West Indies cricket tour to New Zealand: A very painful affair

Happy New Year, all

Colin Croft
Happy New Year, all. Having endured, since I was in New Zealand, a wonderful first day of the new millenium before most West Indians, and indeed most of the rest of the world, I can tell you that I sincerely hope that things go radically better for West Indian cricket in the immediate future. My heart tells me that it should. Realistically, my head tells me otherwise.
My second visit to New Zealand was a very wonderful experience, outside of the cricket played by the West Indies. Perhaps because of its proximity to the South Pole, certainly because of the wishes of its government and people, New Zealand is definitely the most environmentally correct and conscious place I have ever been to. Frankly, my lungs suffered badly, during the first week there in early December last, to acclimatize to, and assimilate, the absolute purity and freshness of the air. It must be a great place for health and longevity. Even the cooler days were not so cold, as this was the start of the summer there. New Zealand, as a country, and the people, were tremendously enjoyable.
The cricket, as played by the West Indies, of course, was another story. After experiencing the South African "white-wash" in 1998/99 personally, and listening to every ball from the Pakistan "white-wash" of 1997/98, I really wonder if the fortunes of West Indies cricket could get any lower. I really do not know if anyone, supporters of West Indies cricket or not, can take much more of this.
Brian Lara, the West Indies cricket captain, probably put it best: "Obviously, the results in New Zealand have been very disappointing. They are even more so when one considers that this is an entire year after the disastrous South African tour. Everyone should, maybe even would, expect better things, some improvement, in a year. That improvement was not obvious in New Zealand."
I actually felt great sympathy for Brian Lara in New Zealand. I thought that he was in great pain, psychologically, in New Zealand. He gave me the impression of being the captain of the Titanic, except, unlike that behemoth's Captain Smith, Lara knew before hand that his inadequate team could not stand any iceberg, or perhaps even a brick; that iceberg being the rigors of an international cricket series. Of course, in public, Lara said the right things, imploring his players to retool quickly and to think positively and to play for the pride of West Indian cricket. I am sure that privately, Lara knew very well that most of his players were simply not up to scratch when it came to playing cricket at this level.
Before I go any further, here is what I would do immediately for the next international series, starting in early March, against Zimbabwe. I would select only a few of those who had gone to New Zealand, some with definite ability, others with just a hint of promise. My very nucleus of the West Indies cricket team would be Brian Lara as captain and fast bowlers Reon King and Merve Dillon. Then, in the immediate penumbra of the nucleus, I would have opening batsmen Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith, plus middle order batsmen Ricardo Powell and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The rest will simply be discarded. I have had enough of this plastering over of old sores and very bad cricket from very limited cricketers.
Having experienced South Africa and now New Zealand first hand, I am more than convinced that the present West Indies cricket team, as a unit, is not, repeat, not, simply a team of perhaps good cricketers playing bad cricket. Unless one is blinkered, one would see that most of the present West Indian players are not good enough cricketers period, and therefore, simply cannot play good cricket. Of course there are some good cricketers, even a few very good cricketers, in the mix, but the mediocrity outshines and burdens the better ones. Simply, with so much dead wood, the ship will sink anyway.
I place the blame of some of our tremendous misfortunes on the shoulders of the team's selectors too. Somehow, Joel Garner, Joey Carew and Mike Findlay, with respect, have missed the boat and the understanding of what is needed at the present international level of cricket. We continually hear that "we must be patient" from Findlay, the chairman of selector. I paraphrase that to mean that " we think we are doing a great job, but the players are not pulling their weight."
Some of these present West Indian players cannot pull any more weight than they are doing now. The reality, of one being almost ever present on these tours for the last six years, is that some of them are at maximum, and will never get any better at their game, regardless of how much time they are given. Being patient will not help. Some of these players will never have the skills and ability to perform at the highest level, while some will never be able to do so again. If Findlay and his crew cannot see that, then they must, or at least, should, be relieved of the important duty of selectors. They are as much responsible as anyone else for our recent sets of demises by sending players with vastly inadequate ability into the fore of international cricket. If the West Indies Cricket Board, who themselves are somewhat at fault for so many other things, will be willing to take the necessary steps and start over, so to speak, is anyone's guess.
The late President of the Republic of Guyana, Forbes Burnham, described this present phenomenon of the selectors and the West Indies cricket team as being a state of "putting square pegs in round holes." Maybe the outgoing Manager of the West Indies cricket team, Clive Lloyd, was correct, in South Africa a year ago, when he suggested that "if this is the best we have, then we are in deep trouble." Uncannily, both of these Guyanese stalwarts, in their own right, were correct, despite the fact that many Caribbean people may not want to admit it. To date, nothing has proved them wrong so far.
I am here to tell you that the selectors are not doing a great job, and that these present West Indian players, at least most of them, are doing the best they could. While that "best" is certainly not good enough, the players themselves cannot be blamed for not having a certain kind of ability which could be functional at international level. One cannot be blamed for not being talented. Indeed, one cannot be blamed, in a professional environment, at even being selected. As a present West Indian cricketer, one can only go along with the possibilities provided.
Time is now shorter than ever. Zimbabwe will be in the Caribbean within six weeks, followed by an improving, pugnacious and determined Pakistan in April. We should not even mention the tour to England and later in the year, to Australia. The players in the first class cricket series Busta Cup 2000 who are actually performing now, Stewart Williams and Philo Wallace etc., are the same ones who could not cope at all against South Africa. Hence my rational suggestion that a fresh start should be made with fresh people, new faces, along with that set of nucleus named. The cracks in West Indian cricket have become chasms. Normal mortar will not fix it quickly or properly. It will take some planning, some astute, but definite removals and certainly a redrawing and re-implementation of new plans for this structure to work. Obviously, the patches over the last several tours, and even home series, have not worked. Let us make the new millenium for West Indies cricket be really new. Start over!! Enjoy.