THE cricketers of the West Indies (WI) have certainly been showing a big improvement in their approach to the game. I haven’t seen the team play so positively for many years. They still have a way to go to be recognised as a professional international team but at least their cricket is improving, so there is something to trigger hope.
I have given the credit to the captain Jason Holder whose disposition and personality has never been in doubt. However, after suffering through the past four years when at 23 years of age he felt he didn’t deserve a pick on the team plus not having the confidence of players to support him, he has now, at 27, emerged smelling of roses!
I wrote before that the reason for this is the improvement over the past year in his personal performances which has also built his self-confidence hence the self-assurance to lead. This is reflected in his team’s demeanour. Getting rid of a couple of bad influences also would have given Holder a boost in his capability to lead.
Unquestionably, WI’s cricket has improved from what we’ve been subject to for the last decade or so in all formats except t20 which, as is common knowledge, took a nosedive since winning the world championship in 2016.
In the third Test against England in St Lucia, the WI were robbed of their captain as he was banned by an officious adjudicator to whom the letter of the law was more important than the sanctity of the game and the Caribbean men subsequently lost! This game, to me, is what proved that the Caribbean cricketers were on the upswing.
Kraigg Brathwaite, the stand-in captain for Holder, lacked the decisiveness and the punch of Holder. This is no destructive criticism of the Barbadian deputy, just that he obviously lacks the charisma of Holder, in addition to the fact that filling in at a moment’s notice is a most challenging task.
Nonetheless, what was most noticeable was the apparent enthusiasm of the players albeit having already won the series together with the harsh removal of their leader.
They played it tough and were better than I expected given the negatives they would have had to endure leading up to the game. Sometimes, the way in which one loses a contest decides whether one is worthy of participating in the event.
The WI, in the recent past, when in the losing stages of a game, always seemed a submissive lot, embodying a lackadaisical and complacent attitude. That was not apparent in this Test. One had to observe closely whether it was because they had already won the series. Common sense should dictate that would’ve been more reason for complacency.
Look at the second ODI played in Barbados after the thrashing by England in the first at the same venue although scoring an ‘unbeatable’ score of 360 runs! What a comeback when things were not going their way, they showed the fortitude to fight back and win! (This is being written before the third ODI).
Maturity is the beacon to which professional teams aspire but maturity alone is not the full answer although it is definitely one of the building blocks for future success.
The others are skill (built up by endless practice), discipline and motivation which are acquired from coaches and management. The captain is a vital part of all these functions. On these pillars are the cricketers of the future built.
A matter of competitiveness
On the other matter, the banning of Shannon Gabriel, it was a pity to again reflect on the officiousness of the match referee New Zealander Jeff Crowe on a matter as pitifully petty as what transpired between Gabriel and the England captain Joe Root.
It is such a shame—despite the two mature gentlemen on the field of play having settled matters so amicably between them—that those not involved should have taken umbrage (at what?) and report it to the International Cricket Council.
That body thought it was so cruel (it wasn’t) or so obscene (it wasn’t) so as to ban the powerful fast bowler from two Test matches or four ODI’s whichever came first! Unbelievable!
I could write a book on insults occurring on the field of play when I played which was a part of getting the batsman riled to get his wicket or to upset the bowler to disturb his rhythm.
It occurred in all cricket from Test to club and some of the finest cricketers used what would make the Gabriel/Root exchange seem like a Sunday afternoon tea party for royalty!
Of course, it was never vulgar, just yanking the chain of the opponent! And not everyone did it. My point in mentioning it is to show that cricketers never complained about it.
After the game, the two teams met in the dressing room and had a beer and a laugh together. It all has to do with competitiveness, that edge sparked by tough battles and the combatants never minded!