Clayton Murzello: WI need to clear this threshold
West Indies are on the verge of losing their 2019 World Cup spot and thereâs no better time for Holder & Co to keep in mind a great legacy
West Indies captain Jason Holder is a man under immense pressure. Pic/Getty Images
Cricket faces a harsh reality. No, it's not Test cricket's survival or the match fixing ghosts which keep appearing that I'm referring to. It's about the West Indies and how they are in a situation where they have to qualify for next year's World Cup in England. In Zimbabwe, over the next few days, the team led by Jason Holder, will be tested by Ireland, Netherlands, UAE and Papua New Guinea in their World Cup Qualifiers group. The Zimbabwe tournament will see two teams qualifying for the grand stage.
A pessimist will never stop envisaging doom; an optimist will conjure up images of the likes of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels celebrating victory in Zimbabwe. In any case, it's going to be a significant time for Caribbean cricket. West Indies have not had an ideal start to the Qualifiers; losing to Afghanistan by 29 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method in Tuesday's warm-up game at Harare. Hopefully, the real West Indies will stand up when the actual tournament rolls out. Everyone wants to see West Indies playing a big part in world cricket and their absence from the World Cup will be akin to Brazil not being part of the football World Cup.
Meanwhile, turmoil in the Caribbean continues. Although the likes of Gayle and Samuels have delighted Holder by participating in the Qualifiers, the administrators and players will still be at loggerheads over pay and other disputes. The lure of T20 cricket is also a compelling issue. If one looks at the big picture, the players have better performances to show than the administrators, albeit in limited overs cricket. The 2016 World T20 triumph, in a way, gave rise to new hope, although not an adequate revival. It must not be forgotten that the West Indies made strides through their 2016 under-19 World Cup win and their women's cricket is looking good too.
Strange off-field decisions persist and one can understand when their past greats feel neglected and unwanted by the forces that run West Indies cricket. I spoke to Andy Roberts the other day, and there was more sadness than anger in his voice when it came to discussing the logic of picking a near-globally unknown South African (Alfonso Thomas) as bowling coach of the team. Yes, you don't need to be a Test cricketer to be a successful coach, but it is hard to believe that Cricket West Indies couldn't find a qualified local to fit the bill. When Curtly Ambrose was sacked as bowling consultant last year, he was told that he wasn't technical enough and maybe Ambrose lacked that. It could also be that the Antiguan expected the bowlers to raise the bar to an extent they are not capable of. This is not uncommon in the stints of high profile cricketers-turned-coaches. But why are not enough big names running West Indies cricket? The administration has a lot to answer for.
Meanwhile, Courtney Walsh is coaching Bangladesh and former West Indies coach Ottis Gibson is now the boss of the South African team. Recently, the one decision that stunned the Caribbean cricket fraternity was the appointment of Richard Pybus as High Performance Director. Barely over a year ago, Pybus had exited his post of Team Director.
Probably, the answer to West Indies' troubles is to keep things simple and develop trust between the players and administrators. However difficult that may seem, what with a history of conflict, it is their only hope. In human terms, how can a relationship work without trust and understanding?
Dr Rudi Webster, the former West Indies team manager and accomplished sports psychologist, has tended to be anti-establishment in the recent battle. Having said that, the administration would do well to mull over what he recently wrote and put that into action without getting their egos in the way. "Leaders understand the importance of clear vision and good strategy," wrote Webster, before injecting the need to get actual helping hands into play. Webster added: "But they also know that these two factors can only take the team or organisation so far. Plans and goal charts do not accomplish performance. It is people who get things done. People breathe life into the organisation's vision, plans and mission. And in sport, it is competent, well-trained, highly disciplined and highly motivated players that are the key to the team's success."
There's no doubt about it, the players too have a duty to be focussed. Without that commitment, they will not be seen under the maroon ODI West Indies cap in England next year. Some of them will need to be reminded repeatedly of their region's success there in the first two World Cups. Money was not the chief motivational factor then. It shouldn't be now either. The former kings of cricket are on the threshold of World Cup infamy, which could be even more crushing than the loss to Kenya on the last day of February 1996. They need to leap into the kind of terrain their legacy deserves.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to email@example.com