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By Ricardo Inniss
I have watched Test cricket and all West Indies cricketers since at least 1948 - the greats such as Headley, Worrell, Weekes, Walcott, the one and only Sobers (the greatest all-rounder the world has ever seen), right through to the present day’s Deonarine and young Bravo. And bowlers like Ramadhin, Valentine, Hall and Griffith, right through to Benn and Roach.
I must say that it was exceedingly painful to watch the West Indies team perform, or more appropriately, its lack of performance during the recent third test against South Africa at the “Mecca” of cricket in the West Indies, Kensington Oval, in Barbados.
It was the West Indies’ sixth loss in their last eight Tests, at a venue where they were invincible in 27 Tests between 1948 and 1993, and won 12 straight matches between 1978 and 1993. The recent 7 wicket loss to the South Africans, was on top of two defeats in two Twenty20 matches, 5 straight losses in 5 ODIs and the second out of three in the Tests.
During the Test, Windies skipper Chris Gayle, displayed poor leadership on the field and while at the crease. Gayle always seemed to be waiting for something to happen, rather than making something happen, and there was a blatant lack of purpose from nearly the entire team. The only clear exceptions, were Bravo, Nash, Chanderpaul, Benn and Roach, all of whom played with a certain amount of zest.
No wonder the match ended with a day and two sessions to spare,with hardly any paying spectators watching. Other than the Media Center, only the Worrell, Weekes and Walcott (Members stand), had about a hundred people watching.
Several knowledgeable cricket fans, along with Sir Everton Weekes, whom I spoke to, seem to think that the current team is a product of today’s society, Lacking in discipline, and void of all the essential attributes that build good and proper character.
At present there’s no pride in representing the West Indies, no absolute enthusiasm for the game, rather than for the money.
In the past, West Indian cricketers always brought natural talent to the cricketing world, but today it is quite plain for all and sundry to see - West Indies cricket, already in the doldrums, continues to decline.
In the past, the words class and great were associated with former players like: Sir Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Roy Fredricks, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, and a little further back, Rohan Kanhai and Basil Butcher, to mention a few, all of whom were never coached.
Today you have coaching and more coaching, and all you’re getting is ordinary players.
People that should know better, should stop saying there’s lots of talent in the current crop of West Indies players, when the real truth is, to repeat, they are (with the exceptions I mentioned earlier), just ordinary.
No coaching in the world can make a great player, you have to be born with that natural ability, and listen and learn from your seniors.
I said this before, and will take this opportunity to say it again. As a purist, I see Test cricket as the highest level by which class and great players are measured. On the other hand, Test cricket is a science, so that to succeed at it, along with natural ability, to play the game well one must be able to concentrate for long periods, be very disciplined, have near-perfect shot-selection, and the capacity to think like a General.
Good luck to the Windies for the upcoming tour to Sri Lanka. But some drastic changes are needed if things are to change for the better.