By Bryan Davis
Former West Indies Test cricketer
The t20 Caribbean Premier League (CPL) competition exposes the rich talent of cricketers in the West Indies (WI), a raw ability that only needs to be tamed in a way that young cricketers will understand how to play the game of cricket at all levels in different formats.
It is an experience in itself to witness these youngsters having to adjust their games to suit the situation when there are only a few overs in which to do it.
When I think of the pathetic display of WI in the 50-over World Cup, only to be followed by an even more mortifying exhibition when their opponents were India in the Caribbean, on their own home soil! It was shameful! And in all formats!
One would not believe that WI is the defending t20 champion! Also, they were always looked up to as a dangerous side in limited overs cricket! That was the reputation the men from the Caribbean had earned from way back, when they won the first two World Cup tournaments in 1975 and 1979.
There is a particular reason for this; it is the natural flair the West Indian has for cricket – he is obviously impulsive and emotional, then even when the more stoic comes along, like Joe Solomon and Larry Gomes for instance, it helps to stabilise the team. This is what added up to become the success of the team over the years.
The point I’m making is that the nature of the West Indian is demonstrative which is revealed in the cricket he plays. All over the world the cricketer of the Caribbean has been most popular; and with the advent of t20 franchise cricket competitions, he is in great demand.
That is why the CPL is now the third most popular t20 franchise in the world. And it all has to do with the popularity of West Indian people, their love for the game and its excitement in addition to the adoration they have of their own electrifying cricketers.
One watches the CPL today with interest in the youngsters and their development. At the present time, more than ever before, direction is fundamental for the proper participation in the game.
One doesn’t want the youths to throw away golden opportunities for a bright future when, by proper coaching, they could become superb professionals, attracting offers from all over the world to play in the various t20 franchise leagues.
Those players who have been involved in these leagues usually began after being recognised for their abilities in first-class cricket; but more and more youthful cricketers are being selected to participate in such competitions without the necessary experience of exposure in the first-class game. It is a shame as these talented players need to ensure that they have some dynamic awareness of how to approach the different formats.
I’ve seen it beginning to happen, where a young batsman thinks he’ll be recognised for the lucrative t20 contests worldwide if he shows his local coaches and selectors that he could ‘hit the ball’. This is of no use unless he has developed a strong defence which needs practice and exposure in the middle in 2-innings games.
t20 matches have been designed as a batsman’s game to attract the crowd which have come to see sixes and fours, for their instant gratification. That is why bowlers are only allowed four overs apiece. Hence bowlers need to work hard on their lines and lengths, practising their yorkers (the hardest ball to hit) and must plan careful field placing with the captain. However, the fielding positions have also been tampered with by the rules, to give the batsman every possible advantage!
West Indies’ selectors must also be aware of the skill of a cricketer, as it seems to me that they are blissfully unaware of how a number of players can adjust to the various formats presented.
For instance, they obviously think that a hard-hitting batsman is a limited-over cricketer while his more polished colleague is not. I must put forward Nicholas Pooran as a case in point—why wasn’t that most promising left-handed batsman not offered a Test match contract, but one only for the shorter version, or white-ball cricket as it is now popularly known? Pooran was the outstanding West Indian batsman in the recently concluded World Cup!
Selectors therefore, must show that they have the necessary qualifications for the game, then they would have recognised that the gifted Pooran adjusted his game to suit every occasion and, apart from his array of strokes and his lovely timing when he strikes the ball, he also has a strong defence. Apart from these talents, one notices he is an intelligent cricketer.
Cricket intelligence is necessary at all levels to progress.