but the strong leadership of Clive Lloyd and then Viv Richards.

Each in their different ways was able to unite the players under them so that inter-island rivalries were kept under control. No captain of the Windies since has had quite the respect (in Clive Lloyd's case) or awe (in Viv's case).

If you take the view that these inter-island rivalries are what prevent the W.I. gaining ascendancy then your idea is certainly an attractive one but the pool of Test level players (already small) would only diminish further surely?

Posted by Ashutosh on (May 10, 2014, 7:32 GMT)

If you split them up, I doubt the pool of players in each nation is significant enough to provide high quality cricketers in all three formats of international cricket. This is very well articulated by Martin Crowe in his article last year -

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 10, 2014, 6:37 GMT)

The problem is that once you split them up then I believe those halcyon days of the 80's are gone forever, never to be repeated. Sure I think they could produce some decent teams, in the way that Sri Lanka or New Zealand can, but could a Jamaica, Barbados or T&T ever rise to the heights of a West Indies team that was truly unified? I doubt it. Worse, what if these teams end up in the same state as a Zimbabwe or US national teams? West Indies cricket is hardly known for its spectacular governance. While it may be an attractive proposition for many people in the Caribbean I think the rest of the cricketing world would be greatly saddened by such a move.

Posted by Ali on (May 9, 2014, 18:54 GMT)

unfair to judge on stats ? @Martin Jones .. that is precisely the WICB's problem ...

players are thrust into Test cricket with absolutely rubbish stats ....

Stats are the best way to judge players in the longer format...

In ODI and 20/20...stat do lie ....

Lower order batsmen will always have lower averages .... and Bowlers who are used at the death will always have higher economy rates ...

In short forms you need to look at the context of each individual innings ...

But yeah.... When Mev Dillon can be dropped for under-performing at an average of 34...and be replaced by Darren Powell with a bowling average of 47 ... because some finds Powell "LOOKS" like a good bowler ...

then we have real issues ...

Also remember Hooper was also picked in front of Lara, for sheer "looks"

Junior Murray and Courtney Brown , played in front of Jacobs because of LOOKS as well ! ! !

Stats are always a better judge of ability than "LOOKS" ....

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