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Media Monitor: Indian press pours pitchoil on West Indies embers; Express fans the flames

Current West Indies captain Jason Holder was back in the headlines on Monday—not for the first time, for the wrong reasons!

“Not Enough” the Express declared on its back page, with a strap saying “Holder blames the obvious as WI succumb in three days again.”

Photo: West Indies pacer Jason Holder appeals for a decision during a drawn Test series against England.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Holder, cricket followers will remember, recently reminded his global audience that earlier WI teams had boasted talents such as Brian Lara. But, he implies, recent captains might well have fiddled while the West Indian cricketing edifice, slowly, carefully constructed by series victory after crushing series victory under Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards, was razed.

One imagines that Holder’s pre-Hyderabad comment was meant somehow to raise the spirits of his team, which Virat Kohli’s India had already whipped by an innings and almost 300 runs in three days in the First Test in Rajkot.

It arguably did. Temporarily.

On the first day, the West Indies indisputably won the post-tea session and, after forcing India to take a new ball, went on to make 311 in their first innings. Nevertheless, for the second successive Test, they were badly beaten inside three days, leaving them presumably down in the dumps, their faces as long as their second innings was short.

As reported from Hyderabad, Holder’s comments focused largely on the second innings, giving Roston Chase and his defiant first innings 106 short shrift. Gleefully ignoring whatever positives there might have been in the skipper’s comments, the Indian press chose to headline his criticism of his top batsmen.

Photo: West Indies batsman Roston Chase.
(Copyright UK Daily Mail)

But we shall return to that. Let us put the spotlight for the moment on victorious Indian captain Kohli who, in stark contrast to his West Indian counterpart, in his post-match conference, went out of his way to praise his successful players.

I don’t think any of us were even 10 percent of what he is at 18-19,” he said, referring to tall-scoring 18-year-old debutant Prithvi Shaw, describing him as “fearless,” “not reckless,” “confident” and “in control.”

The guy has grabbed his chance beautifully. He looks like someone that can get you off to the kind of start that you require, especially to make the first mark in any series that you play.” 

“Getting Man-of-the-Series in the first series,” he comments later, “regardless of where we play or how you play, it’s an outstanding achievement.”

In 143 words, there is one “I,” one “us” and one “we”. And it’s “I (…) think” and “any of us.”

He next showers fulsome praise on pacer Umesh Yadav, whose ten-wicket haul in Hyderabad had effectively won the game for his team.

Photo: India pacer Umesh Yadav (left) celebrates a Test wicket.

“Umesh is right up there to be featuring in Australia because he’s got the pace. He’s got the fitness levels to run in all day to pick up wickets at crucial times and he gets good bounce as well.

“Not many people realise but he’s a very, very talented bowler.”

“He” then gives way almost imperceptibly to “we.”

“It’s a great sign, as I said, to have four guys bowling so well who can pick up wickets. That’ s something we want to keep as a consistent part of our team. Obviously the batting is something that we’re learning from the last tour we want to improve on collectively. But bowling is something we need to keep as a major strength in order for us to feel like we have a chance to win a series when we travel away from home.”

Newly capped 20-year-old wicketkeeper/batsman Rishabh Pant was playing in his first home series at Test level; Kohli remembered.

“Rishabh was really fearless. Areas that they need to work on, they’ll obviously be spoken to in that regard. Overall both those guys are really good, solidifying their place in the team and understanding how to play at this level. I know the conditions might not be as challenging as they might get in future. But in Test cricket the first and most important thing is confidence and understanding that you can score runs in Test level. I think from that point of view we’re very happy that they’ve taken their chances so well.”

Photo: India Test captain Virat Kohli.

The whole comment, dotted with just 12 first person mentions—including several plurals—is 242 words long.

Kohli it was, by the way, who had paid eloquent tribute to Indian demi-god Sachin Tendulkar after MS Dhoni’s side captured the World Cup at home in 2011.

“Sachin Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years,” he explained, after having hoisted the great man on his shoulder in the lap of honour, “It was time we carried him.”

No reminder was necessary; no Indian fan, possibly no Indian anywhere, has forgotten.

Holder clearly needs no reminder of the pithy “Modest successes, devastating failures” assessment Lara made of his in-three-separate-iterations 1997-2006 captaincy tenure. But has he ever publicly acknowledged the debt of gratitude he owes Frank Worrell and Garfield Sobers and Lloyd and Richards? Does he think he owes Courtney Walsh, Lara, Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and/or Darren Sammy a debt of gratitude?

If he does, it is a well-kept secret.

Lara’s teams, by the way, won only ten of the 47 Tests in which he led them and lost 26, the captain making 14 of his 34 hundreds and taking 72 of his 164 catches. But there is no question about the individual contributions the skipper made to his team’s performance.

Photo: Former West Indies batsman Brian Lara sweeps to the boundary as Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara looks on.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Sena Vidanagama)

Valid questions arise, however, about the performance of the local and regional media. This is not just cricket, as the bard says, this thing goes beyond the boundary; to deliberately misquote the “Rally” lyricist, it’s up to you and the media to make sure that those who would spoil our beauty fail.

The Express cannot be unmindful of the fact that we now live in a world that “don’t need islands no more.” So the media have a responsibility to ensure both that the West Indian captain gives respect where respect is due and that he gets the respect he deserves.

So it was not enough simply to slap an unflattering story headlined on the back page of Monday’s paper, particularly as the match had ended early on Sunday morning.

Might one phone call to the West Indian camp not have been enough to suggest that the Express also thinks that we West Indians are NOT doomed forever to be at somebody’s mercy?

About Earl Best

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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  1. The WICB is not concerned about the improvement of our cricket.

    The current team does not have the passion for the game – the players have a passion for only the money. We will get very poor performances and a lot of excuses.