T2021 W/C: Pressure does buss pipe; Best considers the strain on Pollard’s troops

Gems at Lajoya

Today, I want to return to the subject of Chris Gayle’s angry public reaction to perceived provocation by Curtly Ambrose. Obliquely, not frontally. I want to suggest that, heated though it was, it may well conceal a submerged iceberg.

We might properly begin with West Indian royalty. But it seems better to end with that, to get the foreigners out of the way first. So let us take a moment to consider the well-known case of England’s Marcus Trescothick.

Photo: Former England batsman Marcus Trescothick.

Thereafter, we shall also look at England’s Ben Stokes, Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir and the Australian pair of Steve Smith and David Warner. And I hope to lead you to the same very familiar but oft forgotten conclusion at which I have long arrived: cricket pressure does buss pipe.

According to espncricinfo, Trescothick was one of the finest opening batsmen to play for England. In 2008, at just over 30 years of age, he retired from international cricket.

The reason? Simply put, stress.

Here again is espncricinfo:

The anxiety attacks he suffered, particularly when having to contend with long periods away from home and family, brought the issue of depression and stress in sport into sharp focus in the English game.


Photo: Australia fielder Cameron Bancroft is caught ball-tampering in a 2018 Test match against South Africa.

Now take a moment to re-read the accounts of what transpired between Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft in the infamous ball tampering incident at Cape Town, South Africa, in 2018. The facts of the case are such that any half-decent lawyer would without hesitation have pleaded temporary insanity on behalf of the two principals and they would have walked away without a conviction.

It was nothing short of crazy.

More skill would be needed to get Stokes acquitted on the affray charge that came out of his September 2017 fight in Bristol. But surely the attorney would bring up the name Carlos Brathwaite and the last over of the 2016 T20 World Cup in support of a temporary insanity plea.

Amir was a boy of 19 in November 2011 when he was banned by the PCB for match-fixing. Late last year, at the ripe old age of 28, with no obvious diminution in his quite considerable powers, he called it a day, citing unfair treatment by those in charge.

Which brings us to the first of today’s half-dozen West Indians.

Photo: West Indies and Jamaica all-rounder Marlon Samuels goes after another one during the World T20 final against England at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016.
(Copyright AFP2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Unlike Amir, Marlon Samuels, (born February 1981) was not a boy when, in February 2008, the West Indies board in their wisdom imposed a harsh ban on him. On suspicion of match-fixing.

That was a long time ago. One can, however, be forgiven for feeling that the effects have endured long.

Witness the violence of his attack—with the bat!—on Lasith Malinga in the T20 World Cup final in 2012.

And the more recent but no less violent—verbal!—attacks on Michael Vaughan, Ben Stokes and Shane Warne, prompting this last to urge him to ‘get help’

In vain, it seems.

Just last month, the stylish Jamaican right-hander was given 14 days to respond to four corruption charges slapped on him by the ICC.

Photo: West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels (right) reacts angrily to England bowler Ben Stokes during the World T20 final at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016.

We are still waiting, all ears…

In alphabetical order, four of the remaining West Indians are Adrian Barath, Joshua Da Silva, Shane Dowrich and Kieran Powell.

Not a word about Dowrich. Not from me, from the authorities.

The diminutive Barbadian sustained a finger injury while keeping wicket during the First Test. But when he walked out of the late 2020 tour of New Zealand, CWI stressed at the time, it was ‘for personal reasons’.

That’s it; it’s all we have. Nary a word since. I’m scared to speculate.

The man who replaced Dowrich behind the West Indian stumps is Joshua Da Silva. When he first came on to the team, he was gentle Joshua, meek and mild.

Photo: West Indies batsman Kieran Powell drives through the off-side on Day Four of the First Test  against Pakistan at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica, on 24 April 2017.
Copyright Jewel Samad/ AFP Photo)

But Dowrich, I think, would concede that pressure does buss pipe.

Here are Da Silva’s chronological scores since he was first called up for the senior team in December of 2020: (vs New Zealand) 3, 57; (vs Bangladesh) 42, 20, 92, 20; (vs S/Lanka) 46, DNB, 1, 20; (vs S/Africa) 0, 9, 7, 0; (vs Pakistan) 21, 13, 6, 15.

The sum of his last ten scores exactly equals the excellent 92 he made in his fifth Test innings. Not the same batsman, right?

Now cast your mind back to the second CPL 2021 game between TKR and the Saint Kitts and Nevis Patriots. Recognise that fellah, the one involved in a very public ongoing exchange of pleasantries with Ali Khan?

Shucks! That’s the formerly meek and mild da Silva! What has happened to him? Not the same man, right?

Photo: TKR batsman Tim Seifert (left) is stumped by St Kitts and Nevis Patriots wicket-keeper Joshua Da Silva during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis on 12 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Not the same man. The phrase suits the Powell of 2021 as well. There is a physical resemblance between that Powell and the ‘deflated and confused’ Powell who decided to return to international cricket after opting to take a break from the game in the middle of the decade of the Tens.

But, I ask, do you recognise him? Has he looked the part to you? In his seven Test innings this year, he has made a total of 102 runs, exactly half of them in one innings against South Africa. Has he at any point looked like a man brimming with self-belief?

‘Overflowing with self-belief’ accurately describes the 19-year-old who announced his arrival on the international stage with, in espncricinfo’s words, a ‘scintillating 104 at the Gabba’ in 2009.

Where is Adrian Barath, born April 1990, today—a mere 12 years later? Gone quietly into cricket’s night? Do we know why? Aren’t we still as curious about his unexplained regression and eventual disappearance as we are about the reasons for Dowrich’s?

Photo: Former West Indies opening batsman Adrian Barath in action against Queensland.

Should we not be, those of us who are being called to rally round?

We know, don’t we, that cricket pressure does buss pipe?

For confirmation, we can ask the sixth and last of the West Indians, cricket royalty, Brian Charles Lara, of course.

Here, though, not a word about him. If you’re interested in his story, get your hands on a copy of the TTOC Olympic Magazine published just after the start of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo. You won’t regret reading ‘Prince of Port-of-Spain, King of Pressureville’, Garth Wattley’s fascinating study of grace—and near disgrace!—under pressure.

Today’s last word on this issue, however, goes to captain Kieron Pollard.

Photo: West Indies white ball captain Kieron Pollard (left) puts an arm around batsman Shimron Hetmyer during a training session ahead of their third ODI against India in Cuttack on 21 December 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A)

I seem to remember a warning issued by him when he replaced Jason Holder as West Indies white ball captain. I seem to remember him putting CWI on notice that he had no intention of allowing the board to continue to ask his players to take these long tours of duty away from home without wife and family.

I watch Pollard looking like a shadow of the punishing, match-winning lower-middle-order batsman we once knew.

And I wonder where we are on that.

I think that WI are the defending champs, which in and of itself ramps up the expectations.

And I wonder where we are on that.

I see Gayle walking out on his IPL side early to recharge his batteries.

Photo: Jamaican batsman Chris Gayle acknowledges the plaudits of his CPL teammates after putting an exclamation point on another innings for the Punjab Kings.
(via cricketaddictor.com)

And I wonder where we are on that.

I hear Phil Simmons pleading for us to give the team ‘time to bond’.

And I wonder where we are on that.

In Calypso History Month, I listen to David Rudder’s lament that this is not a fete in here…

…and I stand in my shoes and I wonder if daiz not ting to make yuh go stark, staring mad.…

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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. I read and understand your frustration, writer, and sometimes I too wonder what is really going on with our so-called selectors. If you ask me something is not right; the shoe is fitting on one foot tighter than the other, and that foot is really under pressure.

    We need to get it right. it’s time to stop the backstabbing now. We have way too much legends past and present to be where we are today in cricket.

    Let’s go back to the drawing board, I beg.

    • Lasana Liburd

      I agree that there are some players in the current team who probably should not be there based on form. But I don’t agree that there were irresistible cases made by anyone who was left out either.
      Sunil Narine’s absence seems pretty messy. As soon as Andre Russell became an injury concern, I’d probably have replaced him with Jason Holder. But after that? I don’t know.
      The whole notion of fitness exemptions is very murky and makes a mockery of the thing though.

  2. Earl Best

    With a request for anonymity, an ex-student of mine has asked me to post this comment:

    The topic of mental health and mental toughness in sport is close to my heart so this piece was magnetic. It took just enough energy from me so I could still hit the sack at 4.21a.m.

    Your perception is deep. I believe it is correct. In days gone by, in league cricket, Da Silva would have been given a “shot” before he went out to bat to quiet his nerves, to reduce his fear of the rising ball and help him keep focused, be himself and execute what he has shown is within him to do.

    He is about 23. With guidance and mentoring, he should mature into an outstanding player.
    In all sporting endeavours, many continue to drop out and never reach their full potential. Our landscape is littered with them because of flawed systems, unhealthy environments and lack of resources and quality coaching.

    This is why I believe that West Indian cricket can be at the top again. What came “naturally” to us because of a different socio-cultural reality has now to be updated. We have to build new systems, create a new version of what it means to represent West Indies, more in keeping with the reality of today’s generations and generations to come.

    CWI seems to be on the right track.

    So, my people, we all look on, urge our boys on, rally around them. They’re our boys, win or lose. We re-focus on correction, on getting it right, on improving and challenging again…relentlessly.




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