Mental weakness and too much yakking August 12, 2007

A lot of long talk

Ramnaresh Sarwan and interim coach David Moore during the England tour © Getty Images

Apart from the realisation that he didn't like Bennett King very much, and that he perceived political, rather than cricket grounds for his omission in the second Test in Pakistan last November, Ramnaresh Sarwan's comments from Toronto last week confirmed two reasons for the present state of West Indies cricket.

The first is that the practice of airing every perceived grievance in public has now become an entrenched and destructive part of the culture. The second is that the general mental weakness of the players, correctly identified by a host of observers, from Brian Lara to Ken Gordon, as a prime cause of the decline, extends beyond the field of play.

The purpose of the new captain's denigration of head coach King as "one of the worst coaches I have had" was as pointless as its timing. The Australian has already quit and is long since back in his native Brisbane where they are likely to hold to Lara's more considerate view of their man than to Sarwan's.

It is the time for the new captain to look forward in hope, not backwards in bitterness. He has a great opportunity to build a team that can regain the competitiveness and respect it has increasingly lost, whoever the coach, whoever the captain. For that, he needs to create a close rapport with King's successor and adopt an attitude of compromise and co-operation that is the hallmark of captaincy.

When Sarwan meets with Julian Hunte sometime soon, the new president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) might just point out to him the damage already created by similar verbal conflicts between those in leadership positions.

Dinanath Ramnarine has criticised just about everyone who has ever opposed him within the WICB, and in turn, has been sledged by WICB officials. Lara publicly turned on the selectors and the ground staff during the series against India last year. Chris Gayle has had his say about WICB bungling and been "severely reprimanded" in turn by the WICB president. The new chief executive has dissed as "incompetent", players who have hit back at his management style.

Through it all, results on the field remain an embarrassment to the good name of West Indies cricket.

While Ramnarine and the WICB argued about how many arbitrations they had won and lost, they seemed not to care about how many Test matches were won and lost. Hunte has already moved to make peace with Ramnarine by including him on the board. He could be somewhat more direct with Sarwan by telling him, as politely as he can, to leave out the bad-mouthing and get on with it.

Few teams reach the top without committing to tough training and full fitness

Hunte might need some psychological help to erase the persecution complex the players have developed that is the basis of the mental weakness they carry onto the field.

One of Sarwan's beefs about King was that "he was also very aggressive and vocally abusive to certain players to the point where he even threatened them". Threatened them with what, he did not say, but we can take it that he meant with dismissal from the team.

WIPA complained to the WICB a few years back that Viv Richards, then chairman, and other selectors had "verbally belittled and threatened" players. According to WIPA, some players received death threats during the altercation over contracts prior to the 2005 South Africa tour of the West Indies. Tony Howard, then team manager, was said to have pressured team members during the split later that year, in Sri Lanka.

Players have complained about training regimes that are too tough, prompting the premature resignation of the most recent fitness trainer, and have objected to over-strict curfews.

There are few successful coaches or captains in any sport who do not badger charges [when] they believe [they]are not fulfilling their potential, as is palpably the case with West Indies. Few teams reach the top without committing to tough training and full fitness. Those who take personal offence at such an approach invariably flounder.