Kieron Pollard calls for patience as West Indies' T20 rebuild begins
Captain warns that CPL doesn't offer pathways for young players to develop
Kieron Pollard, West Indies' captain, has pleaded for patience as the region begins to rebuild its T20 fortunes in the wake of a disappointing World Cup campaign, and warned that the franchise nature of the Caribbean Premier League means that there is no longer a ready route for the next generation to arrive at international level with all the tools required for success.
Speaking on the eve of the first T20I against England in Barbados, Pollard acknowledged that the team was at "Ground Zero" after their rock-bottom displays in the UAE, where a golden generation - epitomised by its two most long-serving stars, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo - played together for the last time.
West Indies come into this campaign off the back of a 2-1 defeat in last week's ODI series against Ireland, while a new-look team - led by stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran - was beaten 3-0 by Pakistan in Karachi before Christmas. But Pollard called for the Caribbean public to accept that the rebuild could take some time, especially against an England team that routed them for 55 in their most recent encounter at the World Cup.
"We need to improve the way we play, because our batting has definitely been a problem for us," Pollard said. "The good thing is that we have some new faces in the group, guys looking to make a name for themselves in our international scene. It's like we are starting from scratch, so we need to do the basics right. Play the situation of the game and analyse, assess, and make the right decisions, depending on what the team requires at that point in time."
Pollard's own breakthrough in professional cricket came as a 19-year-old in the original Stanford 20/20 - the inter-island competition set up by the now-disgraced financier Allen Stanford, which Pollard's Trinidad and Tobago team won in each of its two editions in 2006 and 2008.
Now, however, that competition has been subsumed into the Caribbean Premier League, with a draft system for recruiting players and an expectation of success from the owners of the region's various franchises. And while the money is welcome for the tournament's established stars, Pollard warns that this causes problems for the Caribbean's younger talents trying to make their way in the game.
"We don't have a T20 feeder system, where guys can get different match practice at different times," Pollard said. "The CPL is results-oriented, with private owners who come in and want to win. Some guys might get to play, some guys might not, but we have to keep a bunch of guys together and give them experience. Chopping and changing, and dropping and bringing in, is not going to change our results, because these guys are actually learning on the job.
"When you look at Indian cricket, when you look at the English system [the T20 Blast in addition to the Hundred], you look at the Big Bash, these have alternative T20 systems that some of the guys can come through. How many guys do we have that were made through the CPL only? When it was the Caribbean T20, there were a lot of guys coming through the system. I don't know how we're going to do it [in the future], but we need to find a way."
At the age of 34, Pollard is himself under pressure as a member of West Indies' old guard, especially after making just 90 runs in five matches at the World Cup. But he is adamant his overall form still stands up to scrutiny, as he primes himself to begin the team's post-World Cup rebuild.
"Before the World Cup, there was no noise about the captaincy, but because of the campaign that transpired, it is necessary," he said. "In each and every tournament that you have, whether it's the World Cup or the Ashes, you expect casualties.
"If I'm not the right person to lead, then so it, but cricket in the West Indies is not about Kieron Pollard. It's about the holistic approach of getting better, and grooming the youngsters, to put them in positions where they can feel comfortable in international cricket.
"I've never played cricket based on myself. I've always been based on the team and what is required at that point in time. I'm not just going to promote myself because I want to get a fifty, and I want to please the public, but if it is required, you can bet your bottom dollar, I'm going to put on that boxing glove and I am going to go there and fight for the team.
"We have a rich bunch of talented young individuals. Nicholas [Pooran] has been promoted to No. 3 so that he can take more responsibility as well. We have a couple of new guys into the set-up. Each and every one of us has to play our role, and that's the only way that the vehicle can move forward.
"The stadium, the pitch, that's our stage, we have to perform there," Pollard added. "And the crowd is like the jury, and they want to judge. The public can go ahead. As it stands right now, going into the series, I'm going to give it my best. And let's see what happens after that."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket