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A THORNY ISSUE: It was long in coming


Andi Thornhill

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The mailman had Chris Gayle’s walking ticket for a very long time, he just took his cool time to deliver it.
The naming of the West Indies team for Sri Lanka had more to do with Gayle’s sacking as captain than Darren Sammy’s elevation to the post. I think the writing was on the wall for Gayle when his own country overlooked him for the captaincy of their squad in the regional 20/20.
It caused some division within the executive ranks of the Jamaican Cricket Association with the resignation of former chairman of selectors Nehemiah Perry, but even then I thought that decision was sending a subliminal message to Gayle about his future as West Indies skipper.
After all, if you are the incumbent West Indies skipper and you are available then you should automatically be chosen to lead your country.
In truth and in fact Gayle’s own began to dig his grave. They merely left the West Indies Cricket Board to perform the last rites.
It is felt, too, that his feint hopes of retaining his post were grossly compromised when he was one of three players who turned down central retainer contracts. His stance could have been interpreted that he wasn’t truly committed to regional cricket even though he didn’t say otherwise.
On reflection, Gayle’s tenure at the top has been volatile to say the least.
His very outspoken manner may have won him friends with the players and those who loved to pick bones with the board, but it would have weakened his hand among board members who at times felt the fury of his tongue.
Being politically correct wasn’t Gayle’s  forte and he was at times very pointed in his analysis about the way West Indies cricket was being run. Eventually it tallied against him.
Not only that, his days for calling shots would have ended as the results of the team continued to decline. Under his leadership they were rated seventh in Tests and eighth in One-Day Internationals. Not to mention, the team flopped in the World 20/20 which we hosted. He was often ridiculed for appearing to be too laidback and passive when situations called a more passionate approach from its leader.
Gayle was not solely responsible for this sad state of affairs because he inherited a team that was strugling on several occasions, victims of their own inconsistency.
Sammy is virtually walking into the same situation and he will have to be conscious that there will be no quick-fix to West Indies cricket.
The Sammy period has to be regarded as the gradual changing of the guard as the Gayle/Chanderpaul/Sarwan era nears its end.
At 26 it is felt that he is at the right age where he can guide youngsters like Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, Nelon Pascal and Kemar Roach as the long journey to restore our game to its former glory continues.
Naturally, Sammy’s own performances will come under scrutiny as there is no better way for leaders to inspire their troops than by demonstrating how to get the job done themselves.
It can be argued that with only a fleeting ten Test matches to his name, he doesn’t have a lot of experience at that level. There are days when his resilience will be tested and he will have to show his mettle and character.
Despite recent developments, I believe it will be very prudent and in the region’s interest if Gayle and other senior players give the new man at the helm all the help he needs.
The approach must be that we are in this together and every hand on deck is a compulsory mantra to qualify for a play.
The technical and mental side of the cricket has to be vastly improved otherwise Sammy’s tenure will be just as flawed as his predecessors.
In closing, I note the exclusion of leading batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan but the promotion of Australia-born Brendon Nash to the vice-captaincy.
Both developments were unexpected and not many would have predicted these were in the mail bag.
Lest we forget, anything is possible in West Indies cricket these days!
•Andi Thornhill is sports editor of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation.

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