More pain as CWI prepares for a new president
Kittian Ricky Skerritt (right) and Vencentian Dr Kishore Shallow at the 2019 CWI elections at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston (Photo: Norman Thomas

Back in mid-2021, South Africa's Test Match cricket team came to the Caribbean and comprehensively swept their hosts in a two-Test series.

So it was always a stretch to expect eighth-ranked West Indies to overturn those results against fourth-ranked South Africa in the recent return series.

Yet, as we said in this space exactly a month ago immediately after the Caribbean team overcame Zimbabwe in that country, hope springs eternal.

As it turned out, West Indies, with their well-respected fast-bowling attack, had periods of high ascendancy in South Africa on pitches that were kind to bowlers for both teams.

However, as has been the case in West Indies cricket for much too long, the consistent failure of batters to compile competitive scores against world-class bowling attacks in high-pressure situations proved pivotal.

The South Africans had their own problems with batting. But Mr Temba Bavuma — whose glorious century in the second Test after a pair of 'ducks' in his début Test as captain won't be easily forgotten — and opener Mr Aiden Markram made the essential difference between the two teams.

In summing up the South African experience, West Indies Captain Mr Kraigg Brathwaite pointed to the need for players to build mental strength in order to cope with stressful situations.

Mr Brathwaite and his team would have watched at close quarters the extraordinary example of Mr Bavuma. We can only imagine the pressure he must have been under entering that second Test as South Africa's first black captain, having experienced the humiliation of being dismissed twice without scoring on his début as Test match leader.

His calm assurance should have served as inspiration to all, friend and foe.

So, having been vanquished in Tests, West Indies are now into the white-ball leg of their tour of South Africa with different captains, Messrs Shai Hope and Rovman Powell, for One Day Internationals, and Twenty20 (T20) matches. We are not optimistic but, again, hope springs eternal.

Intriguingly, Dr Kishore Shallow — expected to to take over as president of Cricket West Indies after Mr Wilford Heaven announced he has withdrawn his candidacy — is to oversee the contracting of separate full-time coaches for white and red-ball formats.

This is in line with the recommendation of a high-profile review group which explored last year's humiliating exit for West Indies from the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Australia at the preliminary stage.

Employing two full-time head coaches will mean even more pressure for cash-strapped Cricket West Indies. However, the rationale, as explained by Director of Cricket Mr James Adams, makes perfect sense.

Said he: "Separating the roles will… provide the head coaches with more time to oversee players' ongoing development away from tours directly, and through increased engagement and planning with suitable high-performance programmes and coaches."

Twinned to that must be consistency of development efforts. In that respect, we welcome training and assessment programmes for men and women at CWI's headquarters in Antigua, as well as regional competitions such as the just-resumed four-day championship.

Finding the resources to not just keep, but expand such programmes will be the unenviable job of Dr Shallow as he prepares to takes over as CWI president from the exiting Mr Ricky Skerritt. How well he succeeds (or not) may prove decisive for the regional game.

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