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On the right track


Andi Thornhill

On the right track

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The greatest gain of the Ottis Gibson/Darren Sammy partnership is that they seem to have restored team unity in the West Indies squad.
That’s my belief.
It is an achievement that should not be underestimated when we consider that insularity has been a negative factor in our cricket for donkey’s years.
The masterful leadership of Sir Frank Worrell mended fences and built bridges that laid the foundation for the West Indies to become world champions in the mid-1960s under the guidance of Sir Garfield Sobers.
Teams led by Clive Lloyd and Sir Viv Richards were able to mask any shade of insular behaviour within the team because they were so brilliant on the field and so successful that we didn’t have time to think about anything else.
Some may even argue that purple patch prevented us from having a succession plan.
Those halcyon days from the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s were arguably the last era that the West Indies appeared to play as a unit.
It was no mean task, therefore, for Gibson and Sammy to reignite flames of concord when they took up their respective jobs.
They came at a time when the team dropped close to the bottom of the international ratings and when there were disputes between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) on the eve of important series.
That mode must have affected team performance as some of the issues were unresolved even while competition started.
On occasion, the team would take industrial action to air their grievances in the open and to force the hand of the board to find quick resolutions.
Consequently, the West Indies were not always at full strength and had to make do with so-called second string teams more than once.
The litany of arbitration issues between the board and WIPA did nothing to ease tensions between the players and their employers.
Against this background, the team continued to play poorly although they would produce the occasional brilliant performance that turned heads.
Lest we forget, Gibson was the England bowling coach and was praised for the improvement of their bowling attack as the team on a whole gradually became a force in world cricket.
The English team was on the up when Gibson gave up his role with them to become West Indies head coach.
I am sure he sensed from early in his tenure that the attitudes and the application in the respective dressing rooms were miles apart.
In fact, Gibson made it a point from the inception to instill discipline to the team above all else.
Naturally, there appeared to be pockets of resistance to the new order but he seems to be the one who has gotten his way and it has started to work in everybody’s favour.
Sammy was appointed captain two years ago under a cloud because it was felt that he couldn’t command a place in the team as a batsman or a bowler.
The issue was compounded whenever he failed and his captaincy was always under scrutiny.To his credit, he never wilted under pressure and he continued to work hard on all aspects of his game with some good results.
He is still not regarded as an untouchable, but I think he has done enough to earn the respect of his teammates and to me that is what counts at this stage.
Unity is strength, and I believe that once the players maintain their growing confidence and consistency, they have a big chance of winning the current World Twenty20 competition in Sri Lanka.
If it takes 22 hands to clap they must do it in order to strengthen what Gibson and Sammy have been able to attain so far.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance journalist.

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