Sunday, July 3, 2011

West Indies cricket's way forward

West Indies cricket

The amount of print dedicated to the decline of West Indies cricket is enormous. Blame has been sent in various directions. Basketball, the players, the money rich T20 leagues of the world, the WICB, the people/organisations blamed are numerous. This isn't a piece about the blame, but where West Indies cricket needs to go.

The 1st thing the WICB needs to do, is get rid of people like Hilaire, who are hated by the players and seem to be impeding Windies' development. Ego clashes like the one he is having with Chris Gayle and (the less publicised one) with Jerome Taylor. I do not pretend to knowthe stands of the WIPA and WICB with respect to contract issues, but with the WICB's personnel being as they are, this will never work.

Taking a look at the stock of young West Indian players around I remain optimistic. The bowling resources in particular speak of tremendous strength. A pace battery of Jerome Taylor, Fide Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach with all rounders Andre Russell and Darren Sammy is a solid pool of quicks. With a really talented leggie in Devendra Bishoo and a decent yet temperemental left arm bowler in Suleimann Benn, these guys could serve West Indian cricket well and for a long time.

Batting is a real weakness however. There are some talents in Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, but their tendency to throw away their wickets is a major concern. The likes of Kirk Edwards, Xavier Marshall do not seem to have enough to cut it. This is why Chris Gayle, Shivanaraine Chanderpaul and (to a slightly lesser extent) Marlon Samuels are so crucial. Their experience, and more importantly their ability will give West Indies some much needed stability to their batting line up.

Now the most important thing West Indies cricket needs to do, is distance themselves from the past. That means not having Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Michael Holding etc being involved in coaching. This might sound contradictory to improving cricket in the region, but it is a necessity. The problem with these legends coaching this group of cricketers is the disconnect in terms of ability.

For instance, imagine the mentality of Sir Viv Richards as he walked out to bat. He was such a fine player, that he was probably soaking in the crowd, ready to entertain. This approach would not do for a guy like say Adrian Barath. Gifted player he may be, but nowhere near the calibre of either Haynes or Richards. Somebody needs to give him solid technical advice and more importantly, advice on how to keep his concentration and not throw away his wicket.

I will go out on a limb and say that Tom Moody or someone in that mould would be the ideal coach. Someone who will keep the squad grounded, draw from a wide array of coaching experience, and give the players the tools they need to concentrate.

From a bowling point of view, the coaching emphasis should be on pace and consistency for the fast bowlers. I would rope in someone like a Wasim Akram. Ideally, I'd like Imran Khan, but he's busy with his politics. The reason for my choice is that these players will understand both how to handle really fast bowlers and good talented spinners. Famously, Imran Khan used to tell his bowlers, not to worry about wides and no balls, but to just bowl quick. That should be their apprach. Not to mention the fact that they've successfully captained the likes of Saqlain and Abdul Qadir.

Captaincy to me needs a change as well. My personal view is Darren Sammy is good enough to command a continous role in the team. He's (though I hate to admit it) a decent bowler, but he doesn't merit a place as an all rounder especially in tests. More that that he doesn't have the charisma of a leader. The need of the hour is someone with a bit more of a fire in the belly, though who this man could be is a mystery as well. All I am certain of is that Sammy isn't that man.

West Indies cricket is in disarray, but I strongly believe that with the right kind of guidance, they can indeed recover. What is needed is advice on how to work on the basics from professional coaches, and not advice how to be great from the likes of Sir Viv and Desmond Haynes.

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