“Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge” – Proverbs 23:12:
Brian Lara has now retired and as I have said repeatedly this now provides an opportunity for the West Indies team to begin the reconstruction process. It has nothing to do with Brian Lara’s record and entertainment value as one of the best batsmen of all time, but everything to do with the environment of discipline which is necessary for sustained success. My comments may have been misconstrued because I have had feedback cynically enquiring whether I think that WI cricket will automatically improve now that Lara has gone. Another comment suggested that I refocus my attention from the players to the structure of WI cricket. I think that the problem has been with the lack of discipline both on the individual level of players and at the institutional level of the Board.
The Board is disadvantaged by its structure where board members, for the most part, represent six cricket associations in the region. Insularity has plagued us over the years and this structure allows the perpetuation of the mutual back scratching syndrome – you scratch my back and I scratch yours. This is how it appears anyway when one looks at the inconsistency in decision making. Selectors make recommendations to the Board and it has the power to overturn these decisions. Yes, the power to change the selectors on the recommendation of management but not to overturn their decisions which are presumably based on specialist knowledge. But then what is the management structure? There is a governance structure where the board is involved in day to day management decisions. How archaic can you get in the context of modern day governance practice?
Now, to the selectors. The latest selector inconsistency is that Joseph, Devon Smith and Morton were preferred ahead of Samuels for the English tour. Samuels is generally acclaimed to have batting talent which significantly exceeds that of the other three players. Samuels recently played in the CWC 2007 without any reports of injury. One therefore must assume that Samuels was not selected for reasons other than fitness or potential to perform as a batsmen – note I did not say batter, which seems to have surreptitiously crept into cricketing lexicon. Lo and behold, a few short weeks later Samuels gets a recall to replace Sarwan who is injured. Then, when he arrives in England, he is not selected for the third Test. Could the selectors not have worked this out before and saved the cost of a replacement? What indiscipline!
By the way, I think that the selectors now have at last got the balance of the West Indies team right. I hope it is not because Gayle is not fully fit to bowl. Is it Ganga’s influence as captain? To win a test match, the West Indies has to claim 20 opposition wickets. You need a full attack of five bowlers to do this, with each bowler equally sharing a load of 20-25 overs per innings, on average. WI selectors usually select teams that are one bowler short and then we call on Gayle, Samuels or Sarwan to relieve the pressure from the other four bowlers. Woe betide if one of the main bowlers breaks down, then everything goes to shambles.
In my view, we need to aim to select five specialist batsmen, one batting all-rounder, one wicket-keeper (who can also bat) and four specialist bowlers. In the third test at Old Trafford, we have a balanced team – Gayle, Ganga, Smith, Chanderpaul, Morton are five specialist batsmen with Bravo being the batting all-rounder who takes up one of the five specialist bowling positions. The four specialist bowlers are Sammy, Collymore, Taylor and Edwards. Both Sammy and Ramdin can bat and, hence, we have a batting line-up down to number eight. At the time of writing this column only one day of the third test has been completed, so no final conclusions can be made on the success of this selection. I hope the selectors continue to pick similar balanced teams and only use Gayle as a part-time bowler. I support the selection of Ganga as the Captain of the one-day team. As I have alluded to before, leadership is a specialist resource and Ganga, given the present competition, can make the team. This, then, throws up another selector inconsistency. How come Ganga was not included in the 30 members who were selected for the world cup?
I note that the governance committee, established to review the WICB, is in full flight. I heard them on a special radio programme last Thursday night and information is shared on the WICB website. It appears as though they are listening to the widespread feedback that they are getting, and are prepared to recommend a major restructuring in West Indies cricket. To whom do they report, the Heads of Government, or the West Indies Cricket Board? If the latter, do we really expect any significant change? If the former, who will preside over the gallows of change? Maybe Rawle Brancker’s recent call for change and the subsequent feedback will be heeded by the governance committee.