Zimbabwe in West Indies 2009-10 March 7, 2010

Can't buy me sense

While Twenty20 riches can buy diamond earrings, gold chains, designer watches and lifelong financial security for West Indies' players, they can't guarantee basic cricketing sense

It is founded on the premise that it is not really cricket at all and, more especially, that the mega-bucks paid out by Indian tycoons, Bollywood stars and a bogus American financier have given young West Indies players a false sense of their worth.

It is not that Michael Holding begrudges the fees cricketers now earn. He joined Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket back in 1977 precisely because it offered him and others a proper wage as professional sportsmen.

His concern is that most of those with bank accounts boosted into seven figures by Twenty20 now measure success more by the numbers on the cheques they collect for appearing in the IPL, Australia's Big Bash, Stanford's Super Series and England's equivalent than on those alongside their batting and bowling averages.

His theory was given ample airing in West Indies' performance in two matches during the past week.

Teams packed with millionaires, the wealthiest ever to represent the burgundy and silver, were acutely embarrassed by the supposed non-entities of Zimbabwe, first in the Twenty20 international at the Queen's Park Oval, then in the first one-day international at the Providence Stadium.

The reality is that most of the highly touted, and paid West Indians have international records, and experience, no better than their counterpart paupers of Zimbabwe, not one of whom is distracted by the fame and fortune of an overseas Twenty20 contract.

Of the 11 West Indians on the field in the second ODI yesterday, only Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had more than 50 ODIs on their CVs. Only three of the Zimbabweans had fewer.

Kieron Pollard, whose earnings from Trinidad and Tobago, the South Australian Redbacks, the Mumbai Indians, the Somerset Sabres and West Indies, will bring in around US$1.5 million this year, averages in the teens in his 21 ODIs and 13 Twenty20 internationals. He is yet to play a Test or score an international hundred, whereas eight Zimbabweans have.

Kemar Roach is less than a year into his international career and already has a US$700,000 IPL deal.

Based on his reputation as big hitter, stiff medium-pace bowler and dazzling fielder, Dwayne Smith has been a Twenty20 specialist for Sussex, New South Wales, the Mumbai Indians and the Deccan Chargers. But his inconsistency has limited him to spasmodic appearances for West Indies in recent times.

It was West Indies' 11th defeat in 12 ODIs, a stunning statistic. If it continues, the slide will carry on even further down the ICC rankings. The return of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo, presumably for the last three ODIs, will bolster the strength but the truth is the cupboard of reputable reserves is all but bare

Andre Fletcher, who pocketed US$1 million from the Stanford Super Series win over England in 2008, has fewer ODIs and Twenty20s to his name than half the Zimbabweans.

There were prime examples in Thursday's ODI loss that, while Twenty20 riches can buy diamond earrings, gold chains, designer watches and lifelong financial security, they can't guarantee basic cricketing sense.

After that match, captain Gayle furiously identified the main offenders in the loss as Pollard, Smith and Denesh Ramdin. He might have also mentioned the ludicrous run-outs of Fletcher and Narsingh Deonarine and the fumbles in the field, but there was enough on his mind as it was.

"Those guys were key for us and the way they went about it was a terrible display," Gayle said of Pollard, Ramdin and Smith. "It is very disappointing and sad to see how they went about it."

Pollard, whose expensive status is based mainly on his power-hitting, casually stroked a catch to mid-on during the batting Powerplay when only three fielders are permitted outside the 30-yard zone. Ramdin was bowled for the seventh time in his last 12 innings for West Indies.

Smith was the most culpable. When Nikita Miller's six, four, and one off the first three balls of the final over left four to win off three, a usually straightforward task, he premeditated his well-known default shot - the across-the-line slog - and the match was effectively lost. It could be his last swing for West Indies.

Ramdin, who had played every match for West Indies since December 2008, and Smith both paid for their indiscretions with their places in yesterday's second ODI.

Gayle's censure was as strong as any captain gets. The language in the stands was far more direct and abusive.

It was West Indies' 11th defeat in 12 ODIs, a stunning statistic. If it continues, the slide will carry on even further down the ICC rankings. The return of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo, presumably for the last three ODIs, will bolster the strength but the truth is the cupboard of reputable reserves is all but bare.

The regional first-class tournament that ended last weekend was an exercise in futility. At the end of it, there was not a single new player the selectors could identify as ready for international cricket.

It is easier at present to be optimistic over an end of the drought than a turnaround of West Indies' cricket woes. Yet board president Julian Hunte and chief executive Ernest Hilaire were upbeat back in January.

"The season promises to be an exciting one and we are really looking forward to some tough, hard and competitive cricket on the field and positive support and enjoyment by the fans off the field," Hunte said.

It turned out to be a dud. It was poorly promoted, if at all, a host of top players were missing, either injured or away in Australia, the standard was as low as usual (against 11 totals over 300 there were 22 under 200) and crowds at most matches were in three, sometimes even two, figures.

Ten of the 14 batsmen with more than 300 runs were the usual suspects who had already represented West Indies and all but two of the 13 bowlers with more than 20 wickets were run-of-the-mill spinners.

One apparent success was the bold experiment of floodlit matches with the pink ball. All reports are not in but the general response from players and spectators was positive. When Tests are also inevitably played at night, West Indies can claim to have led the way.

In contrast, the other innovation - to stage a round a time in the same venue - was a predictable flop. It limited Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Leewards and Windwards to one home match each, Barbados and the so-called Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) to two.

The arrangement was seen at its most ridiculous when Barbados and the CCC were despatched from their home base in Barbados to far-off Nevis for their match.

And while Hilaire declared before it all started that the WICB would be "looking to utilise some of the wonderful facilities we have in the region", only seven of the 21 matches were staged at the "wonderful facilities" that were the supposed legacy of the World Cup.

You really have to wonder who sits in the WICB office in St John's and makes such decisions.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Professor on March 11, 2010, 11:29 GMT

    The problem indeed lies at the head of the fountain. Restructure the WICB. Reshape the focus from past achievement to future performance. There is too long the pre-occupation with mid mid eighties greatness and awe. Let us work on our youngsters, mold them and shape them, so that there will arise a dynamic and powerful generation to lead the team in to the future. West Indians can do it! With all the odds against us, we need to get back our focus and challenge the world, as we are accustomed to!

  • Professor on March 11, 2010, 11:21 GMT

    Another plain and righteous article from Tony. West Indies international team is a clear reflection of the processes or lack thereof that define the firstclass structure in the region. Last year, the WIBC because of it's poor relation with the W.I community was banging it's head to find sponsership for the first class tournaments. It is a finacially strapped monument that is seated by old men who have long past retirement, and who have been blinded by the past to the extent that the future of cricket has eluded them. Until the structure of the board changes, the structure of domestic cricket modified, and programs are sustained for youth development, W.I cricket will remain an idol of the past, with no future bearing.

  • Simon on March 10, 2010, 17:31 GMT

    What we see happening to West Indies cricket is now confirmation that Twenty/20 cricket is not at all about improving the quality of cricket, but turning once proud and loyal patriots, into greedy money hungry so called entertainers. At least the Packer revolution improved the game by allowing cricketers to at least have financial security, and not sacrificing the quality of the game, in fact improving it in all areas. The IPL has proved nothing more than a bunch of fat egotists with short attention spans, dumming the cricket public so they can get even fatter. The IPL proves that as a player you will never be recognised as a great player, just a one dimensional one. Any amateur can swing a bat and connect occasionally, but they will never be considered a real cricketer.

  • vignesh on March 9, 2010, 17:17 GMT

    I dunno if i am wrong but this is the worst team in world cricket today.....They lost to Bangladesh , Zimbabwe leave alone Australia....I think even Ireland can beat them now...Plz don`t give them any screen space cause they are the WHIPPING BOYZ now!!!!!!!!!!!! They should be ideally ranked No.10 in the world right now in all the formats of the game!!!!!!!

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