THE current administration of West Indies cricket – the Board, the Selectors , the Coach – appear to be hell bent on hammering the final nails in the coffin that the West Indies cricket team finds itself in. This has been confirmed by a ‘Hilarious’ letter and the recent revelations by accomplished West Indian batsman Shivnarine “Tiger” Chanderpaul that there was interference with his batting during matches and that he was subjected to unreasonable questioning by the team management during the past year. I say, “Let the Tiger be!”
Chanderpaul’s record speaks for itself: 9,063 Test runs and 8,778 ODI runs with averages of 48.98 and 41.60 respectively. Embedded in his Test runs is a most famous hundred, 104 to be precise, against Australia at the ARG in 2003. Batting with a broken finger, he, along with Ramnaresh Sarwan who made 105, propelled West Indies to a world record 418 to win. Only recently as 2008 he was ICC’s Cricketer of the Year. During his last ODI for the West Indies, the ill-fated World Cup quarter-final against Pakistan, while others fell like flies he was the last man left standing on 44 not out. Given the lack of seasoned players today in the West Indies team, I say, “Let the Tiger be!”
The current crop of WICB administrators need to look at history and learn from it. Frank Worrell’s 1963 West Indians in England were lauded for their uninhibited approach to the game and were specifically singled out for not being over coached. Norman Preston, the then Editor of Wisden wrote, “All of them are natural cricketers, unspoiled by excessive coaching.” It must be noted that the man who made the most runs on either team in the famous 1963 series was Rohan Kanhai, purveyor of the ‘roti shot’ that was handsomely referred to by the great Neville Cardus, the best and most consistent of cricket writers, as ‘the triumphant fall.’ No one in their rightful mind could have told the “Babulall” to discard that shot. Worrell knew it was essentially West Indian: it entertained and won matches. So he let it be.
Fast forward from the 1960s to the 1980s and we have the legendary Viv Richards making hitting across the line an art form. He amassed 8,540 runs that included the fastest hundred off 56 balls and drove fear in bowlers around the world. All the while West Indies were establishing the best record in the history of the game. His captain Clive Lloyd, like Worrell before him, had the wisdom to recognize Richards’ individuality. He let it be.
And recently there was the great Brain Lara, owner of the most magnificent collection of hundreds: 277 at Sydney, 375 at St. John’s, 213 at Kingston, 153 not out at Bridgetown, 221 at Colombo, 400 not out at St. John’s and 226 at Adelaide. These are Test cricket’s Magnificent Seven. Not even’ the greatest batsman of them all, Australia’s Don Bradman, has a seven that can compare. And yet, Lara accomplished them with an exaggerated back lift. Everyone around him just let him be.
A coach of a Test team is the most over-rated position in all of cricket. I was privileged to spend three hours with Lara discussing his 400 not out on the morning after the event. He stressed the need for coaches at the club and school levels. However, he was of the opinion that if anyone needed excessive coaching at the Test level they did not belong there. Incidentally, he said that the best coach he ever had was Rohan Kanhai, because he did not say much. According to Lara, “He said the little things that made a big difference.” Listen and learn all you West Indian administrators or else you will bury West Indies cricket.
There is a saying that world cricket needs a strong West Indies. It is not so much the team as it is the unique brand of cricket that our players have historically brought to the world stage. Our batsmen: Headley in the 1930s, to Kanhai in the 1960s, to Richards in the 1980s, to Lara in the 1990s and Chanderpaul during the 2000s have left their unique imprint on the game. And our bowlers: Constantine and Martindale in the 1930s, Ramadhin and Valentine in the 1950s, Hall and Griffith in the 1960s, Roberts and Holding in the 1970s, Garner and Marshall in the 1980s, and Ambrose and Walsh in the 1990s have done the same. West Indians have entertained with their uninhibited brand of cricket through history while winning. We are now being foolish by retaining high-priced coaches for the Test team and incompetent administrators who seem bent on taking away the unique identity that has been integral to West Indies cricket.
CLR James in his seminal 1963 work Beyond A Boundary, despite being a very difficult book to read, asked the pertinent question: What do they know of cricket who only cricket know? Sadly, from the West Indian administrative perspective the answer is a ‘Hilarious’ one. Former West Indian fast bowler Andy Roberts hit the nail on the head when he said the current President and CEO should resign with immediate effect. Again, what do they know of cricket who only cricket knows?
The solution to West Indies cricket does not lie in a coach. It lies in two areas: revamp the board and introduce cricket studies at the CXC level. The former speaks to the need for a corporate-style board to replace the current insular module. Make the WICB a publicly traded entity so that it can be accountable to the shareholders and have greater transparency. A five-part curriculum must be introduced in the high schools. It should encompass history, marketing, administration, rules and regulations, and issues. Just like a standard West Indian history course, it would be mandatory at Forms one, two and three. Thereafter, it becomes an elective at CXC. In its hour of need, West Indies cricket needs a curriculum of Cricket Studies at the CXC level. It is the wheel that can roll West Indies cricket out of the mud it is currently mired in. Maybe, just maybe, the politicians may act before that mud becomes quicksand.
Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo and Minister of Sport Frank Anthony must be commended for standing behind the “Tiger.” As the senior statesman in the region, Jagdeo has clout. He remains the ideal person to call upon CARICOM to implement Cricket Studies at the CXC level. The manual has been written and the detailed curriculum has been drafted. This is a topic for another article.
For now, it’s hands off Chanderpaul. He still has much to offer West Indies cricket. He is unique. The old saying ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is relevant to him. He may have the crabbiest technique in the game but it is effective. The proof is in over 9,000 Test runs and 8,000 ODI runs. So bring him in for the Test series against Pakistan and India and just let the “Tiger” be!
Written by Vijay P. Kumar
Author of Cricket Lovely Cricket, 418 To Win and 400 Not Out
Source: Kaieteur News