Asked to name a West Indies all-time best squad, Lloyd Best, a serious and respected commentator on all things West Indian, selected him first. The role played by the doyen of West Indian cricket writers in the promotion of regional cricket, Best was making the point, was more important than any other individual’s.
So it should surprise no one that, since his passing in May 2016, we have come a long, long way down. We and WI. And, it goes without saying, regional writing on cricket.
WI simply don’t make them like Tony Cozier every day. Or even every century.
Tony McWatt and Reds Perreira wrote, on 7 November in the immediate aftermath of Kieron Pollard’s West Indies’ disastrous 2021 T20 World Cup campaign in the UAE, an article which Wired868 headlined: ‘Reds’ and McWatt call for WI selectors, coaches and captain to pay for disastrous campaign’.
Thousands of readers rushed to eyeball the piece, which called for an inquiry into the WI performance in the World Cup. And, in the same breath, called for the removal of the coaching staff, the captain and the selectors.
Several of the readers explicitly endorsed the ideas the piece contained. An inquiry and mass firings at the same time? Bring it on! Invade Iraq to search for the weapons of mass destruction you think Saddam has.
Alive, Cozier would, I am sure, have shuddered; in his grave, he most likely kept turning at a rate of knots.
For good measure, however, on 15 November, having had a full week to reflect on their hare-brained recommendation, the pair repeat the call.
Perhaps intoxicated by the popular acclaim, Reds and Tony inspire the Wired868 headline: ‘Reds’ and McWatt: WI must overhaul white-ball teams, starting with captain, coaches and selectors.
It’s so nice, we have to do it twice.
But taken together, the pair of pieces from the pair of populists constitutes pure, unadulterated rubbish. Merely proof positive that the ‘we does win, dem does lose’ mentality is alive and well.
Coming from journalists who hope to be taken seriously, it is indefensible. One would expect that, even wearing his columnist hat, the serious ‘world-renowned’ journalist that Mr Perreira would have us believe he is would offer serious reasons for the draconian action he has recommended.
But there was who, what, when, where and how a-plenty.
Why? Not so much.
Out with the old, say Tony and Reds, and in with the new. These are Covid times, time for the Three W’s. Not Worrell, Weekes and Walcott. Wave a magic wand. Wish excellence into being. Without work! Give all the answers even before the pertinent questions are asked.
It makes no sense! Personnel alone do not win World Cups; you also need proper preparation and planning. With long horizons. So, Reds and Tony, give us a break with the piss-poor people-centred approach. Let us identify the problems and start from there.
I have no doubt that Roger Harper and his panel are a part of the problem and I have no problem getting rid of him/them. As lead selector, the former off-spinner does not enjoy my confidence. How could he?
Forget the foolishness he offered us in the media conference to announce the squad for the UAE. Has he not consistently insisted that he would not consider Nicholas Pooran for a Test place unless and until he sees him playing red ball cricket? Which selector worth his salt would say that publicly?
And which selector worthy of the name would, given his more-than-patchy record, even propose Jermaine Blackwood as vice-captain of a serious Test team, let alone retain him?
As we are currently being reminded in Sri Lanka, any contemporary Test team on which the 30-year-old Jamaican has a guaranteed place is doomed to struggle against opposition of no better than decent quality.
Pooran probably has a good chance of being more successful than the current Test vice-captain batting right-handed!
And let us just wait for the day when Kraigg Brathwaite is unavailable to lead and has to hand the reins over to his deputy.
However, notwithstanding his clear inadequacies, to blame Harper and his panel for what happened in the UAE is not to begin to understand anything about the dynamics of top-level cricket, whatever the format.
It is naked scapegoatism, particularly when the recommendation is to throw the baby—and the bathtub!—out with the bathwater.
And then have an inquiry! But only after you get rid of the whole stringband, including the captain.
So let me say here that I am on the record as affirming—repeatedly—that I do not believe Pollard to be the best white ball captain in the region. But I am confident that, at the time of his promotion to the helm of the two white ball teams, he was the best man for the job.
And so remains. Especially now that Dwayne Bravo is in (hopefully irreversible) retirement.
On his worst day, in my view, Pollard stands head and shoulders above his 6’7” predecessor. Who, it is worth noting, less than two years after he was asked to relinquish the leadership of the team, was not deemed good enough to be included on the starting XI. Or even on the 15-member squad from which it was selected.
The Pooran-led WI convincingly whipped Australia 4-1 in Pollard’s absence. But it is nothing short of an insult to the 26-year-old’s intelligence to believe that he would accept the captaincy if it were offered to him after being unwarrantedly taken away from his declared mentor.
But long before the necessary—by their own admission!—inquiry, reckless of possible findings, reckless of implications, reckless of consequences, ‘Reds’ and Tony bulldoze their way forward. And guess who ends up as vice-captain in their newly re-shaped set-up?
Why, Shimron Hetmyer! He, of course, absolutely covered himself in glory in the UAE, didn’t he? His 81 in a losing cause against Sri Lanka was the highest score by a West Indian in the tournament.
What, pray, were his scores in the crucial matches that preceded that? Oops! 9, 1, 9.
And after? 27.
And in the international season in 2021? 17, 7, 33, 20, 61, 5, 17. Clear leadership material!
So, yeah. Let’s reward the 25-year-old Guyanese left-hander with the vice-captaincy.
Let’s be clear: I am on record as proposing long ago that Hetmyer, who led the Under-19s to victory in the 2016 World Cup, be made vice-captain of one of the three regional teams. But it is an absurdity to propose that he be given that responsibility because of what happened in the UAE.
And I am confident that he too will reject out of hand the parochialism that proposes any such move.
Frankly, what the two gentlemen are seriously proposing does not even stand up to serious scrutiny. If you want to get rid of the selectors, it should be because they did a bad job in naming the squad.
That being the case, why would you want to get rid of the captain? Having been handed a bad squad by the selectors, was he still supposed to beat the world’s best? Is his name Mandrake?
And if the squad the selectors gave Pollard was good enough to beat the best in the world, why would we want to consign the selectors to the dung heap?
England, one notes, were rated number one in the world and India number two. Neither made it to the final. Indeed, India did not even make it out of the group stage. Does that mean that Virat Kohli’s and Ravi Shastri’s necks are on the chopping board? And Eoin Morgan’s and Chris Silverwood’s as well?
As far as I can tell, it has not even come up. Every sports fan knows that even winners sometimes lose.
That does not make them losers.
Losers are those who, having lost, look not, as Tony Cozier did over two post-Lloyd/Richards decades, for the real reasons.
Losers look first for excuses for failure, flimsy, even francomently flawed though they may be.
And then recommend—shudder, shudder!—that WI throw out baby, bathwater and bathtub!