ICC World Twenty20 2009 June 17, 2009

Windies need a new leader

So long as a premium is placed on Test cricket, West Indies are in need of a captain who endorses its primacy

Much ado about nothing?

Not if you experienced the jubilation accompanying Monday's defeat of England that confirmed a semi-final spot for West Indies.

Still, amid the fiery fast bowling, furious fours and joyful celebrations, there are more than a few issues in the backdrop to the flashy spectacle that are quietly relevant to cricket's bigger picture, well beyond the narrow confines of this latest Twenty20 vupping festival.

Oh yeah, this condescending reference to extravagant swiping. I'll be the first to admit that the likes of Kevin Pietersen's switch-hit (which is unfair, and should be banned) and Tillakaratne Dilshan's frying pan (at least I think that's what it's called) stand out only because they are surrounded by a surfeit of what we can loosely describe as proper shot-making.

Yet it is only because established players are grounded in the fundamentals of batsmanship that it was possible for Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul to take the Caribbean side to victory at The Oval with relative calm in what might otherwise have been a situation for the less experienced to indulge in panic-stricken inventiveness.

It is therefore in this context that you worry about the development of younger batsmen preoccupied with creating newer and even more audacious shots in response to this surfeit of Twenty20 stuff at the expense of the ability to build an innings, which is essential in the traditional version.

But, and this question is cropping up more and more, is the traditional version still essential?

Our captain doesn't think so, which is why Chris Gayle should not be retained in the post following this campaign - whether or not the regional squad claim the trophy on Sunday - unless the West Indies Cricket Board directors concur with his preference for the shorter forms.

So long as a premium is placed on Test cricket, then a team that has been struggling for as long as West Indies have are in need of a leader who endorses its primacy. Retaining him at the helm will therefore be seen as tacit acceptance that any team under his supervision may not necessarily be enthusiastic about the five-day variety. If, however, we decide as a matter of policy to put our few remaining eggs in the Twenty20 and one-day international baskets, then it's Gayle all the way.

Oh, and don't go campaigning for Dwayne Bravo as captain - in any form of the game - even after the solid endorsement of Ian Chappell. True, as one of Australia's finest and most uncompromising leaders, Chappell's appreciation of Bravo's status as a team leader must carry considerable weight.

Do we want, though, to burden such a dynamic, expressive allrounder (who leads from the front anyway in everything that he does on the field) with the responsibilities of captaincy? As was the case of Englishmen Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff, it may only succeed in curbing his enthusiasm. On the contrary, like Pakistan's Imran Khan and India's Kapil Dev, his talismanic qualities could bring out more of the best in him and his team.

There are points on both sides, and indeed the record of Sir Garfield Sobers suggests that he had a foot in either camp. Nevertheless, I'd much prefer to give Bravo licence to roam free, like a latter-day Sir Learie Constantine or Keith Miller, and pass the mantle of West Indies captaincy on to one of the cool heads from Monday night - Sarwan.

Do we want, though, to burden such a dynamic, expressive allrounder like Bravo (who leads from the front anyway in everything that he does on the field) with the responsibilities of captaincy?

Cool heads on the streets and media outlets of India are apparently at a premium after their heroes were bundled out of the tournament even ahead of the final Super Eights match against favourites South Africa. Some enterprising soul must have come up with the idea by now of mass-producing effigies on the subcontinent. All you have to do is leave the face blank and you're good to go: today Dhoni, tomorrow Yuvraj ... and don't forget to save one for Tendulkar (yes, even he has gotten the fire and bamboo stick treatment).

And what about one for Gary Kirsten? Surely the Indian coach's lament about his players being exhausted after the IPL makes him effigy material, especially as now it's the cricketers who are running the show and they just can't have enough of the vupping thing, or more precisely, the significant amounts of money associated with it.

India are the game's powerbrokers, no doubt, but you still can't have your naan and eat it too.

Clearly Daniel Vettori was eating sour grapes on Saturday when he inferred that something was amiss in Umar Gul's ability to get the white ball to reverse-swing so early in his devastating spell that essentially decided that match in Pakistan's favour. Of course, Vettori can say that he made no direct accusation against the fast bowler or, by extension, the Pakistani team.

But why, oh why, do some disingenuously sow the notion of nefarious plots when an opponent comes along who does something that they can't?

If it's not Umar Gul and early reverse-swing, it's Usain Bolt and a supposedly magical concoction of yam and marijuana, all done up in jerk seasoning, that causes the Jamaican sprinter to surge so comfortably ahead of the rest of the field.

Sometimes you should just take your licks, shut up and go home. Trust us West Indians, we've been doing it for so long, no wonder there's increasing excitement at the prospect of us swiping our way to glory on the same day that Clive Lloyd lifted the first World Cup 34 years ago.

Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad