By Bryan Davis, former West Indies Test cricketer
Criticism by ex-Test cricketers should always be constructive and sensitive. I am especially referring to former West Indies Test cricketer Lance Gibbs’ censures of West Indian (WI) players.
Gibbs states: “When I started playing cricket, I followed Everton (Weekes). Clyde Walcott was my hero in Guyana. They encouraged me and told me different things. You’ll want to talk with them, mix with them and do things that are right.
“Our youngsters, you see them, they don’t even come and say ‘hello’. How are you going to learn? You talk with the individuals who have gone through the mill, who know particularly well about the game and this will encourage you more to do well. Our fellas don’t mix and converse, they just go out and bat, they slog and that’s it. I’m very disappointed. The crowds are staying away which is a poor example.”
Lance Gibbs, a Guyanese, made his debut in first-class cricket in early 1955 at 20 years of age. Clyde Walcott moved to British Guiana (as it was then known) in 1954. His job was to develop cricket in the sugar plantations and improve the quality of Guyanese cricket in international competition.
Walcott then would have been Gibbs’ hero. There is nothing wrong with that except the world changes and so does sport. The age difference is too wide; Gibbs is 85, Shimron Hetmyer is 24. When Gibbs was 24, Walcott was 33 and still playing.
He criticises the youngsters for not mixing and conversing! Really? The fledgling cricketer is at the ground under the watchful eye of his coach, he doesn’t have the time or inclination to scour the ground to try and spot old…and the emphasis here is on old…cricketers, to mix with them or to say hello and ask advice.
Firstly, he probably would not recognise the past player unless someone points him out, and even if he did, he would most likely be self-conscious to approach him. There are so many reasons to restrict that meeting and nothing to do with not wanting to learn.
In the present day, players have a lot less free time being fully occupied throughout the year. Also, they rely more on their coaches, trainers and managers, to guide them as they train and ripen.
These contemporary times for a cricketer are poles apart from Gibbs’ day when players socialised and chatted with fans that visited the ground to witness the international team at practice.
Gibbs played between 1955 and 1975. There were no drugs in sport, no bribery of cricketers, no distrust of strangers lurking around. Cricketers are not even allowed to share hotel rooms again lest one player compromises the other.
In Gibbs’ day it was customary for the cricketer to fraternise at the clubhouse at the close of play or meet friends at the hotel bar to have a drink and talk about the cricket. Cricketers are more challenged presently with socialising because of the lack of discipline one will encounter today!
All players internationally are now professional cricketers as is the WI and earn much more money than those in the era of the Guyanese off-spinner. These WI players like Hetmyer are very personable as most WI players have been over the years.
If Gibbs believes he can help why doesn’t he ask the coach to let him talk to the players or is he too big for that? If you’re faulting the young Hetmyer for slogging, why don’t you make suggestions to the coach? Instead of blaming the player, check the coach.
These are modern times Mr Gibbs, where the world is far more electronically driven, but you seem stuck in the past; do some analysis of the times that these cricketers have been born into. It is far removed from the mid-twentieth century and this dissimilar lifestyle belongs to a new generation.
The cricketer today listens, learns and is directed by his coach. There are many books that have been written by past cricketers from which they can learn, and a worthy coach may direct his players to their wisdom through the written word.
The same Walcott and Weekes have published books, Sixty Years on the Back Foot and Mastering the Craft respectively.
Or a willing ex-international cricketer like Gibbs can offer the team’s coach to address the younger players who are now making their way and need to learn from their experience. It might be something the coach would be willing to entertain.
It’s the coach who should say ‘hello’ to you, Mr Gibbs, not the cricketer. They could do without your destructive criticism!