The state of West Indies cricket

01 Sep 2021 14:05 #392808 by chairman
In an interview last week, West Indies Coach Phil Simmons was at his wits’ end to explain the side’s latest batting collapse, and subsequent surrender of yet another Test match.

Simmons’ obvious frustration with the inconsistency of the players is a burden jointly borne by his fellow coaches, the selection panel and the ever shrinking band of die-hard West Indies fans. Over the last nine months, the merry-go-round ride of the team’s performances on the field of play have varied from ridiculous to miraculous to hopeful to back-to-the-usual desultory to impossible to now; how does one really explain this state of affairs?

In the first two weeks of December, they suffered innings defeats in both Tests in New Zea-land. In February, a virtual Second XI became the first side in nine years to sweep a two-Test series in Bangladesh, followed by two drawn Tests versus Sri Lanka in March in Antigua. In June, just as West Indies fans were hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the South African visitors promptly dispatched the West Indies in two Test matches in St Lucia, with the hosts averaging 143.25 runs in their four innings.

Two weeks ago, in the First Test versus Pakistan at Sabina Park, whilst the visitors were panicking, the West Indies last pair of Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales, two fast bowlers, added 17 precious runs, for the most unlikely of one-wicket triumphs. Five days later, the First Test heroes, Roach and Seales removed the first three in the line up, to have Pakistan floundering at three for two runs at the start of the match. Yet, despite the loss of the entire second day and the first session on the third day due to weather, the West Indies contrived to find a way to surrender the match by 109 runs, in the final session on the fifth day. A match which should easily have been drawn, thus, giving the West Indies a morale-boosting series win had been frittered away.

In the interview, Simmons’ train of thought varied from matter of fact to lamentation to hints of doubt to appeal for support and help. One instinctively empathizes with Simmons, who must be very near the end of his tether, as he can never be sure how his team will perform. Acknowledg-ing that, “the bowling has been exceptional – it carries its weight and pulls the team,” Simmons remains befuddled by the poor batting, which has only produced one total over 250 (253 for the record) in the last eight innings, in the three losses in four matches. While bluntly stating that our batsmen are quite capable of performing at this level, he bemoaned their inability to adapt to the swings in game situations and their inadequacy to convert their good starts of 40s and 50s into 100s and 150s.

When questioned about the possibility of batsmen from the limited-over squads making the transition to the Test team, Simmons hinted that some of our players are not interested in playing at the highest level of the game.

“The first thing is, [a player must have] a want to play Test cricket. We can say what we want, [but] Test cricket is not easy,” the West Indies coach wryly observed. “The first day of this match was unbelievable with the heat so you have to want [it], you have to have that desire, that conviction to play Test cricket.

“Maybe be out there for a day and a half and then come and bat. It’s for guys to want to play, we know the ones who are capable. But if you don’t have that want, you can’t do it. [It] makes no sense us selecting you and forcing you to play Test cricket and then you are just out there. West Indies always have talented players. Learning to play Test cricket can be easy, but you have to want to put in the work,” Simmons added.

Was this a slip of the tongue or was it a deliberate hint to the armchair selectors who are always critical of the selection panel? One can postulate that this startling revelation was probably a bit of both, prompted by Simmons’ lamentation over the indiscipline, apparent lack of hunger for runs at the highest level and weak mental approach of two of our more talented batmen, who have been left (hint, hint) out of recent test teams.

“The Caribbean has to continue backing us,” Simmons appealed in the interview. This was more than a simple plea to the fans. More importantly, it can be interpreted as an appeal to the Corporate Caribbean that there is more to West Indies cricket than the Caribbean Premier League, which is billed as the “Biggest Party” in sport and attracts corporate sponsorship money by the boatloads. Likewise, post pandemic, corporate dollars will be required for the enhancement of the First Class season in the Caribbean. Otherwise, our ability to produce cricketers capable of performing at the highest level over five days will continue to stagnate, if they are continuously weaned on a diet of one day cricket.

Simmons’s summation of the state of our game also included a desperate reminder to Cricket West Indies (CWI) of their responsibilities, as he added his voice to those of Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose, whose pleas for better pitches have been falling on the deaf ears of our cricket administrators for umpteen years.

Simmons, as West Indies Coach, has performed admirably in very difficult circumstances. His example should inspire all of us: CWI, Corporate Carib-bean, and the fans, to play our parts and continue to support the development of our team.

Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime.

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01 Sep 2021 14:09 #392810 by chairman
"Simmons hinted that some of our players are not interested in playing at the highest level of the game."
1.So why waste valuable resources on them and encourage the negative camp mentality?
2.Shouldn't you engage Coaches and young players who are committed to the longer version of the game and that information made clear to all from day one?

Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime.

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