Candy. Baby.

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When England win an ODI by the ridiculously emphatic margin of 186 runs, I guess we should all be happy. Back in the 1980s our batsmen rarely scored 186 across two innings of a test match against the Windies …. well, maybe we weren’t quite that bad, but you get my point.

When England got slaughtered by a Windies pace attack that included the likes of Marshall, Holding, Patterson, Garner etc, our press would often moan about too much short pitch bowling, intimidation and what some perceived as ungentlemanly bullyboy tactics. I suppose we just felt humiliated. And when people feel embarrassed they often look to recovery some dignity by taking the moral high ground.

The real problem, of course, was not the Windies’ tactics (at the end of the day they were just bloody good) but the sequence of horrendous mismatches. It all got a bit boring, unsatisfying, and there wasn’t really much to talk about anymore. Who wants to see one sided matches that amplify the problems one side is having both on and off the field?

The boot is clearly on the other foot these days. Whereas English cricket was a laughing stock in the 80s and early 90s, with captaincy and selection merry-go-rounds, chairmen who couldn’t get player names right – remember Martin McCaddick and Malcolm Devon? – and rebel tours decimating the pool of available players. Nowadays it’s the Windies who lose their best players – not to rebel tours but to the international T20 circus. What’s more, their political and financial problem seem as bad as ever.

Consequently, I don’t really feel like celebrating England’s record win yesterday – which was the Windies’ biggest ever defeat (in terms of runs) at home. As an England fan I’m pleased to see us dominate the opposition so comprehensively. But the general cricket fan inside me is crying. Is this really the best team the once mighty West Indies can muster? Now it look like they’ll have to actually qualify for the next world cup. It’s really, really sad.

None of this will matter much to Alex Hales and Liam Plunkett though. Hales was excellent on his return to the side and it looks like Sam Billings’ brief run will now come to an end. It’s a shame for the young Kentish gent, who obviously has some talent, but Hales is a pretty established ODI player these days and he’s hard to leave out for long.

It was also good to see Plunkett in the wickets. I’ve always had a soft spot for Liam as I think he’s been a little hard done by over the years. I don’t think he’ll pull up many trees for England at this stage of his career but he’s a good bloke to have around the squad. He can bowl fast and hit the ball miles when he’s in the mood – just the kind of cricketer we would’ve killed for back in the 1980s.

I should also mention Joe Root again. Yes he’s quite useful.

Although I don’t think England should have scheduled in this tour – the somewhat two paced wickets in the Caribbean aren’t anything like what we’ll experience in the Champions Trophy – at least we’ve done the job required. A 3-0 win is nothing to be sniffed at, even if it was a bit like taking candy from a baby in Barbados.

And as for the West Indies … well … I’ll let you write your own obituaries in the comments below.

James Morgan

25 Comments

  1. In some ways I think it was useful purely to get the difficult winter out of their system and put some smiles back on faces at the expense of a weak oppo.

    In terms of the side, I would like to see Willey opening the bowling in the Champs’ trophy – reckon he’ll pick up bags of wickets at the top of the order.

    In terms of the Windies, I liked Nasser’s comment on air about telling all the Windies superstars there’s a game on next week, they’re all invited and see how many would turn up. Understand there’s been problems but for all their talk I think players like Gayle and Samuels are more interested in being celebrities than playing for the Windies.

    The other thing I can’t understand is why players like Jason Holder are trundling in bowling medium pace – he’s built like Patrick Paterson and should be bowling like him too.

    • Agree with most of that, but Samuels played for WI quite a lot. I thought Holder bowled pretty well yesterday (3-40), though he’s no Joel Garner or Curtly Ambrose.

    • I didn’t hear exactly what Nasser Hussain said, but I think people and players with comfortable Western lifestyles should be extremely cautious about piling into WI players.

      England players are on central contracts worth nearly 10x what a WI player can earn. WI players often have extended families to support (without a Western style welfare safety-net) and they have the short career window that most sportsman face (but perhaps not so many opportunities thereafter). Chris Gayle played 100+ Tests and 250+ ODIs so it isn’t as if he didn’t give the WI plenty of service.

      Some people compare these WI players to the players of the past. Those past players signed up for Kerry Packer. They didn’t need much persuading (Tony ‘Grovel’ Greig was Packer’s liaison to them).

      It seems to me a case of allowing massive financial doping and then blaming the victims. If Hussain really wants to help WI, why not start campaigning for global revenues to be centrally pooled and then re-distributed to the poorer nations? Is Hussain willing to help WI in every way except those that involve England making some sacrifices?

      • I agree with you on Chris Gayle, for all I find his attitude to women repulsive I feel he gets a bad rap for his attitude to longer format Cricket. He played a lot for the WI and by the time of his final Test he wasn’t fit enough for 5 day Cricket anymore without T20 I reckon he would have retired in 2013/14 or after the 2015WC

    • Bowling fast is not about build (except that a bigger, stronger build may help if you have the other elements). It is more about rhythm and sprint speed (which correlates with all sorts of other body speeds). It may be that Holder bowls best off a slower rhythm and/or lacks as much fast twitch muscle as others. The proof of the argument lies in examples like the peerless Malcolm Marshall, 5ft 10in, slightly built (by fast bowler standards) and lightening quick. And Harold Larwood was supposedly only 5’8″ when the fastest in the world. I have seen similar effects at club level, where the fastest 2 bowlers I have played with/against in the last 20 years are both built like whippets but can convert circa 11 sec 100m pace into their delivery action.

  2. Mostly fair comment, though I’m not sure that, in the early 80’s, we were as bad as you make out. It’s just that we struggled against pace attacks including the likes of Roberts, Marshall, Holding, Croft, Garner, Patterson and Walsh (as did everyone else). Also that WI side could win from the most unlikely positions (Lord’s 1984). This WI side can lose from the most unlikely positions.

    One of the biggest problems in recent years in the Caribbean is the state of the pitches. In the “good old days” West Indian pitches were fast and true, so you encouraged genuine fast bowling (see above), and exciting back foot strokes (think Richards’ pull shot, Fredericks’ or Sobers’ hook, Greenidge’s square cut). The puddings currently produced (according to a West Indian friend, this is down to the WICB) don’t encourage these aspects of the game.

    The other issue with the WICB is its draconian attitude to playing T20 tournaments (where the money is far better than it can offer). If the WICB says “it’s the IPL or West Indies, but not both”, given the state of WI cricket, and the salaries on offer in the IPL, who can blame a player for playing in the IPL? When WI plays its first team, as in the last T20 world cup, they’re clearly competitive.

    • It’s a bit of a myth that WI pitches used to help the quicks. Before 1975, the WI attack was often based on spin (Ramadin and Valentine, Lance Gibbs) and there were some extremely flat batting decks. Visiting opening batsmen in the early 1970s like Gavaskar and Glenn Turner scored a mountain of runs.

      I completely agree about your last point and the WICB’s disastrous policy about where players can and cannot play. They’ve not got an easy hand because of the timing of their season and their poverty but they’re playing it very badly.

  3. Can’t help but feel the Windies have brought it all on themselves and I I’m finding hard to feel sorry for them given the maulings we used to endue during the 70s and 80s. When you have talent like Gayle, Russell, Bravo, Narine, Pollard etc all fit and able to play but for the gross mismanagement of the board are not playing or playing T20 cricket somewhere in Azerbaijan or outer Mongolia or wherever the current tournament is taking place, then something is wrong somewhere with CWI.

    • Russell is of course serving a one-year drug ban (which Cricinfo are reporting may be increased to two years).

      The brute fact is that these T20 competitions can pay more than the WICB will ever be able to. WI cricket has always needed subsidising from the outside. Until the late 1980s, the CC did it. The issue with the CC was that the WI season could be scheduled around it. T20 competitions are so ubiquitous that it’s difficult to do that. The game desperately needs agreed blocking of the schedule to create windows for different forms of the game and for the WICB in return to lift their player restrictions.

  4. I lived in the Caribbean for a simply sublime year in the 1990s and watched and played as much cricket as I could. It was an enormous joy and privilege to play on some of the smaller out-island pitches in scratch matches that would have put many a county side to shame (not that I was up to it, everyone was just being very kind!)

    I can only return far less frequently than I would like (family, job, life) but whenever I do I am struck by the continuing natural (NATURAL!) talent of the young players I encounter. The pitches have generally deteriorated, not just in the better grounds but across the islands, the lure of basketball has become significantly more potent, the importance of obtaining an American university education (and scholarship) has become the biggest thing on most young minds, the cultural roots of old affections for “The Mother Country” have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that they are almost non-existent and the inter-island politics of cricket have been eviscerated by unequal financial rewards.

    The talent is still there. There are young players across the islands who would astonish and delight the most ambitious coaches with natural capabilities so significantly in advance of anything that you see in the Academies back home that it is enough to make you weep.

    The problems (IMHO) that hobble this greatest supra-national cricketing superstar is leadership and money. If the ICC, the ECB or even perhaps the MCC (on the basis of ancient friendships and ties) could provide support and manpower (OK, person-power) to sort out the administrative mess that West Indian cricket is in and provide it with the leadership and purpose it so desperately needs, future generations would be amazed by the capabilities of the young cricketers that would come from these islands.

    It’s not so complicated. All the young cricketers (and athletes in general) from the Caribbean want lives outside the islands. All those of us who have been privileged to visit or stay in the islands want to find excuses to go and perhaps even live there. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out how to harness these two forces.

    Don’t write off the West Indian cricketers. They’re still every bit as good as they were in their glory years. World cricket needs to give them the opportunity to regain their glory years. For all our sakes.

    • James Morgan on

      Amen Alexander. I’ve always thought that the Windies should be doing better in ODI cricket considering the way the game has gone in recent years. Surely that natural talent would shine through given the opportunity? The politics and mismanagement are a real problem. Some kind of rescue plan from outside sounds desirable but I bet the authorities would probably too preoccupied with protecting their own patches. Just a hunch.

      • Again all true, and there are a lot of competing sports now, most of which pay better than the WICB can. Basketball in the US attracts taller players (think Walsh, Ambrose, Garner). Athletics is a big draw, and both Usain Bolt and Johan Blake are (apparently) pretty good fast bowlers, but there’s more money in running now. 45 years ago a promising Jamaican 400m runner gave up athletics (then amateur) for a cricket career. His name? Michael Holding. Athletes have to earn a living, so they do so in the best way they can.

        • Someone always trots out basketball. What’s the evidence? Only one of the traditional WI islands is ranked by the NBA (Jamaica at 55th out of 91) which hardly suggests it has taken over.

          Perhaps the issue is players of WI origin going to the NBA? How many can you point to? (My searchings can’t find any surveys – however there seems to be plenty of evidence that NBA players increasingly come from affluent backgrounds which doesn’t suggest there’s been a huge influx from the WI).

              • Simon,

                I don’t think that Basketball is a sports alternative that takes existing cricket players away from the game, but my evidence is simple observation. When I lived in the Caribbean in the 1990s I did not witness one game of basketball, but saw countless games of scratch cricket. On my last couple of nostalgic trips back to St Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Anguilla, Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad I saw children playing basketball on every island.

                My suspicion, however, is that for the more athletically -oriented teenagers, basketball and athletics represent a route to the now-more-favoured American university educations (and potential sports scholarships) which they see as routes out of the islands.

                I shall do some more research, but I wouldn’t dismiss the basketball point out of hand. It is only one of a number of factors that have drawn attention and interest away from cricket.

                One way to address the elbowing-aside of cricket as the default sport of the islands would be by instituting sports-scholarship programmes for English universities with side-by-side Academy programmes. It would probably introduce some younger West Indian player to County Cricket opportunities an re-introduce cricket as an attractive career option for more athletically-talented West Indian teenagers.

                This would obviously be a longer-term strategy than the intervention in (“support for”) WICB and improvement of inter-island team and squad management, but it would have all sorts of other benefits too.

  5. I liked the interview that George Dobell did with the new WICB CEO, it was quite encouraging and we will see how it goes. Its easier to be idealistic at the start but given they have changed the coach, director of cricket and the CEO at the same time perhaps they can strike some deals.

    Lots of talk about the superstars but were they ever that good outside T20? Of the ones who are young enough to return there is Pollard average record, Sammy who bats at 8 and doesn’t bowl, Samuel’s great ones a blue moon, Russell only wants to play T20 and is banned, Simmons 32yrs poor record, Dwayne Smith has just retired for int duty but also awful record. People look back on theses guys like they were the glory days but in Test and 50 over cricket they are no bodies.

    • Gayle has a pretty good test record (average about 42, and 3 triple centuries). Bravo would be a useful all rounder, and a clean Russell would help the test team (if willing to play). I agree on Samuels: a sort of “poor man’s Carl Hooper” (the shots, the offspin, the disappointments).

  6. This going on somewhat from what I put on Twitter. While I understand the sentiment behind the comment, there is nothing to be lamented about the idea of an established team having to qualify for the World Cup in itself. After all, it is hard to support the idea that it should be based on any other grounds.

    It all goes to the idea of how the world should be set up. I believe that the cricket world should be geared towards three pinnacles: a Test, ODI and T20 pinnacle, that all teams can equally reach. Pet series dominate Test cricket. One-day cricket has not yet found a strategic niche. T20’s potential is hamstrung by many of the same mistakes that one-day cricket eventually paid for.

    Writing the West Indies obituary may be tempting, but doing such a thing would only be a distraction, and oversimplify their situation, for they did just win the World T20.

    • 100% agree – all teams should have to qualify for all ICC tournaments.

      It is on the table at the ICC. Regional qualification was one of the less-reported items on the agenda at the last ICC meeting. Although I strongly support qualification, it’s difficult to see how regional qualification can work given the uneven regional distribution of teams in the global game. It would seem to make it very difficult for a rising team in a strong region (I’m thinking of Nepal) to qualify.

      Hopefully, this might become a bit clearer at the next ICC meeting which is next month.

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