Is there a cause to West Indies cricket?
So what is it? Where is it? What does it entail? Was it even seen anywhere in the T20 World Cup. If not there, was it evident in the way West Indies played Pakistan at home? Lest we forget, it played South Africa at home as well. Was the cause there then?
If not there, was it spotted when the team hosted Sri Lanka first before eventually going there?
What was the vision of the team? With what specific goal was the team playing?
What were the means to achieve the objectives? What objectives existed in the first place this year?
2021 was such a year for the Caribbean cricket and the cricket community governing the sport, at large – coaches, specialists, administrators, consultants, assistants, managers- that it produced more questions than answers.
Much like a long paragraph elongating itself in what is already a mystery book.
A book whose real plight is that you know the identity of the murderer but you pretend to play along so as to keep yourself busy in identifying – read idling time- the objective the book was supposed to achieve.
Worse still that there being no objective in the first place, the murderer, as it eventually turned, was just killing the subject.
The one around whom an entire story was based. The one that, in reality and in great spirit, should have gone on to live and succeed.
If you are a fan who cannot help but feel delighted for 2021, given you saw at the start of the year was just magical – and it certainly was, Kyle Mayers, the 210* and the series win- then you won’t get the real picture.
But if you are a certain Vernon A. Springer – journalist, cricket expert, lover of cricket analysis, explainer of things, teller of truth, rioter with logic, fire starter of a revolution Cricket West Indies must think about- you’ll get a different picture about 2021.
You’d actually, regardless of what they say and do and tell you to do, paint your unreal world based on a half truths about West Indies with some reality.
The first thing you’d do if you hear Vernon A Springer speak about the state of the game in the Caribbean and what 2021 unfurled, you’d actually shake out of the state of denial you’ve conveniently been living in.
In doing so, you’d at once look at the true picture. And it’s the following that has some modicum of truth for we can lie, but number don’t. And won’t!
10 Tests this year- 4 versus Sri Lanka, 2 against Pakistan, 2 against South Africa and 2 against Bangladesh.
Only 3 wins. Both against Bangladesh. Great thing being the wins happened in Bangladesh.
2 draws, which meant a lost opportunity to best Sri Lanka in the Caribbean.
5 defeats- including 2 to Sri Lanka, 1 to Pakistan and 2 to South Africa.
Telling thing being- South Africa that clean swept the Tests had last visited the West Indies over a decade back in time. This time, the unit had no Faf, Amla, AB, no Morkel, Steyn or Philander and Tahir either.
3 ODIs against Australia – 2 lost, 1 win.
3 ODIs against Bangladesh – all lost.
3 ODIs against Sri Lanka – all won.
Great thing being- Shai Hope’s massive white ball form continued and Kieron Pollard, who as per Mr. Springer is the best man in the Caribbean to lead the game, made a world record of hitting six consecutive sixes.
It was clear to see a pattern emerging in West Indies cricket that lent itself to making their cricket in 2021 much like a mystery novel, where despite some fine talents and many an opportunity given (across formats) to make something memorable, the team collected dainty sized triumphs and accumulated defeats burgeoning in size.
The end result being that cricket continued to be killed, the weapon being used to carry the hit not being one that could immediately assassinate but one that functioned like a slow but effective poison. Make that a slow strangulation- painful, but irreversible in damage.
The saddest and yet, most surprising part being while the victim’s identity was known: West Indian cricket, the identity of the assailant was much too familiar. This, finally the third trail that explains the pattern.
So, who then?
As per Vernon A. Springer, those running the game in the Caribbean.
Basis the above, that pattern stemmed from the following observations that have created at the end of 2021, much like the final page of the book, a sad tale (since it’s that of a murder):
- Who takes the responsibility of the collective downfall of the team that despite starting the year on a promising note, found itself wiped out at Galle (132 all out) by a string of Sri Lankan spinners that no cricketing book calls desperately dangerous and damaging?
- Is the coach Simmons going to put his hand up or is it Mr. Estwick?
- Is there something about the squad selection that needs to be done and urgently so? Example- why did one take Shannon Gabriel to Sri Lanka. Why was Roach not played both Tests. Why were Jayden Seales (11 wickets vs Pakistan) and the likes of Alzarri Joseph not flown to Sri Lanka?
- Was there really a method, a way of doing something focused in the way the team performed at the T20 World Cup? If so, who came up with the idea that going for the hits and the big strikes from the word go was the right call, even before say a batter got his eye in?
- Is Cricket in West Indies suffering at the back of playing the keep-it-all-happy card by which one intends to keep all islands happy and fine by virtue of selecting players only from a certain islands and also at the back of some islands creating a ruckus for not selecting talents from their region for the national team?
- Finally, is politics and a keep the region happy mindset further troubling West Indies that must unite for the cause of putting the best team possible out in the ground?
Now, a cricket expert isn’t the one who only displays his wealth of knowledge on the game; but rather someone who can – and does- ask questions.
You know the hard questions not many are willing to ask or answer. The tough points that probe?
Having said all of the above, what does cast Vernon Springer in his own class is that despite spending a lot many years in the service of Caribbean cricket, he’s not become an individual who’d shy away from questioning the norms when something doesn’t feel right.
He’s not going to eschew the desire to raise points not many seem comfortable in even asking in the first place.
Which is why the avid Caribbean fan that stares at the very end of the year at a long list of questions concerning his beloved cricket team (and its immediate future) is in a way looking at several holes in a system that must now be filled. That’s provided one’s willing to consider the massive absences and voids in performances, the lack of checks and balances in Caribbean cricket as problems that need attention in the first place.
Had 2021, a year that began in commanding fashion for Brathwaite’s men, been a fine year, one would not have been reading these questions that will surely require a copious amount of explanation from whoever’s ready with solutions.
2021 did unfurl several talents for the side and from the region – Obed McCoy, Dominic Drakes, Jayden Seales, Joshua Da Silva and the already known but rising -in- form Rakheem Cornwall.
It was, after all, at the back of his excellent and telling off spinners in Bangladesh that the West Indies won the final Test. Mayers’ steely resolve added the edge in the first game, the second was about Cornwall.
He also came good with the bat.
But unless and until one’s not willing to understand that the cricketing identify that’s collectively called West Indies needs a major overhaul of its system, probably it would be a fool’s errand to expect a turnaround.
Speaking on the aspect of the turnaround, using customary eloquence and flair for thinking straight, Vernon A. Springer did have a massive point of contention wi to regards to the turnaround.
He asks and may perhaps always until
there’s clarity on it: is wining a Test here or there and taking a series against a not -that -big-a-side, actually a turnaround?
For how long can the West Indies duck under the familiar cover of evading the question whose time has come?
What learning is there to be taken when we win a game in 2015 Barbados vs England and the rest of the effort doesn’t tantamount to a series victory?
Is there a need to have a Shai Hope in the Test side when there’s nothing considerable that’s happened since 2017? Where’s Brooks the Test batter?
Who’s going to lay the path forward for Bonner and Mayers? What sense does one get in making Jermaine Blackwooda scapegoat for the drab Test outcomes.
Who’s really answerable for creating the mess that’s sprung to life in the name of managing Caribbean cricket?
How did our cricket, wondered Mr. Springer, come to a stage where the team is today without a sponsor? Who led it to a state of shambles?
Probably, we all know the answers. Probably, we all know the convenient truths we are made to swallow in the name of salivating, what’s told year after year, is mouthwatering cricket- when it’s not.
Yet having said the above, it does make perfect sense to believe in the power of logic that there are times when one has to negotiate with the pre-established norms.
True effort must be made, in at least, opening up a space for dialogue regarding West Indies cricket so that better things can be done, sustainable ideas be implemented.
For instance, is there sense in the Board beginning to send West Indian cricketers to the USA, where the culture of cricket is being nurtured and proper infrastructure being made available to cricketers?
The legacy and the mighty days are a thing of the past. They must be resorted to for understanding the great depths to which cricketers went in attaining success for the collective idea that’s West Indies.
An evidence for this is the sheer magnitude of cricketers who went from the Caribbean to England to familiarise themselves with the conditions.
Now that England’s got its own priorities and rightly so, can the West Indians produce their own well oiled domestic system?
Why broader measures aren’t yet being taken to revive a culture of stunning match winning performances that seemed terrific.
West Indies is a land that’s produced performers whose feats drew envy and inspired awe.
How did it all turn into a series of woes?
Now that we have the right questions in front of us, probably a good time to put our heads to the table and begin to find answers and come up with ideas.
For if the world cricket does need a strong West Indies team, which today is a powerful cliched statement not a call to action, we do need a call to action.
The book is still one of many mystery laden encounters. The victim is known. It’s the West Indies. The killer seems to be – and hey, it’s clear – it’s one among the known ones.
But why’s it doing what it is to the West Indies?
Author: Dev Tyagi
Credit: Vernon Springer