Saturday, April 13, 2024

Blame it on lack of discipline


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AT THE END OF THE PENULTIMATE DAY of the Grenada Test match, former West Indies wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon, in his role as television analyst, suggested the pitches used over the first two Tests were too good even on the last day.

At the time I thought the comment strange since we had not yet reached the final day of the second cricket Test.

It would be as presumptuous as it would be time wasting for me to make a contrary assessment of the pitches. Presumptuous  because the experts enjoyed a more intimate interaction and time wasting because too much of commentary time is already burnt discussing conditions.

Conditions make for interesting debate but in reality the outcome of most sporting contests is based on the respective skills, both physical and mental, of the competing teams.

On the evidence of what we have seen so far the West Indies have been the second best team on show in this series against England.

The emotional response to Jason Holder’s brilliance with the bat that inspired a first Test draw, may have temporarily hidden the realities of West Indies cricket, but as the teams prepare for the crucial third Test at Kensington this weekend, West Indians, fans and players alike, find themselves in an all too familiar position. Were it not for the rearguard action led by Holder in the opening Test, a whitewash would be looming.

If the selectors allow themselves to be as distracted as some fans have been by discussion on the immediate future of champion batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the situation for the home team could become even more desperate.

Chanderpaul must play simply because there is no other batsman in the region in his league, even at age 40 and in poor form.

If Holder fails to recover in time, a straight swap for Carlos Brathwaite solves that problem. Nevertheless a discussion on team selection is hardly even worthwhile other than to satisfy the urge for robust cricket dialogue.

The issues impacting the poor performance have not been adequately addressed and whatever the outcome of this match and this series, there is unlikely to be any long-term improvement in West Indies cricket until the realities are accepted and fixed.

Concerns surrounding the structure of Caribbean cricket management are valid but I do not subscribe to the popular view that our cricket cannot improve until the structure changes.

In more than two decades of international cricket, Chanderpaul has thrived regardless of who was captain, WICB president or WIPA activist. There should be a lesson there for any young aspiring cricketer who recognises the opportunity for a life-changing career.

If the reason behind Brian Lara’s amazing feats could be credited to his status of cricketing genius that can hardly explain the success of a Samuel Badree, the top rated T20 cricketer in the world or Ian Bradshaw, at one stage rated among the top bowlers in ODIs. Bradshaw identifies preparation as key to his success, possibly another lesson there for our youngsters.

Kraigg Brathwaite seems to be cut from the same cloth as Chanderpaul. No wonder he is among the young opener’s cricketing heroes. In our desperation to win and to identify stars we overlook the actual process, sadly to our detriment.

Maybe at that stage our young cricketers will recognise that it will take more than a couple hours of brilliance to earn automatic selection.

The second Test match was not lost because we do not have a squad of destructive fast bowlers capable of blowing batsmen away. The second Test match was not lost because of the absence of a genius like Lara. It was not lost because of the strength of an opponent whose previous victory away from home was more than two years ago.

It was lost because of poor discipline. It’s as simple as that. A key component in the formula that represents discipline is no doubt leadership.

As unlikely as it may seem, West Indies could possibly win the Kensington Test and save the series. But we won the series when England visited in 2009, yet as a cricketing force we have made no progress.

Until we address the real issues of discipline and leadership we are unlikely to move forward in any purposeful way. We don’t need a new board structure to do that. The selectors just need to keep doing their jobs, which means that selection cannot just be based on numbers. Strength of character should be a major consideration.


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