Challenges for the WICB
Even with the disappointing failure to reach the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final in mid-year and other poor results in the 50-over format, thoughtful West Indies cricket fans remained quietly confident that 2013 would have ended well for the regional team.
Instead, 2013 closed as an unmitigated disaster for West Indies cricket. That negative impression was made worse by the very encouraging showing in 2012 when West Indies not only won the World T20 but showed real improvement in Test match cricket.
Awful on-field results against India in that country and in cold, damp New Zealand as 2013 ended were compounded by reports of bitter dissension and factionalism within the West Indies tour party.
Injuries to key players undoubtedly played their part.
Before a ball was bowled in India, word came that top fast bowler Mr Kemar Roach had suffered a serious injury requiring surgery and lengthy recovery. Apparently because of uncertainty regarding his state of fitness, Mr Ravi Rampaul — the regional team's second best seamer — was not selected for Tests.
After a poor two-Test series in India, Mr Christopher Gayle also fell to injury. His experience at the top of the batting order was sorely missed in New Zealand.
The bowling ban imposed on top wicket-taker of recent times, off-spinner Mr Shane Shillingford, for an alleged illegal bowling action simply added to the gloom.
Obviously there will have to be a thorough and honest probe by the West Indies Cricket Board regarding the happenings on tour.
Selection policies must also come under scrutiny. Certainly in the case of New Zealand it appears that sufficient attention was not paid to a 'horses for courses' approach in selecting the seam bowlers. Surely in the absence of Messrs Roach and Rampaul, the towering 22-year-old Mr Jason Holder should have been part of the Test-match tour party to exploit bounce as well as seam/swing friendly conditions in that southern land.
Also, the curious insistence by the selectors over the last two seasons in ignoring the claims of the region's two top left-arm spinners, Messrs Suleiman Benn and Nikita Miller, in Test match cricket requires explanation. We note that Mr Miller is now part of the limited overs set-up.
Related to selection policy is the scheduling of regional competitions. The onset of multi-million dollar T20 franchise cricket globally is wreaking havoc, since competitions such as the Indian Premier League, the Bangladesh League and the Australian Big Bash clash directly with the Caribbean first-class competition traditionally held between January and April.
Established players and their emerging colleagues are being lured away from regional cricket by the huge sums on offer in the T20 leagues. Understandably so, since a cricketer's future and marketability are desperately uncertain at best.
It has meant that marquee players such as Messrs Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo now play very little first-class (four-day) cricket. Talented limited overs stars such as Messrs Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell are not even considered by the selectors for Test cricket since they have virtually no opportunity to showcase their long-format skills.
It seems obvious that the WICB must seek to rethink its scheduling in order to, as much as is humanly possible, have its best players available in all competitions.
WICB President Mr Dave Cameron, CEO Mr Michael Muirhead and their colleagues in the administration of West Indies cricket will be seriously challenged in the short term to set things right.