Earl Best watches the Limacol CPL and draws conclusions about the West Indian captaincy:
I am obsessed with the idea of Denesh “Shotta” Ramdin as West Indies captain. No. Go back and read that again. Not West Indies Test captain but West Indies captain. Period.
This ailment is so serious that it’s giving me nightmares. Let me share the latest one, which jolted me, covered in cold sweat, out of sleep in the course of the night after I had watched Darren Bravo slam Ronsford Beaton’s last ball high over long-on to earn full points for the Trinidad and Tobago (thanks, Madam PM) Red Steel.
It is Wednesday August 27 and the West Indies are playing Bangladesh in St Kitts in the only T20 fixture scheduled during the six-match series that began on August 20. For some reason, Ramdin is not playing today; his place is taken by young Nicholas Pooran, the T&T stumper with the talent of a veteran but the temperament of a teenager. (It had to be a dream; the anti-pro-action West Indian administrators would never think of giving a promising youngster his first chance at glory at home against easy opposition).
Pooran smashes his first ball over extra-cover for a six. Off his second, he attempts a reverse sweep.
Sitting in the dugout, Ramdin is manifestly livid. Before the start of the next over, the television producer shows him pulling a sheet of paper out of his pocket and holding it aloft for all the world to see.
“YEAH NP,” it screams, “STOP THAT SHIT NAH.”
I don’t know what Sigmund Freud would have made of that dream but with a long steups my neighbour suggested that I should play 36 in that day’s Play Whe. Unfazed by the would-be insult, I tried to make sense of what was in my subconscious.
Throughout the Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW) versus the Red Steel match, I had paid close attention to everything the new West Indies captain did. His Warriors had come out on the losing end but he was entirely blameless.
His team lost for two reasons: (1) To the question, “Do we have a chance in this game?” the two Bravo brothers were clearly determined not to take no for an answer (2) When the crucial chance came, Christopher Barnwell grassed it. Barnwell, a splendid fieldsman!
But Ramdin, crucially, didn’t lose his cool. Or his control of the team. He was the arch-conductor, orchestrating a performance that perhaps deserved better but was bettered on the night.
Just as Ramdin’s hard-hitting captain’s knock of 84 off 45 balls initially put his team into a match-winning position, Dwayne Bravo’s 67 off 42 made victory possible for his team. Without it, the match-winning last-ball six from Bravo the Younger would never have been possible.
What is more is that the Red Steel skipper’s contribution came in circumstances where anything less would almost certainly have meant a second successive defeat at the hands of the Warriors, making the difficulty rating considerably higher than Ramdin’s. Still, whether batting first or batting second, scoring six sixes and six fours off 45 balls is no mean feat.
Even in defeat, therefore, the GAW captain could feel as proud of his leadership as Bravo the Elder did of his.
Which brings us back to the meaning of the dream/nightmare.
It seems to me that, at least in the GAW uniform if not yet in the maroon, Ramdin exudes a new confident authority as undisputed leader. Often in the course of the T&T innings, I saw his Pakistani pro Mohammad Hafeez come over to offer what looked like tactical advice. Ramdin seemed to listen politely and then no less politely disregard it.
Now captain and leader of the regional XI, the boy who successfully led age-group WI teams before graduation to the First XI is emphatically his own man. Maybe it is that he has looked backwards and seen that speaking truth to power (YEAH VIV, TALK NAH) has not seriously hampered his progress or prevented his promotion. How much easier would it be then to speak truth to potential?
Pooran’s playing the fool and people are afraid to tell him so? Well, not I. After all, what have I got to lose?
Should the dream situation ever arise, one would hope for rather more diplomacy, more tact; the language of “YEAH, NP, STOP THAT SHOT NAH!” is inoffensive and the message no less clear. But I want to feel certain that Ramdin would take decisive action whether the offender were the veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul or the new boy on the block, Pooran.
And I want to feel certain that neither the West Indian selectors nor the coaching staff will have any problem with the 29-year-old wielding his new authority in the proper way. The selectors must open their eyes and notice how the skipper’s attitudes compare with those of the other office-holders as well as the other three—or more—contenders on display.
That is why I think it is useful, not to say necessary, for the selectors to look at what is on offer in the CPL as well as listen to what is being said. With only half of the group stage already completed, we already know that neither Marlon Samuels’ winless Antigua Hawksbills nor Darren Sammy’s pointless St Lucia Zouks will be in contention for the 2014 title.
Who’s to blame? We’ve heard neither excuses nor explanation from the Hawksbills, who appear to have accepted that they are simply not up to par. Not so Zouks’ coach Matthew Maynard who, after his side went down to the Red Steel by nine wickets last weekend, declared that, “We’re not playing well as a group.”
His captain concurred, saying that, “We’re too inconsistent. It’s just Sohail Tanvir who’s performing with the bat and the ball.”
He added that the problem was not “a matter of talent but getting it to click on the field.”
He stopped short of saying whose responsibility it is to get the team “to click on the field.” He didn’t need to; it’s a leadership problem with which we have grown familiar at West Indies level.
Sammy has so far tallied 77 runs in four innings and in ten overs taken one wicket for 90 runs.
So strike Sammy, strike Samuels (182 runs from 6 inns but 1 wkt for 94 in 12 overs). What does that leave us?
As things stand, there is little to choose between the top four teams who have already contrived to lap the aforementioned winless and pointless bottom two. But I am going to stick my neck out and say that in a week’s time, we’re going to be able to also strike off Keiron Pollard (60 runs from 5 inns and 3 wkts for 65 runs from 7 overs) and his Barbados Tridents who, despite Dwayne Smith’s impressive form which has so far produced two centuries and an aggregate of 248 runs, are going to find themselves well off the pace.
Their next three matches are against the Zouks, the Tallawahs and the Red Steel in that order. On current form, they can hardly hope for more than two points from those encounters unless the skipper produces a couple of the extraordinary innings of which we know him to be capable.
And even if he does, as we have seen, there’s no guarantee that they’ll get across the line on any given night.
So if we are going on current CPL form, Pollard is going to be hard-pressed to earn a place on the starting XI, let alone be considered for the captaincy.
But the issue, let us not forget, is leadership. And in that area, the Tallawahs, led by the ex-captain, the Red Steel, with the ODI captain at the helm, and the Amazon Warriors, who are under the baton of the Test captain, are well ahead of the rest.
Just two months short of his 36th birthday, Christopher Gayle has been there and has done that; you can be sure that, with his ample powers on the wane, even if the selectors were minded to recall him to lead, he’d decline the offer.
So I close with an appeal to the selectors to be nice to Dwayne. Let us allow him to take his rightful place on the Test XI which is where he really wants—and deserves—to be.
And demand the ODI mantle as a quid pro quo.
And while we are at it, let us also be nice to Darren—not Bravo, Sammy. Let us put him gently out to pasture—which is arguably where he deserves now to be –thus putting him out of his misery.
What reason can there be to retain three different captains for the three different formats? Has the Test captain’s tally of 175 runs from five innings not left no doubt in any mind that he packs the punch the shortest format needs?
Let us, therefore, pass the mantle to Denesh whose shoulders are now broad enough, we are now clear, to bear the full weight of the leadership responsibilities.