TONY COZIER: Capitulations undermining WI unity
OF all the harrowing days the West Indies have endured on the Test grounds of the world over the past couple of decades, and, heaven knows, they have been plentiful and persistent, none was as horrific as the opening day of the series against Australia in Hobart on Thursday.
Australians were sensible enough not to expect a competitive challenge. Recent results alerted them to the situation. Their media had proposed switching the showpiece Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, assigned to the West Indies, with those specified earlier for palpably stronger New Zealand.
Yet they couldn’t possibly foresee just how limp the West Indies would be at the start of contest offering them the chance to at least restore a little of their tarnished reputation.
They blew it, spectacularly. Their tactics were mystifying, the bowling club standard and, above all else, their game was riddled with indiscipline and attitude of which three senior players, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach and Marlon Samuels, were most culpable.
The upshot was an untroubled 449 for the fourth wicket between Adam Voges and the left-handed Shaun Marsh that lifted Australia from 121 for three at the first lunch break to 583 for four before Steve Smith declared into the second session of the second day.
A Sydney newspaper reported that former Australia player Tom Moody claimed he was told by captain Jason Holder that Taylor and Roach, their new ball pair with 77 Tests and 250 wickets between them, had declined to bowl into the wind, leaving the youthful captain in the lurch.
He sought damage control by setting deep fields; late in the day, he turned to the batsmen Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood for their versions of off-spin.
As it was, Taylor and Roach launched the series with a no-ball first up. David Warner and Joe Burns rattled up 12 fours off them in the first eight overs. The die had been cast.
Well away from the action in the deep field, Samuels had all his fingers strapped in tape for some reason. He resembled a version of an Egyptian mummy and stood as motionless as one. For all his inherent talent and his experience of 15 years of international career, his Test future demands urgent consideration; his first innings nine followed scores of 11, 0, 13 and 6 in the two matches in Sri Lanka.
Only a high quality innings by Darren Bravo and his stand of 91 with the defiant Roach prevented the West Indies from following on before the close of the day.
Such capitulations are undermining the unity of West Indies cricket, in existence for over 100 years. Even through the break-up of the political Federation after four years in 1962 the resulting separate, independent mini-states remained as one for cricket.
Even before a ball was bowled in Hobart, Baldath Mahabir, a director who quit the “unprofessional, tardy, lax” West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) last month, spoke of his concerns that there may be no such thing as West Indies cricket within ten years.
He noted that the present generation in their 20s would have no recollection of the heady times when the West Indies that dominated the world. All they know is an entity that has languished for two decades near the bottom of the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings. Supporting their individual territories instead has become more attractive.
Six years ago, Darren Ganga, the Trinidad and Tobago captain who had 48 Tests for the West Indies between 1998 and 2007, made a similar point.
“If you speak to any West Indies player, you will hear them talking about this special affiliation to their country,” he said. “When you play for the country that you were born in and brought up in and you sing your national anthem, it brings a different individual spirit to you.”
At the same time, the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) boycotted the annual general meeting of the WICB.
Then president Deryck Murray, the former West Indies wicket-keeper and vice-captain during the glory days in the late 1970, acknowledged that it was a difficult decision to make.
“We want to send a signal to the WICB that this is not a time for business as usual,” he said. “I want to be clear. This is not a threat to the unity of West Indies cricket. In this time of crisis, we cannot afford to sit back and keep doing the same things over and over again. That is not doing anything for our cricket.”
His board wanted the WICB to “understand that the people of Trinidad and Tobago expect and demand that things be done differently from here on in.”
Six years on, nothing has changed in spite of three commissioned reports that have recommended extensive adjustments to the structure of the WICB. The latest, on which Murray was one of the committee members, is being discussed by the WICB this weekend in St Lucia.
The outcomes in the boardroom there and on the field in Hobart are closely related.
Tony Cozier is a renowned cricket writer and commentator.