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Dear Editor: West Indies lack the variety of qualities necessary in a good cricket team

“[…] Whether or not we change Phil Simmons is irrelevant to me. Don’t get me wrong, I think he reached his peak and is unable to progress our players further… My point is there aren’t many coaches around the world who can mould our players into a cohesive unit.

“[…] Most teams can afford to carry one or two bashers. Unfortunately for the West Indies, we have 11…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the state of the West Indies cricket team was submitted to Wired868 by Choy Aping:

Photo: West Indies allrounder Romario Shepherd plays a shot during an ODI contest with India at the Queen’s Park Oval on 24 July 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

West Indies problems run deeper than any one coach can fix. Our players collectively are way too one-dimensional to make a ‘proper team’ and the general standard of cricket in the Caribbean is quite poor, which doesn’t help in moulding adequate replacements.

Of course, we have talented players but they are mostly talented in playing the same roles—going out and hitting the ball.

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Changing the Head Coach won’t change that fact, and nor will it have much impact on the results. The is always the possibility of a ‘new coach bounce’ where players raise their standards to impress a new coach, in an effort to keep their place in the team. But that generally doesn’t last long, as mediocrity kicks back in from the minute they inevitably returned to their comfort zones.

Photo: West Indies coach Phil Simmons takes part in a training session.
(Copyright AFP)

Whether or not we change Phil Simmons is irrelevant to me. Don’t get me wrong, I think he reached his peak and is unable to progress our players further. That being said, my point is there aren’t many coaches around the world who can mould our players into a cohesive unit.

When playing in a structured team where players know and understand their roles and function and, most importantly, can execute them, our players will be stars. Just tell them to go out, swing their bats, and hit the ball as far as possible—they can carry out those simple instructions. 

But asking them to play the other roles which are required in a successful team is bound to end with miserable failure for three simple reasons: their inability to execute; they all play the same roles for their respective teams in regional and franchise cricket, which is as ‘bashers’; they are all chasing personal glory in the shape of a big T20 franchise contract, so it is more and more difficult to get players who want to play the less eye-catching grinding/consolidating roles.

Photo: West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran goes airborne to make a shot during the CG United Series against India at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain on 24 July 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

For a team to do well, there must be players willing to play to perform what some of us have coined as ‘the Marlon Samuels role’. It is the role Larry Gomes played amongst our big game players of the 70s and 80s and what Shivnarine Chanderpaul did for Brian Lara.

The job of the consolidator or grinder is not flashy, but it is important. Most teams can afford to carry one or two bashers. Unfortunately for the West Indies, we have 11! 

A good team requires:

  • Players knowing and understanding when to attack and when to defend;
  • Players knowing what to do when a wicket is lost;
  • Players who can absorb pressure and return it 10 fold;
Photo: Forner West Indies standout Shiv Chanderpaul.
  • Players knowing and understanding how and when to seize moments in a game;
  • Players who can sense vulnerability in the opposition and pounce on it;
  • Players who can sense danger and react;
  • Players who can rotate the strike and build momentum when under pressure;
  • Players who understand their roles in partnerships, and don’t compete with each other.

These characteristics apply to the bowlers as well.

Yes, T20 cricket needs players who can go out and execute big shots based on their hand-eye coordination. But even our bashers are not able to execute consistently enough to make WI a force.

Great teams have players who tick most of these boxes and great players—the likes of Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Kumar Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting—are the ones who can play all the roles and execute them seamlessly.

Photo: West Indies pacer Alzarri Joseph races in to bowl during an ODI match against India at the Queen’s Park Oval on 22 July 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Here is where our coaches and selectors are failing: poor selection, poor team balance, and poor batting combinations, coupled with an inexperience captain.

Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Odean Smith, and Romario Shepherd are all peas from the same pod and having four of them in an XI and asking them to play different roles will always be a futile task. 

It is for that reason we ask ourselves: how are our players so great in IPL and the various leagues but can’t do the same when they play for West Indies?

The simple fact is their IPL teams use them for what they are while, for the West Indies, we don’t have players to perform the many different roles required in a good team combination.

Photo: India pacer Arshdeep Singh (left) celebrates the wicket of West Indies batsman Kyle Mayers during T20I action in Tarouba, Trinidad on 29 July 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

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Letters to the Editor
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2 comments

  1. The west Indies cricket can improve with the right coaching. Right now Simmons does not understand cricket.Our players are as talented as any other team but you have to but that talent in the right directions.Dont matter how talented you are if you continue ro hit across the line you will hit a six or two and then get out.

    • There is a man called Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, who made over 6750 ODI runs in 187 games, scoring 11 centuries and 45 half-centuries at an average of 47.
      His autobiography is titled, with good reason, “Hitting Across the Line.”
      So perhaps it is not quite accurate to say “no matter how talented you are.” Perhaps what you want for the West Indians we have been watching since one of our batsmen smacked four successive sixes against Ben Stokes in the 2016 T20 World Cup finalis a more measured “If you think you are more talented than you really are…”
      I make the point at greater length in “Romancing Carlos Brathwaite,” which you can find right here on Wired868 but it is the point, I think, Choy is making in the margin of this piece.