FAZEER MOHAMMED: Finger-pointing of highest order
ONE OF THE enormous benefits of a chaotic environment is that there is always an easy target for an accusing index finger. However, there is also the small problem of three other fingers pointing back at the accuser to be taken into consideration.
In the case of Joel Garner it’s not three but six, as in the six consecutive and comprehensive defeats suffered by the West Indies against Pakistan so far on this tour of the United Arab Emirates.
And given the regional side’s atrocious record in the traditional format (eight defeats in the last 11 matches with two of three draws completely ruined by rain/outfield conditions and the other in which four sessions were lost to the elements), it is quite possible that by the end of the third Test in Sharjah early next month the Caribbean team would have lost all nine international matches of this campaign.
At least there’s no tenth match, or else “Big Bird” may also have to retract the digit aimed in the direction of the outspoken Dwayne Bravo.
Such was the eagerness of the team manager to respond to the all-rounder’s condemnation of management and almost everything else associated with the squad during Bravo’s brief time in the UAE, that the former outstanding fast bowler didn’t even seem to realise that he was both yorking himself and missing the target – two errors which would have been unthinkable at the height of his playing days.
In the statement issued on his behalf by the West Indies Cricket Board last Tuesday in response to Bravo’s broadside in the Trinidad and Tobago media, Garner gave specifics to support his assertion that the team was “well prepared to engage Pakistan considering the conditions and adjustments that were necessary to bring meaningful benefits to this team”.
After referencing the training camp in Barbados, which included fitness assessments, the manager went into the specifics of the week of preparation in Dubai ahead of the opening T20 International on September 23.
“The team’s preparation consisted of acclimatisation, recovery sessions, strength and conditioning, nets and skill sets, management planning meeting which were supported by video footage of the opposition, bullet point reminders and input from our experienced coaching staff and inclusive of the T20 and ODI captains and the players,” Garner stated.
So what was the result of all of that exhaustive work? Defeats by nine wickets (34 balls to spare), 16 runs and eight wickets (29 balls to spare) in the T20s and 111 runs, 59 runs and 136 runs in the ODIs. Would Imad Wasim have taken ten for seven instead of five for 14 and Babar Azam belted three consecutive double-centuries rather than just getting hundreds but for that preparation? Whew! What a close call!
That was the self-inflicted yorker. For the delivery that went well wide of the mark, Garner summarised with what I suppose he considered death bowling at its best: “Mr Bravo, with prior permission, by the former head coach, turned up on the day before the first T20 match. His suggestion of disorganisation in the team’s plans and preparation is therefore false and misleading.”
Brilliant delivery, except that the senior player made no reference to the team’s plans and preparation. How could he? He wasn’t there.
In speaking to sports broadcaster Andre Baptiste on I95.5FM in Port of Spain, comments which were reproduced in the Trinidad Guardian last Monday, Bravo said “basically the players were lost, the management team was lost, everything looked like we were school kids again, and the team meetings had no sort of positive inputs or anything like that. It was like we were just there.”
While he contributed a battling half-century in the opening match in Dubai, the former ODI captain’s scathing overview of the experience and his concern for the younger players in the squad is obviously compromised by the fact that, according to Garner, he only joined the team 24 hours before the first match against Pakistan.
Isn’t it hypocritical of him to talk about “those young players who I want to see come through” when he chose to miss the preparatory work in Barbados and Dubai, a period that would also involve team-building, when established senior players can interact and develop relationships with juniors in a West Indies team setting outside of their parochial territorial environments?
Then there is the issue of preferential treatment. Doesn’t that undermine any effort at developing team unity? Isn’t it reasonable to expect that the wider West Indian cricket community, as insular as it is everywhere (including Trinidad and Tobago), would interpret this revelation by Garner as confirmation of suspicions of bias by the departed Simmons in favour of his fellow Trini?
So keep pointing fellas. You’re just confirming how bad the situation is in West Indies cricket all around.
Fazeer Mohammed is a regional cricket journalist and broadcaster who has been covering the game at all levels since 1987.