West Indies cricket – Why are we winning?
by Philip Hackett
"Why we are winning is because we are playing good cricket," Everyone is performing; everyone is willing to be a champion. A lot of credit must go to the support staff and team management for giving the surety to all the players that they would be getting at least 10-15 games. That gives a player a lot of confidence."
This apparently simple philosophy outlined by Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh while speaking to media personnel from the popular cricket web site Cricinfo, is one that often seems foreign to the West Indies cricket selectors as it relates to certain players.
Like cricket fans throughout the region our selectors are most likely buoyed by the recent success of the team in the Test series against England. It is crucial that we now build on this success rather than fall into a false sense of security.
I do not believe the regional team has completed a turnaround in standard at the international level. We have achieved a degree of success and we should enjoy it while we continue to analyze our performances and maintain the practices that have brought us success.
I am in complete agreement with Harbhajan Singh regarding the need to help players build confidence and I am therefore very disappointed in the treatment meted out to West Indies all-rounder Ryan Hinds. In the fifth Test against England in Trinidad, Hinds battled for 130 minutes – longer than anyone else – and faced 94 balls the most by any batsman in the team – in a successful bid to draw the match. His second innings top score of 20 on a nerve racking final day led the rearguard action that ensured the draw that helped the home side hold on to win the series after going into the final match with a 1-0 lead.
Chairman of selectors Clyde Butts told journalist at the press conference at which that team was announced that the selectors would have liked more runs from Hinds given the wickets he batted on. The argument put forward by Butts is weak considering that Devon Smith played in every match, played six innings and batted on the same pitches as Hinds yet he scored just 165 runs at 27.50 per innings. Hinds scored 91 runs at 18.20 in five innings but took seven wickets and fielded quite creditably despite the concerns about his fitness.
Butts, in trying to justify the selection of Smith, acknowledged that Smith had played a poor stroke that brought his dismissal in one of his innings but they believed he deserved a further chance to prove himself. A similar level of patience should have been exercised with Hinds.
For the past year the selectors have shown faith in Daren Powell. He has done little to justify that. It is not immediately clear to me why Haynes would be given just three matches (not counting the fiasco at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium) and then abandoned despite his excellent fielding and more than useful bowling. Hinds must now be considered a genuine all-rounder and it is unreasonable to expect him to excel in each aspect of his game on each occasion he wears the maroon cap.
It is interesting to note that now the selectors have finally lost patience with Powell he is immediately replaced by fellow Jamaican Andrew Richardson when Gavin Tonge and Ravi Rampaul also had very strong claims.
The selection of another Jamaican, all-rounder Dave Bernard Jr adds further mystery. Butts identified him as a batting all-rounder. I can only assume Butts was not aware of Bernard’s first class batting average of 26.
It is doubtful if Bernard’s bowling has the potential to consistently win matches for the West Indies. Hinds could easily have been selected ahead of him. Since Hinds seems to be a marked man the selectors could have considered exposing Adrian Barath or Darren Bravo. I can see no cricketing reason why Devon Smith, a proven Test failure with an average of 24 after 29 matches and Bernard would be on tour while Bravo with a first class average of 35 and Barath with a first class average of 49 remain at home.
But let’s get back to Hinds. I cannot accept that his claim to being tired should be enough to cost him his place or should result in anyone questioning his commitment. This only highlights the unprofessional thinking of personnel entrusted with responsible positions in West Indies cricket. It would be interesting to hear from Mr. Butts or any West Indies cricket administrator if Hinds was referred for medical investigation to determine if there was some underlying cause for his “tiredness”. This would be a basic response in any professional sports set up. I am doubtful if our administrators could be so naïve not to be aware of this. Furthermore It is not unusual for players returning from Test duty to have a ‘rest’.
West Indies fans who spend their hard earned money in support of the regional team deserve to know the truth about the ‘Hinds issue’. West Indies players over the years have knocked over stumps in anger; barged into umpires; threatened to abandon tours because of controversial umpiring; failed drug test; temporarily halted a game by refusing to move after being given out by an umpire and barged into media centers to confront journalists during the course of a game. None of the cricketers involved in these infractions were denied the privilege of representing the West Indies. It is difficult to imagine what Hinds has been convicted of doing that has drawn such a harsh sentence.
Do we have an unofficial quota system in place in West Indies cricket? Could it be that the unbalanced
Chairman of selectors Clyde Butts (right) with WICB’s Media Officer Philip Spooner at the Press Conference held at the Three
nature of the selection panel is being exposed or is it just a case of insularity? Is Clyde Butts really functioning in an influential leadership role or is he simply the one forced to face the music following the politicking by his colleagues?
Hinds has shown his commitment to Barbados’ cricket for several seasons and has nothing to prove. It is to the credit of the team’s management that they are able to get the best out of Hinds when those who are paid the big bucks to look after the regional team have apparently failed.
I cannot agree that taking one game off in what has obviously been the busiest season of his career should cost Hinds his place in the touring party. I believe Robert Haynes, Raphick Jumadeen and Clyde Butts, none of whom have ever played in a 14 game first class season of regional cricket, have been very harsh on Hinds. Without hearing exactly what he has done wrong I cannot accept that he has been treated fairly. I wonder who will be next.
I am also surprised that the WICB would expect knowledgeable cricket fans throughout the region to accept that Dwayne Bravo’s ankle is too weak to survive a five day Test match but is sufficiently strong to endure the intensity of several weeks of T20 cricket in the demanding IPL tournament.
Unfortunately for Bravo he missed out on his million dollar opportunity in the Stanford Twenty20 for 20 because of the same ankle. He has also been quite vocal in his assessment of the state of West Indies cricket.
The more cynical among us may want to suggest that insularity and cricket politics are still largely at play in West Indies cricket. The cynics are not always wrong.
Philip Hackett is a freelance sports journalist who has covered international cricket matches for the Nation Newspaper in Barbados as well as the CMC (formerly CANA). Hackett is also a well-respected cricket radio commentator who has covered Test matches for the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation as well as numerous regional first class matches. He has also provided print media and electronic media coverage of table tennis throughout the region. Hackett is a physical education teacher and has worked in Bermuda, Barbados and the Cayman Islands. He is a qualified international table tennis coach, having received his training in Hungary and a Level one cricket coach. Hackett holds a Masters degree in education from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.