Trinidad & Tobago Express

West Indies cricket

West Indies cricket needs an overhaul

In the aftermath of their exit from the Champions Trophy, Tony Cozier dissects the problems in West Indies cricket, from lack of talent development to a weak domestic system

Tony Cozier

June 23, 2013

Comments: 29 | Text size: A | A

Darren Bravo and Darren Sammy walked off dejected, South Africa v West Indies, Champions Trophy, Group B, Cardiff, June 14, 2013
A change of leadership in the one-day team isn't the solution to West Indies' problems. © PA Photos
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Series/Tournaments: ICC Champions Trophy
Teams: West Indies

Switching the captaincy for the 50-overs game from Darren Sammy to Dwayne Bravo, chief selector Clyde Butts explained that he and his panel believed it was "best to freshen the leadership of the team in this format".

What became evident over the past three weeks of the Champions Trophy is that it is no use "freshening the leadership" without freshening the team and, in a wider context, the structure of domestic cricket that prepares players for the highest level. It is a maxim that applies to several other participants, today's finalists - the youthful, effervescent, unbeaten India and the settled home team England - excepted.

Bravo, the fresh new captain, found himself leading basically the same players in the Champions Trophy who were whitewashed 5-0 in Australia in February under Sammy.

Devon Smith, now aged 32, was recalled after a two-year absence for Kieron Powell, who would have been in England but for a broken finger. Denesh Ramdin came back for Devon Thomas, six years his junior, Ravi Rampaul for Narsingh Deonarine. Andre Russell was also omitted from the Champions Trophy; he was one of 15 in Australia, there were only 14 in England.

The harsh reality is that no alternatives stand out. It is the batting that remains short of quality and too dependent on two power-hitting enforcers, Chris Gayle at the top and Kieron Pollard in the lower middle order, and the more stylish Darren Bravo, the No.3 yet to make the most of his unquestionable potential.

The selectors could find no exciting young batsman to fit into a suspect middle order, no genuine bowling, rather than batting, all-rounder to sharpen the attack. When they opened the cupboard to search, they found it as bare as Old Mother Hubbard's.

Those who happened to be still on the shelf - Jonathan Carter, Nkrumah Bonner, Kyle Corbin, Leon Johnson and his fast bowling namesake Derlorn, Kirk Edwards - were kept at home for contests against Sri Lanka 'A'. They were also in the 'A' series against India last year and hadn't done enough in the interim to prompt their selection to the 50-overs squads to Australia or the Champions Trophy.

It meant that Ramnaresh Sarwan was retained, his experience, a hundred against Zimbabwe in March and a dearth of younger challengers enough to influence his selection.

At 32, he is now an imitation of the high class player who averaged over 40 in both Tests and ODIs in his prime. He has become a burden in the field. He was dropped for the deciding match against South Africa after scores of 1 against Pakistan and 1 against India as he was after three matches in Australia (scores 0, 0, 12).

He is now likely to see out his career with English county Leicestershire, a shameful waste of rare talent.

It is an overall state of affairs that requires attention, but little has been given.

The regional tournaments are still played on mostly sub-standard pitches, some of them deliberately doctored with the damaging effect of a botched surgery. They cause primary school totals, sap batsmen's confidence and give spin bowlers a false sense of their ability.

In spite of official insistence that coaching should be standardised throughout the West Indies, methods differ from territory to territory, leading to confusion among players when they reach the highest level.

And, for lack of money, the first-class season remains one round, if now culminating with semi-finals and final, rather than two rounds that afforded players a more meaningful number of matches.

It is no consolation but, for different reasons, there are others in the same predicament.

After Pakistan lost all three matches in the Champions Trophy with little contribution from their younger batsmen, their former captains Wasim Akram and Zaheer Abbas called for "drastic" changes.

The regional tournaments are still played on mostly sub-standard pitches, some of them deliberately doctored with the damaging effect of a botched surgery. They cause primary school totals, sap batsmen's confidence and give spin bowlers a false sense of their ability.

"Someone has to be brave enough and prepare young cricketers when seniors are not performing," was how Akram saw it. "I don't know if there is lack of ability in our players or there's some psychological problem, but drastic steps should be taken."

Zaheer placed the blame for Pakistan's poor batting (they didn't total more than 170 in their three matches) to the lack of role models for the emerging players.

"We need to think about how to revamp the system to produce quality players," he said. "I don't think any coaching will help until we get players of the highest calibre."

Australia haven't found any new, young batsmen either to compensate for the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey and the chronic back problem that forced captain Michael Clarke out of the tournament. There are also having to deal with problems off the field - involving Shane Watson, their key player, and David Warner.

South Africa were equally diminished by the absence of two of their premier players, former captain and opener Graeme Smith and allrounder Jacques Kallis. When the two remaining top men, Hamish Amla and AB de Villiers, were dismissed for a single run between them against England in the semi-final on Wednesday and fast bowler Dale Steyn was eliminated by injury, the match was as good as over.

As they have done for a decade, Sri Lanka depend heavily on Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, whose masterful hundred in the first round against England saw them through to the semi-final. Both have shored up the team's middle order for several years. No successors appeared in the Champions Trophy.

So how come India, in stark contrast, have moved so seamlessly from one generation to the next?

Of those in the Champions Trophy, captain MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are the only remaining members of the eleven who won the World Cup in Mumbai two years ago. The great deeds of the earlier legends - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan - are now confined to memory, the record books and the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Those who have replaced them have come grounded by a well-structured first-class programme, played on proper pitches and by exposure in the IPL that tests their temperaments before big crowds and attaches them to franchise teams alongside the top international stars of the day.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan, leading scorer in the Champions Trophy, had played 82 first-class matches and turned out for three IPL teams before marking his one and only Test to date with the highest score on debut.

Another one of the fresh, new brigade, swing bowler Bhuveneshwar Kumar, has 155 first-class wickets to his name. Cheteshwar Pujara, already an established Test No.3 with one double and three single hundreds, has 20 three-figure first class innings besides, including one of 352. And he is not even required for the shorter stuff.

A first-class tournament of such size covering such a vast country requires the backing of a board with a healthy balance sheet - and none is healthier than the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

No wonder their team is favourite for today's final.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

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Posted by simonviller on (June 26, 2013, 16:45 GMT)

Whether we blame the management , spectators or lack of funding - one thing is for sure ,there is a serious lack of talent ,especially in the batting department . There was a point in time when batsmen were selected on performance , which ment scoring runs lots of them , multiple centuries before they were even considered for WI selection . Today what do we have ? The century bat is a rarity ,yet batsmen are selected and kept on the team as it seems, for ever . Check the Greats of WI cricket [ I 'm speaking in the past tense ,because they are no present greats ] how many big scores [centuries] did they make before they made the team ? Those W Indian cricket historians would know those , to whom I am reffering . Young WI batsmen of today , please bat long , make big runs consistenly to be considered for test cricket .

Posted by westindiesupporter on (June 26, 2013, 7:11 GMT)

We really need a drastic change.We always have the same type of team and always look for power hitters.I hope we win the tri series

Posted by westindiesupporter on (June 26, 2013, 7:10 GMT)

We really need a drastic change.We always have the same type of team and always look for power hitters.I hope we win the tri series

Posted by   on (June 25, 2013, 11:10 GMT)

As many of you are asking Mr Cozier "what is the solution?" to you I say you are asking the wrong person the right question, as Cozier is only a commenator not an economist, not a leader of men, and certainly not an intellectual, so why ask him? Ask rather, of viewers; many of whom are sound business men leading multi billion dollar corporations.There you may find sound answers.

Posted by   on (June 25, 2013, 7:08 GMT)

One question for the legendary Mr. Cozier: you said that Sarwan being confined to County cricket constitutes " a shameful waste of rare talent." Who is responsible for this waste, the player or the selectors? When a player, any player, repeatedly throws his wicket away, can the ones who selected him be blamed for such brainlessness? When a player who has a well-documented history of being less than excited about training/keeping fit and who subsequently becomes injury prone and therefore a liability in the field, is it fair to call out the selectors? I'm a teacher by profession and have witnessed talented students excel despite mediocre instruction, poor school facilities and the like. Ever heard the saying (in Bajan vernacular), "yuh cant keap uh gud man dong?" Well, there's an element of truth in it. Cream ALWAYS rises to the surface of a glass. It may be true that the Board mistreated Sars. But when they recalled him for the recent tour "Down Under," he should have silenced his cri

Posted by   on (June 25, 2013, 5:34 GMT)

When the selectors selected the same players after a grubbing in Australia to play against Zimbabwe what does it say about the state of West Indies cricket! Not Much. I guess winning against Zimbabwe means more to the selectors than giving the young talent a chance where ever they may be. Another thing about the three formats T20 is diminishing the skills of the good players with superior technique. e.g how often have any teams played 5 days of test cricket? very few and far in between ODI, enough said!. in truth the selectors,the players and the fans are to blame for the state of West Indies today. no support all around. does the words calypso cricket means anything....

Posted by   on (June 24, 2013, 14:04 GMT)

Most of Mr.Cozier's comments are accurate,but they have been repeated time and time over the years. Why cant we understand that if we have the talent and cant get the desired results that the answer could be that we need new management who understands how to hone that talent into a winnable unit.You cannot put old wine into new wine skins. Otis and co.are the old order.There is no fresh ideas or management skills forth coming. We have a good crop of youngsters,they need to be managed

Posted by   on (June 24, 2013, 7:06 GMT)

I beg to disagree with Mr. Cozier. Had Pollard used his head, West Indies would have been in the semi's and Mr. Cozier and others would be singing a different song. The team is a well balanced with youth and experience. Darren Bravo, Charles, Narine, Roach, Holder, Powell and Pollard and young players. I did not see India doing that well when they were in Australia and in England. West Indies is the only team that plays other teams any place, anytime and under any playing conditions. A training camp with the whole team together would have been ideal.

Posted by Akoben on (June 24, 2013, 3:58 GMT)

Mr Cozier. I am one who has a large amount of respect for you. Over the many years your commentary has been like listening to an 'Uncle' telling exciting stories of old. Your knowledge of the game is for all to see.

I must though (with due respect) ask the question, what do you purpose as the solution. I have seen on many an occasion now your views of what needs to be changed in our cricket for us to return to greater days, but wish to know apart from writing your views down, have you applied for yourself any of your proposals? Have you gone to a ground, enquired from the groundsman why the wicket is not like days of yore, find out what is needed to bring the ground up-to-speed, then assist in doing so? I do not wish to sound disrespecful in anyway, but we have been 'singing the same tune' for many a year now. I just feel we WE must first change our tune, before the powers that be get the message. I will always support WI, good times and not.

Posted by   on (June 24, 2013, 0:30 GMT)

A fish starts to rotten at the HEAD. The same type of individuals who are reponsible for governing national economies and countries are are the ones we see at the helm of WICB. It seems to me that the mentality in the entire region is to reject any ideology or philosophy that deviates from their individual need to hold "titles and purse" regardless of results. Go into anyone of the countries and you see the sheer neglect for simple human living conditions to more complex failures to maintain and invest in infrastructure that benifit and develop the country(ies). It is no wonder then that the institution of Cricket is also allowed to deterioriate. If one sees a positive initiative in any of these countries, it is because foreign financial support is there with corresponding oversight to ensure bottom line results. We see foreign consultants everywhere, even to help the ministers/ and heads of state decide when and where to then can we expect Cricket to Progress???

Posted by aclarity on (June 23, 2013, 21:55 GMT)

Tony is too politically correct to be brutally frank. We just changed the President and VP of the WICB. The current, longest serving selectors are the biggest roadblock. They are of the same age group, none was a batsman, none was a fast bowler, and all were below average WI cricketers. We need a mix of age groups, talent spotters and strategic focus. As a captain you must command a place on the team, you must have cricket sense and be a good representative. I think Sammy beats Bravo in all areas. If I were to make a change I would pick Pollard. He certainly commands a place on the ODI team and he always part of the on field strategy meetings in the IPL. Don't change from bad to worse and expect good things.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2013, 21:44 GMT)

Not because one is a great cricketer, he can run a successful cricket organization. Qualify professional managers are require to run this WI Cricket Board.

Posted by aclarity on (June 23, 2013, 21:16 GMT)

Just words Tony, give us the solution without money. Let me help you. Fire the selectors. If you needed to refresh the team why pick Bravo who should not be on the ODI team thus handcuffing Gibson. We continue with so called all-rounders who cannot bat or bowl at the ODI level. Permal was made captain of the A team. He cannot speak or bowl. Sarwan and Holder are also examples of selections who have not done enough at the regional level. The selectors cannot even recognize talent. E van Lewis of TT is one of the most promising prospects I have seen and I am not a TT national. Clearly, the WI has talent but strategic focus is the problem and the selectors are the biggest roadblock. Fire them!!

Posted by   on (June 23, 2013, 21:16 GMT)

I wonder if the management of WI Cricket even pay attention to these comments which is clearly stating the fastration of the WI cricket supports and Fans. They are running the board as dictators and would not recognize their imcompetence. They are not producing income or talents. Other countries are recognizing the talents of the WI players and making millions and packed stadiums. WI games are been played with 20% fill crowed. WI fans should support another franchise and another Caribbean Team. I would like to start a new team.

Posted by kentjones on (June 23, 2013, 18:23 GMT)

Tony, absolutely accurate, as you have been so many times in the past. There seems no plan for the building of West Indies cricket. It is as if a team of the same ilk like those celebrated cricketers of the mid 70s to early 90s would simply emerge from the present wilderness. What long term strategy to develop a team?. We just don't need flashy batsmen, we need skill, determination and patience, not just the gayles and pollards, also solomons, larry gomes and chanderpauls. We need bowlers with heart and head and not just haste. We need left arm quicks as well as left arm spinners. We need genuine all rounders. They are not just going to show up, we must strategize, design and build them, if they cant be found, we then must craft and mold them ourselves. The new architecture of WI cricket must be from scratch, brick by brick. Tony you have long been the strident voice of WI, which at present rate may soon become a vain futile voice echoing emptily in the wilderness of WI cricket.

Posted by stauybn on (June 23, 2013, 17:40 GMT)

India's emergence as a cricketing powerhouse has been driven by two primary factors: One is its vast financial resources being the world's richest cricketing nation. The IPL is a tremendous idea whose time has come and credit to the leaders in Indian cricket who built it. The second is that the IPL has allowed a generation of young Indian cricketers to play their cricket alongside the very best cricket professionals in the world. No amount of coaching can take the place of the enormous value added to Indian cricket here.

West Indian cricket although distinct and richly talented has always been honed in the harsh professionalism first of English county cricket in the earlier times and in this dispensation in the intense commercialization of the IPL primarily, as well as in The Australian Big Bash and all of the other 20/20 competitions being played all over the cricketing world. Let us celebrate Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard the current West Indian stars. And don't forget Mr Co

Posted by   on (June 23, 2013, 16:49 GMT)

One needs to look at the regional tournament in the Caribbean for a better understanding of the state of WI cricket. The level of play is indeed poor. The batting and bowling performances are below par and this tournament in many cases leads to selection to the WI team. The same old names are routinely recycled with the same dismal results. The attraction to the game is no longer there. There is no entertainment value. There has to be a new approach to the game and it begins with the WI board. We can't approach the game with the same attitude and ideas and expect different results. A new and exciting approach is needed. Michael Holding, Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh and the likes have much to offer. In respect to the recently concluded ICC tournament, I still am unable to understand the exclusion of Chanderpaul from the team!

Posted by hassaboy on (June 23, 2013, 16:31 GMT)

Thanks MR Cozier for an excellent article. I wonder if the officials of the WICB ever look at these articles and the comments made by the fans. Doing so will help them make some intelligent decisions. For example, the entire selection process need to be investigated. It appears that Mr. Otis Gibson has the final say in the selection of the team. If any player has a personal difference with him, that player is out of the team. Mr. Butts is just a puppet, "who is hanging his mouth where the soup drop." Where are those knowledgeable ex players, like Andy Roberts, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge etc., who cared about West Indies cricket. Wake up WICB, the entire Board needs freshen up. We are sick of lame excuses.

Posted by ARad on (June 23, 2013, 14:41 GMT)

As a non-West Indian, I feel that WICB spends too much energy on inner squabbles rather than promoting the game. They are partly hindered by consisting of multiple political entities so the board may not have too much say in how the game is promoted within each nation but, as part of central contracts, in addition to regular duties, WICB should look into how stars such as Gayle and Shiv (as well as legends such as Sobers, Richards & Lara) can interact with the public so that impressionable kids would be motivated to take up the game. There could be local under-15 clinics and regional exhibition matches run by and/or starring legends with free admission subsidized by sponsorship and such. Arrange the stars to spend a certain amount of time promoting the game via TV & Radio appearances. Establish better relations with the local media. Creative individuals should take up the promotional part of the game and innovate it. I'd hate to see further decline in WI cricket as a cricket fan.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2013, 13:34 GMT)

If WI cricket needs an overhaul because of the exit in the preliminary rounds of the CT then I would definitely disagree. How long are we going to be talking about overhaul/rebuilding. I think that the WI were definitely a better team than SA in the CT and were unlucky to be knocked out. Perhaps if anything there could be a shakeup with the selectors. Who would Powell replace in the squad? Perhaps CG who seems content with a quick 20 and 30? RS seems to be down and dusted. DS was/is a good selection as he has done enough to make the team. The bowlers seem to be ok, with the exception of Roach who seems to have off and on days. The players on the field are to blame for wins or losses and not administration.

Posted by jwayed on (June 23, 2013, 13:24 GMT)

It has taken Mr Cozier and other WI journalists near 20 years to realise the problem starts at the board ! The last effective board leadership of WI cricket was Cpt Short. Until WICB is cleaned and revamped , WI cricket will continue drifting along . Instead of maligning players it is high time to hold the board and leadership accountable .I strongly believe there is a need for strong, inspired leaders to be drawn to WI cricket. Till then, we will have to be content with infrequently world class performances and the odd top class player coming thru.

Posted by popahwheely on (June 23, 2013, 13:12 GMT)

Simple answer our domestic competitions are too short. Each country in the Caribbean should be touring each other year round.

Posted by popahwheely on (June 23, 2013, 13:05 GMT)

West Indies Cricket is being run by mediocre ex-players so that is why we are producing mediocre players currently. We need need the greats to be running the board the current crop need the best players to look up to not Butts Brown Otis and so on who were average players at best. Where is Lara,Holding,Garner,Viv,Walsh,Ambrose,Lloyd,Roberts,Sobers,Hooper,Bishop? The only world class player we have currently is Shiv. Gayle,Bravo,Samuels,Sars,etc are all too inconsistent to be role models.

Posted by Gizza on (June 23, 2013, 11:33 GMT)

Tony Cozier is one of the favourite cricket writers. Every article that he writes is a gem. And I definitely agree that a duel strong first-class/T20 competition helps develop the players enormously. Both the batsmen and bowlers need to master the art of making runs or getting wickets patiently as well as learn to bat explosively/outsmart the hitter as the case may be.

Posted by   on (June 23, 2013, 9:44 GMT)

Let us start at ground level- pitch preparation! Doctoring pitches to favour home team at the domestic level is short sighted. It is a delusion which is dismantled at the international level. Nationals fight for their home players to be selected on the international team based on a falsehood of outstanding performances achieved on doctored pitches. Competence at the international levels is to be goal. Start with international pitch preparation. The right instructions and due recognition to competent groundsmen are key to the transformation leading to sustained success at the highest levels of cricket.

Posted by scottyg on (June 23, 2013, 9:34 GMT)

The West Indies need to bring Michael Holding in as leader of the WICB- he genuinly cares about their lack of success and would be a great person to help change over the whole system. The pitches should go back to pace of old- producing a few young pacemen to partner Roach would improve their attack overseas. This would help the batsmen prepare for the pacy pitches overseas. Finally, they need to find a way to pay the players to keep them happy- maybe the CPL will help to do this, as long as it is scheduled away from WI games to make sure that the players make the West Indies team is as strong as possible. West Indies have a lot of talent, but it is just going to waste

Posted by   on (June 23, 2013, 9:28 GMT)

I agree with Mahesh that the Carribean pitches certainly can't be helping. Other than that I actually thought West Indian cricket and performances were on the way up.. The Champions Trophy, while being a good fun tournament (this time around at least) is still nothing more than just that and getting bundled out of it after the first round is nothing to be overly concerned about. Its difficult to fly in to England without any match time and then go out and play exciting cricket in 17 degree temperatures with slow pitches!

Posted by   on (June 23, 2013, 9:22 GMT)

'A first-class tournament of such size covering such a vast country requires the backing of a board with a healthy balance sheet - and none is healthier than the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)'. If the above is the recipe for success, it will take super human efforts for West Indies to succeed or creative alternative paths to development and success are to be found with a total buy in from all concerned.

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