April 29, 2012

Gibson keeps the faith

The West Indies coach does not expect extraordinary results in England, but he also doesn't expect his charges to embarrass him

Ottis Gibson's first two years in the West Indies coaching hot seat have been as testing for him as the slow, spinning pitches of the Caribbean have been for the Australian batsmen.

There was public criticism by senior pro Shivnarine Chanderpaul to weather in 2011, constant sniping at his captain Darren Sammy to combat, and the tedious year-long Chris Gayle saga to endure. But Gibson seems to be getting through the rough spell.

"I'm on a three-year contract, so I always figure that by the end of my third year, I would have a team that is doing the things I expect the team to do in terms of winning matches," he says. "If you look at how we played in India and you look at how we played against Australia, I don't think we're far off from what we're trying to do."

What Gibson is trying to do is build a team, a tight unit, one that wins. As a former West Indies player, he knew the setup he would meet would not match the one he had left; that he would have to be starting from scratch almost, not near the top as he had been.

But Gibson has quietly gone about laying his foundation, winning over young players by motivating them through his straight talk, and, especially in the case of the bowlers, through his knowledge of what it would take to make them better.

"When I came, I had all these plans of how I would like the team to be structured, how I would like the team to develop, the shape of the team, and all that. A lot of the names that were in the team at the time aren't there. So when you look at the resources that we have and the way that we are playing, I'm very proud of the way this young, inexperienced team is fighting. We will go to England with that same fight."

The contest does not look an even one on paper. England, still hurting from a bruising winter in Asia, are a different prospect on their own turf. They beat India, who were coming off a series win in the West Indies, 4-0 at home, and retained the Ashes against the Australia side that has now beaten West Indies 2-0 in the Caribbean.

West Indies' bowling department is currently the strongest part of the edifice Gibson is trying to construct. But the batting is shaky, weakened by a lack of experience rather than a lack of skill. Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo and Narsingh Deonarine, all set to go on their first Test tour to England, have played 52 Tests between them.

Gibson rates his side 6.5, at best 7, out of ten. "Obviously we know the shortcomings of the batting. But if we get the batting right, we will score quite highly and win matches."

It is not the performance against the Australians alone that has given Gibson hope. "Say the last six to 12 months, the way we played in India, we went to Bangladesh and won. We dominated India in two out of three Test matches. We weren't strong enough as a team just yet to finish them off, but you can see the signs of improvement. You can see the signs of belief starting to grow in the team."

But while Chanderpaul was, according to Gibson "unbelievable" against Australia, the travails of the top order do not portend a breakthrough summer, "simply because we've got players that haven't played in England before."

The young West Indians, however, have defied expectations already this year, twice in the shared Twenty20 and ODI series with Australia and in their dogged refusal to lose easily in the Tests.

The athletic, committed fielding, even when the chips were down, was symptomatic of a new spirit and discipline. Sammy's increasing willingness to attack, boldly declaring on Australia in Barbados and himself pushing for runs on the last day in Trinidad, was more evidence of a new ethos taking root.

"When you look at what we have been able to achieve against Australia, the amount of times we've dominated days' plays, which I don't suppose many people would have been expecting, the way that we've been able to bowl them out twice, the way that we've been able to get within 75 runs of that target [in Dominica] just shows the spirit in the team," Gibson says.

Sammy's boys will need all their gumption and then some when their English test begins. But Gibson believes in the investment West Indies cricket is making. "Those young inexperienced guys, we've shown belief in them, and they are giving a lot of effort. But some of them are learning on the job. Yes, they will make mistakes, and some of the mistakes are very obvious, but at the same time they are learning, and that's all you can ask of them. Hopefully, as they continue to learn and the team continues to grow, we believe that winning is not far away."

When his contract is up in ten months' time, Gibson expects that faith not to have been misplaced.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 2, 2012, 15:52 GMT

    There is some improvement in this WINDIES team,in the bowling & in the fielding;Yet they continue to let go of match winning chances. The batting is still too uncertain their inexperience shows at the top of the order.Carlton Baugh has been in enough matches to understand that he needs to come to the wicket and execute according to the situation at hand.The team is improving,Dwayne Bravo should,ve been able to command a play as a batting all rounder,alas he has concentrated on 20/20 cricket.Edwards seems to be a good prospect, Marlon Samuels should,ve been one of the mainstays in the team,but in hs last appearance for the WINDIES he was mediocre, lets hope for a better showing from him in England. Iwish them well.

  • rob on May 1, 2012, 5:10 GMT

    From my Aussie perspective all I can really add to this argument is what I have seen over the last few years. For a long time series against the West Indies were a bit too one sided to really get into. The WI players often looked disinterested and not really getting into it either. .. this time around it was different. This time there was some real intent from the players and the bowling and fielding looked more tuned into the game. .. I don't know and could be wrong, but I think there are definite signs of a West Indian comeback. .. having said that, its pretty rare for something like that to be ALL the result of just one mans effort. It usually takes a heap of guys working together, doesn't it?

  • Dummy4 on April 30, 2012, 18:05 GMT

    For some people Otis Gibson will be forever linked to the C. Gayle saga. So no matter what he has done or will do, some will crucify him nonetheless. From the time the FW trophy was lost in 94/95 the WI have struggled to compete against any opposition and have been in the doldrums for quite a long time. We forget SA 99, the dominance that Aus have have on WI up until the last series(recently ended), and the whitewashes from everyone under the sun (was a common occurence). The team is not a world beater but there are visible signs of improvement. Actually getting teams out. It was pointless having all the batsmen when we couldn't get anyone out. The WI went from Walsh and Ambrose to Dillan, Powell, F.Rose, R King(and others) and we were plastered all around the park whereas our batters were skittled out for less than nothing. In the last couple of years there has certainly been slight improvements.

  • Dummy4 on April 30, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    i say this about ten years ago i am going to say it for the last time w i cricket is not going no where with just the current system in the w i. if anyone can correct me do so, when w i were in their glory days all 15 men in the squads were playing good continuous cricket in england when finish the guys leave back to england to play and with those great players they help mold the rest who didn't go when they complete in the shell shield matches there is no doth there is talent in the w i but look on the rest of the world local cricket and compare them with w i local cricket how much team you see getting bowled out in a 4 days game in 2 1/2 days and under 100 runs there were time when we had hope in w i team not too long ago when gayle took over the team in england and beat england went to south africa and beat them then he get hurt so some of you has a very short memory if it wasn't for jealousy a lot of wi fans would see that these guys playing in the ipl it would help wi one day

  • Dummy4 on April 30, 2012, 16:27 GMT

    @ blackie maybe i am pessimistic but in response to your 5 points. 1- most matches that went till day 5 had @ least 1 day or 90 overs of play washed out or lost to bad light so @ best we play 4 days on average.

    2/3 We often get the top order out pretty easily before tailenders add in excess of 100 runs which cost us the match. Test cricket is about competing all 15 sessions. dominating days of a match & failing to finish the opposition is little to brag about. Its an indication of incompetence complacency lack of experience tactical awareness & killer instinct. A predator chasing his prey even if it always looks like it has the advantage will starve until it makes a kill.

    4 of All the young batsmen we have tried Only Bravo & Edwards look like they have a hope of excelling at the highest level of cricket. Powell, Brathwaite et al are not ready as yet. 5- The spinners were always here but we didnt play them. ppl like Miller take a bundle of wickets every year in 4 day series

  • K on April 30, 2012, 13:03 GMT

    After changing so much Coaches and Captains, this WI unit is starting to show fight. I am still not totally convinced though, because if you take Shiv's score out of the Test scores, WI is still lacking. Even the bowlers are not as convincing. But I am seeing improvements.

  • Dummy4 on April 30, 2012, 12:57 GMT

    The West Indies need to make a mental break from their glorious past. They need to think and work like Sri Lanka did in '94-95, when they began their meteoric rise for the 1996 World Cup. They can't keep looking at the glory days of Lloyd & Co. because they simply haven't had those kind of players - not physically nor mentally - for 15 years now. There is absolutely nothing in common with that West Indies. They have smaller craftsmen who need to become more effective, match-winning heroes like Jayasuriya, Kaluwitharana and Aravinda de Silva. Fidel Edwards and Kemar Roach need to bowl like Chaminda Vaas, and Shillingford and Bishoo need to be half as effective as Murali. To achieve this, they need either an Australian or South African coach who has produced results, not a West Indian from the deflating '90s himself. They don't just need discipline - they need a new mould.

  • Sriram on April 30, 2012, 12:27 GMT

    Sports is all about winners and winning, feeling good in a loss is just an excuse Windies, Bangla and Kiwis will be the first to drop Test cricket from thier calendar, they simply cannot win or afford it. Its time that these teams just focus on short version. India is another who might opt out of Test cricket though not in immediate future but as time goes by. that will leave only England, Aus and to some extent SA playing Tests.

  • Stefan on April 30, 2012, 11:14 GMT

    OK, WI lost against Aus, but they took all 20 wickets and defeat was the the top order to blame. In ODI and T20 it was honours even. For me it is evident that there is no way back, this team is making progress. And no place for Gayle the Entertainer. Although he can sparkle in 20/20, he is no longer test level, typical flat track bully. Pitches like the last series vs Aus and he would be out after less than 30 balls in each innings.

  • Dummy4 on April 30, 2012, 6:42 GMT

    A far fetched article Garth. Which team did Gibson leave as a player? The one that was beaten by South Africa in all but one match in 1998/99? The one he distanced himself from, choosing to put his get up in the dressing room? The one that he could not make? Garth, you must think West Indies fans have short memories. We remember Gibson, an in disciplined, selfish player. Secondly, beating Bangladesh is an accomplishment? The team won a Test against SA in SA under Gayle, and held NZ to a draw in NZ. It beat England at home under Gayle. Don't try to sell us the team is turning around under Gibson and Sammy. Yuh must b feel we chupid. Gibson himself admits to reshaping a team who would be his lackeys...take Shiv out (the same man he wanted to dump) and what would be the results. Watch it now Garth.

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