West Indies cricket June 23, 2013

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

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • charlie on June 26, 2013, 15:45 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 .

  • kartikeya on June 26, 2013, 6:11 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

  • kartikeya on June 26, 2013, 6:10 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

  • Dummy4 on June 25, 2013, 10:10 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.

  • Dummy4 on June 25, 2013, 6:08 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

  • Dummy4 on June 25, 2013, 4:34 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....

  • Dummy4 on June 24, 2013, 13:04 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

  • Dummy4 on June 24, 2013, 6:06 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.

  • Kamau on June 24, 2013, 2:58 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.

  • Dummy4 on June 23, 2013, 23:30 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 pee....how then can we expect Cricket to Progress???