Media Monitor: Unamusing musings the morning after Holder’s WI miracle the night before

Although they may not admit it, people do not like to be wrong; certainly, nobody likes to be seen to be wrong.

Sometimes, however, you rejoice that you did not get it right. And you are overjoyed that you resisted the temptation to rush into print to share the view you held.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (right) and England captain Eoin Morgan pose with the Betway T20I Series trophy before the first T20I on 22 January 2022.
(via CWI Media)

Eoin Morgan’s England, I was certain, would blow Kieron Pollard’s West Indies out of the water. Even with a second XI.

Firstly, the England captain must have felt morally bound to shift the focus off the travails of Joe Root’s men Down Under. All the talk about experimentation and pool-widening, etcetera, could not conceal a steely resolve to change the narrative.

What better way to do that than to whip WI in their backyard in a format in which the home side had made a lot of the running for much of the previous decade but in which you are now rated top of the pile? And then whip then again a few weeks later in a format where they have long waded in the backwaters.

Secondly, the WI’s completely inept showing in the Ireland ODIs suggested that they had not really recovered from 2021 and the pathetic World Cup performance. Different format, it is true, but essentially the same personnel.

Photo: Ireland allrounder Andy McBrine dispatches a delivery through the leg-side during ODI action against the West Indies on 13 January 2022.
(via CWI Media)

And the problem was not so much the aptitude as the attitude. After the 2-1 come-from-behind beating by the unfancied Irish, had Pollard’s men’s self-belief if not evaporated, at least taken a major beating? Did they believe they could beat anybody?

And thirdly, of course, there was all the distracting ‘noise’. Poor Roger Harper had made a graceful exit, paying the price largely for poor judgement in the selection of the World Cup squad. But not content with one scalp, the wielders of the long knives had not shelved them; the coach and the captain, many insisted, had to go as well.

I was watching CWI President Ricky Skerritt talking to CNC3’s Ryan Bachoo last weekend. And all of that came flooding back.

“Caribbean people,” said Skerritt, “like to take people down.”

Skerritt offered no authority. But had he been so minded, Bachoo might have cued a clip of David Rudder’s ‘Rally’:

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (right) and Roston Chase amble through for a single during the ICC 2021 T20 World Cup.

Michael shoulda left long time/I heard an angry brother shout/Caribbean man, that, that, that, that is the root of our trouble…

But did he need to? Even without some erudite statement from Hilary Beckles or Mia Mottley or Michael Manley or Eric Williams, which of us cricketing souls dares challenge Skerritt on the validity of that claim?

Besides, had he not already settled that issue?

“The politics is there, the insularity is still there”, he had begun by telling his host. “But one has to understand that that’s part of our culture. And what we are doing is trying to change the culture.”

Ha! Culture is quicksand, bro.

By Sunday morning, a Wired868 column by Tony McWatt and Reds Perreira, appeared to bring grist to Skerritt’s mill. It contained this paragraph:

Photo: West Indies pacer Kemar Roach makes an impassioned appeal for a wicket.

‘[…] For all the foregoing reasons, the Haynes-led panel’s choice of Roach among the 15 chosen for the forthcoming India tour has left a very unsavoury feeling among West Indies cricket fans. The optics that have been created by the shared Barbadian nationality between Haynes and the ageing Roach are not at all good either…’

Say what? New lead selector Desmond Haynes, we were being told, had only included Kemar Roach in the ODI squad for India in March because the pacer was, like him, a Barbadian.

That, I’m afraid, is, more than sobering; it’s nothing less than sad.

Does anyone need reminding how the CWI selection panel is composed? Unlike England, WI have not gone—not yet gone?—for the sole selector model.

Haynes, described by Skerritt as ‘the right man for the right job at the right time’, is at the helm of a three-member panel. With him are former Guyanese Cricket Board selector Ramnaresh Sarwan and, ex officio, current head coach Phil Simmons.

Photo: West Indies head selector Sir Desmond Haynes has a moment all to himself.
(Copyright SW Londoner)

It is true that in announcing Haynes’ appointment to the lead selector position, the CWI president had told the world that his ‘cricketing experience and knowledge are second to none’.

But what is there to suggest that any one member of the panel can—or will—so ride roughshod over his colleagues that he will get what he wants? Is the intention to pay the former opening batsman a high compliment about his persuasive power? Or to deal a low blow to the other two former Test batsmen about their suitability—if not propensity—to be floor mats?

I open a parenthesis here to say that someone should look at issues surrounding the CWI Task Force set up in 2019 to come up with the best selection model for the region. There is stuff that invites serious scrutiny.

But that will have to wait for another day; I cannot end without a word on Player-of-the-Series Jason Holder.

If there is anyone on the current West Indies team who knows a thing or two about being brought down, it is the former Test captain.

Photo: West Indies pacer Jason Holder appeals during the Second T20I against Pakistan on 31 July 2021.
(via CWI Media)

But, in word and deed, he has demonstrated that he’s not about staying down. And that he is genuinely concerned about getting back up. Not the individual, the team.

Interviewed by CWI Media early on Monday morning after he had added a beaver trick miracle to his career-best, match-winning 3.4-1-7-4 Game One performance, he let it all out, focusing consistently on the importance of the team, on everyone pulling together.

Despite the outstanding individual contributions, he had ‘tried not to single out individuals because I feel as though it was an entire team effort’.

“After that (Ireland) series,” he revealed, “We were shell-shocked, very, very disappointed and we felt as though we let down not only ourselves but the entire Caribbean.”

“It’s the first time in a very long time,” he commented, “I’ve felt that close in a dressing room. And it’s a great feeling.”

Photo: West Indies pacer Jason Holder (centre) is congratulated by teammates during T20I action against England on 22 January 2022.
(Copyright Getty Images/ ESPN)

So, Tony and Reds, media people in general up and down the archipelago, are you listening? Whatever happened to Rudder’s call to ‘Rally’?

How does all together as one Caribbean grab you?

Can we give the new panel the room to be wrong without rushing into print in a bid to bring WI down?

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About Earl Best

Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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