Tough road ahead, but hope beckons for WI cricket

Sunday, February 26, 2017

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To the chagrin of those who still support West Indies cricket, the regional team will not be part of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament this summer in England.



The champions of 2004 were not good enough in One Day International (ODI) cricket to make the eight-team cut under the ICC’s points ranking system.



Currently ninth in the ODI rankings, West Indies are also in danger of not qualifying automatically for the ODI World Cup in England and Wales in 2019. Should the West Indies be out of the eight-team frame come the cut-off date later this year, they will have to compete with traditional lesser nations for a place in the 10-team tournament.



So, West Indies will have to purposefully set about winning ODI games over the next few months in order to be sure of a spot at the 2019 Cricket World Cup. For that reason, the three-match ODI series starting this week against England in the Caribbean is of great importance.



The available evidence suggests that the off-the-field distractions of the last many years, including the sometimes poisonous relationship between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and elite players, continue to hurt the cricket itself.



In the most recent case late last year, Mr Darren Bravo — easily the West Indies’ most prolific batsman in overseas Test matches — had to be sanctioned because of grossly unprofessional conduct. Readers will recall Mr Bravo’s angry response to totally uncalled for and, as it turned out, partially inaccurate comments, by board President Mr Dave Cameron about the player’s contractual arrangements.



The result is that, for the time being at least, Mr Bravo’s considerable talent is lost to West Indies cricket. Obviously Mr Bravo should apologise. But also, Mr Cameron should realise that it was his untimely and ill-considered words which provoked the unfortunate situation. He, too, should be reaching out to Mr Bravo.



Readers will recall that the latest bad blood followed the bizarre sacking of popular coach Mr Phil Simmons last year on the eve of an overseas tour. To the credit of Mr Cameron and his much criticised board, there were strong positives last year alongside minuses. Early in the year, West Indies shocked the world by winning the Under-19 World Cup and men’s and women’s T20 World tournaments.



And, against all expectations, Mr Jason Holder’s young team defeated Pakistan in a Test match in the United Arab Emirates in late 2016 — though the series was lost 1-2.



Also to the credit of the WICB, regional domestic cricket has shown distinct improvement as the franchise system of recent years takes hold. The overall quality of play in the recently concluded regional 50-over tournament underlined the point.



In no small measure, the relative success so far — despite resource constraints — of the introduction of professional competitions to regional cricket facilitated Mr Cameron’s return unopposed as WICB president. The next step should be to alter eligibility rules which as currently constructed have tied the hands of the selectors in relation to leading players who ply their trade in cash-rich overseas leagues.



Going forward, the hope must be that West Indies cricket administrators will start to build on strengths and achievements without spilling the milk pail for no good reason. If they can somehow start to do that, the players will be better able to focus on that long road back to greatness for West Indies cricket.

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