Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Easier said than done

GOOD EFFORT: West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite dives to field the ball during the second game of the three-match ODI series against England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in St John's, Antigua, yesterday. See Back Page. –Photo: AFP

Give it to Johnny Grave, Jimmy Adams and Stuart Law: they are all saying the right things as far as reinvigorating West Indies cricket on and off the field.
But we have heard better cocks crow on this topic over the past 20-something years, so the new CEO, Director of Cricket and Head Coach need to produce something tangible before they can be perceived as anything other than the soon-to-be latest casualties of a dysfunctional organisation.
It still matters to many in the region, so there will always be a tendency to give new appointees the benefit of the doubt, especially in the case of Adams, the former West Indies captain, reliable middle-order batsman and occasional left-arm spinner who has shown himself over the years to be nothing less than fully committed to anything he is involved in.
As with Dennis Lawrence, the new head coach of the senior men's national football team, a decent playing record can buy some time. Sooner or later though, cordiality evaporates as the demands heat up for results. In the case of the former central defender, the World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico at the end of the month represent the first real tests.
For the trio now holding key portfolios at the WICB though, there are different metre rules to measuring their success, or lack thereof, even if at the end of the day the ultimate determining factor of their effectiveness will be in the performances of the different teams that carry the West Indies crest.
Adams has spoken about reaching a compromise that may welcome prominent T20 franchise players back into the West Indies fold. That shouldn't be interpreted as a cure-all because the records will show that even with all the premier players available, the regional side have continued to languish in the lower reaches of the international rankings at both Test and One-Day International level.
It would be a step in the right direction nevertheless to create a harmonious, or at least civil, working relationship between the administration and all players to the extent that everyone can understand and appreciate where the other side is coming from. At the moment, there appears to be little in the way of trust and respect, so much ground is to be made up in that area.
Grave, an Englishman with experience working in the commercial department at the Surrey County Cricket Club and also in the Professional Cricketers' Association, has prioritised getting the supporters back on board.
A more fan-friendly environment is intended to include making West Indies cricket more accessible to those who have become disillusioned for any number of reasons. Lower ticket prices and the timing of T20 internationals in particular are seen as relatively easy fixes.
Apparently the upcoming four matches against Pakistan (yes, in case you missed it, four, one in Barbados and now three at the Queen's Park Oval) were originally scheduled for 9.30 a.m. starts—that's 6.30 p.m. in Pakistan—but have now been pushed back to 12.30 p.m.
As for Law, he has spoken encouragingly of the attitude within the squad led by Jason Holder and believes there is a desire to improve among the players. As with most Australians, he is pragmatic about what can be expected in such a short space of time since taking up the job two weeks ago, yet has already made clear that the number one objective is to earn enough ranking points in ODIs by the cut-off date of September 30 to get the West Indies into the top eight to qualify automatically for the next World Cup in 2019 in England.
Friday's 45-run loss to the English in Antigua in the opening fixture of a three-match series was an immediate setback, and that's precisely where all three—Grave, Adams and Law—can see any goodwill they are trying to generate quickly dissipate should the results on the field not match the optimism.
Even at the very height of West Indian dominance in the 1980s, there were issues with the WICB, the selectors would be getting cuss every Monday morning and the infrastructure was rudimentary to say the least. There was one massive difference though: the West Indies were synonymous with success, and not just any old success, but success with swagger, flair and uncompromising ruthlessness. It made those other matters and shortcomings more tolerable if the flagship team was sharing licks left, right and centre.
That time has long gone and will probably never return to that dizzyingly high level. There is nothing that the new trio can do to bring those days back. However, should they be able to contribute, directly or indirectly, to a gradual improvement in results, then and only then will they be taken seriously.
In the meantime, it's just words.