The jokes have started making the rounds again. Cruel jabs at the West Indies cricket team who floundered miserably at the Cricket World Cup.
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As disappointed as we feel, especially after the India thrashing on Thursday, the team’s performance is not going to be improved by the unkind and trite jokes circulating on the Internet. There is nothing nurturing in that approach, which reminds me of the commonplace approach to parenting that has so damaged self-esteem in the Caribbean.
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Technology has given us unprecedented intimacy to the body language, the facial expressions and even the spontaneous comments of players during a game. We can tell early on when the West Indies team has lost faith, when they are just going through the motions. This besieged look resurfaced during this tournament. That is why Sheldon Cottrell and Carlos Brathwaite were such electric sparks during the match against New Zealand. They never gave up.
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And why do spirits flag so quickly?
If you are being coached and managed within a framework where the people are not supportive (or trained to be), or encouraging or even demonstrate some belief in positive outcomes, how will you feel that you have a fighting chance, or a winning chance?
I’ve just read Mike Brearley’s 1985 book, The Art of Captaincy, (the 30th anniversary edition), which was so enlightening. He raises many of the issues which must come up within team sport and I wonder if anyone within the current cricket fraternity has ever pondered on those matters. Certainly it would be of great benefit for Cricket West Indies personnel to have a read.
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I will come back to the book another time, but for now, I want to share some observations about the team during this tournament.
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The team suffered as a result of losing members through injuries (Alzarri Joseph, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, for instance), but it was also weakened by the misuse of players and this may be a result of poor management.
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It must have complicated things to go into the World Cup with a new management team. What soon became apparent was a lack of strategy. There was a plan, yes, but not a strategy. It was a wooden plan, presenting itself much the way the body language of the management team did as they gazed stony-faced at the matches. There was nothing to suggest flexibility; and after the first win against Pakistan, nobody thought anything should be adjusted
After Thursday’s match, Indian captain Virat Kohli was asked about the concept of having a template for winning. He scoffed, saying everything depended on the day’s opposition and the playing conditions
This has been a fundamental flaw in the West Indies team’s preparation. West Indies learn, if learn is an accurate word, in hindsight. When I say team, I include everyone. Not just the players. We lack the capacity to adjust. We don’t seem able to strategise; to plan for “other” things as factors
It’s easy to blame this on the captain, but as Brearley pointed out on many occasions in his book, not every captain has the same authority to make decisions, or to develop game plans and team strategies
Jason Holder has been maturing, but his development may be hindered by the nature of his backroom support. His post-match comments do not communicate anything insightful; they tend to follow a template. After Thursday’s game, he said the bowlers did all that was asked of them (which was?), that the batting was inconsistent and that the fielding was poor. We could see that; but we couldn’t tell how these shortcomings would be addressed
It has been a characteristic of West Indies captains to speak in broad and vague terms, and to close off by saying that there were a lot of positive “learnings” to take away. It is the language of constraint
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SUBSCRIBE/ LOG IN It would be interesting to hear from Holder how he defines his role as captain — equally so to hear the definition from CWI
The team itself has been fluid in terms of its composition. Except for Chris Gayle, who seems increasingly unwilling to walk away while he can still hit a six, there has been a remarkable degree of changes in a short period
Synergies have not yet developed. We are not building partnerships, which are key to building scores. Michael Holding made it excruciatingly simple when he said, “Talented players and good players are two different things.”
We have a dressing room full of talented players, but have they become good players yet? Can they? Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran are gaudy, energetic and obviously talented. They are relatively young, but they have been around for years and it seems there is too slow a crawl towards signs of developing the composure and awareness to assess the state of the game as it is happening in real time
Not every ball is meant to be skied up (for a catch), and they would benefit from watching clips of the legendary Everton Weekes on this subject. Sir Everton, who is now 94, had a heart attack on the night before the game, and I hope that by the time this column appears, he will be discharged from the hospital to resume his mighty innings. He is one of our great icons whose fine mind is a testament that cricket is a thinking game
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