I’ve been restraining myself from writing about cricket although I have been following our regional matches closely. There seems to be a gradual shift in the approach that makes me hope that something different is seeping in to the culture which has plagued the game for so long.
After the team won the ODI series against Sri Lanka, I wondered if they had been challenged, or had been given an ultimatum to forego the flashy shots and focus on occupying the crease. Idly, I even speculated that maybe coach Phil Simmons, out of exasperation, had threatened the batsmen with penalties for every thoughtless shot.
An unbiased appraisal of the way the T20 series was won (2–1) could not have been comforting to any West Indian supporter. Come the 50-over matches, it was clear something dramatic had happened behind the scenes.
In the dressing room afterwards, as the players celebrated their white-ball victories, the former Test captain, Jason Holder, was effusive and encouraging.
“I think it was outstanding to see the way we went about our entire game. Yes, it wasn’t a perfect game, but what was heartening to see was the end result.”
He was talking to his teammates with the nurturing air that is making a welcome return to the culture.
“We had a little pep talk at the half way stage and we probably let ourselves down at the back end of the innings, bowling, but it’s good to see that we took in front ourselves. The opening batters again, Evin [Lewis] and Shai [Hope] had another really good partnership (everyone applauds). And it looked to me that ‘Brav’ (Darren Bravo) and Shai really stuck to the plan.”
He reached over to his left and pulled out a little white board with ‘the plan’.
“And you know we spoke about committing to the game plan, and Shai and Bravo were committed to their game plan and it looked very good from the outside. And I really want to commend them on another hundred partnership.”
The team applauded as he praised Bravo’s hundred, his crossing 3,000 ODI runs and his return to the front office.
He said the discussion they had prior to the game was a very healthy one.
“We are not the complete product. We’re not the finished product, but we’ve shown significant signs of improvement and I just want us to continue to rally round one another, and to push one another in practice and push one another to get better.”
Shai Hope also spoke, saying it was good to see that everybody lived up to what they had been doing in the training sessions and leading right up into the games.
“We had a plan and we went out and did exactly what we had to do in the games,” he said, before adding the warning. “As coach always says, ‘This ain’t the end’.”
This chat, posted by Windies Cricket on YouTube, was not the usual kind of airing out, and it was obvious that the choice of Holder’s contribution was strategic. You can find clues in there to understanding the cultural shift. You could see that a team was gathered, that they were a unit.
It struck me as a marvellous way to demonstrate that although Holder has been replaced as Test captain, there is no diminishing of his role as a member of the West Indies team. I am so often appalled at the crude responses of the media to such shifts that I wonder if they even have the capacity to see beyond the prospect of a scandal.
Holder may not have been the most strategic of captains, but he is undoubtedly a fine cricketer and has the nurturing qualities of a leader. Do our vapid journalists consider the impact of their words on cricketers who are still committed to representing us in the game?
An Indian journalist, writing about Gerry Gomez having to stand as umpire in a match when Australia toured in 1964/65, began his article like this: “Controversy, never very far from the surface in Caribbean cricket over the years…”
It has been one of the defining features of our cricket, this love of bacchanalia.
For the first time in a long time that was one of the real absences from our scenario. Ever since David Cameron was removed, there is a more positive aura surrounding the conduct of the game.
Who are the CWI people now interacting with the players? Coach Phil Simmons, selector Roger Harper, cricket director Jimmy Adams and CEO Johnny Grave. With distinctly different personalities, one thing strikes me as being a gigantic unifying bond—they all seem to genuinely care about developing West Indies cricket.
I feel that the environment they are building, along with the support staff, and the fortuitous presence of Kieron Pollard, are the elements generating this new culture in West Indies cricket. The absence of adversarial relationships between the players and the CWI is the factor that has been of the biggest difference to the team.
It is why I decided to write about it—not because there were wins on the board—and not ten minutes after having made the decision, I heard a news report about the CWI presidential elections due next week.
Challenging Ricky Skerritt is Anand Sanansie of the Guyana Cricket Board, and listening to what he had to say I could only cringe. It was exactly the toxic note that reminds me of David Cameron.