Saturday, February 24, 2018

Not so super

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Mark Fraser

THE current Nagico Super50 tournament, which ends today with the final between Trinidad and Tobago and perennial rivals Barbados, has hardly lived up to its designated superlative.

It is in fact a stark reflection of the sorry state of West Indies cricket, with the calibre of batting often falling woefully short of first-class standard.

It is a reminder, if any were needed, that the West Indies Cricket Board has to do some serious work to get to the bottom of this.

There were some useful scores in the early stages, but it soon went downhill—Leeward Islands being shot out for 80 by Combined Campuses and Colleges; the same students then managing just 98 against T&T; the once-mighty Leewards again plumbing the depths with Barbados bowling them out for 103; and the final ignominy being multiple four-day champions Jamaica not even passing a half-century against the hosts, bowled out for a record-low 49.

Trinidad and Tobago captain Dwayne Bravo had the ball moving both ways, which reminds us of an old Tommy Joseph joke, but this was no laughing matter as Jamaica capitulated in the competition’s first semi-final.

Let’s not take anything away from skipper Bravo, well supported by fellow bowlers Ravi Rampaul, Rayad Emrit, Sunil Narine and sharp fielding all around the wicket, but it is most disconcerting when one of the top four territories in the region cannot muster 50 runs amongst them.

Commentators Fazeer Mohammed and Jeffrey Dujon raised the sore point of the inability of West Indian batsman to cope with the swinging ball, the former recalling their recent woes Down Under where the New Zealanders exploited their vulnerability in that area.

Dujon even put present WI captain Darren Sammy on the spot about their failing grade in that department, the skipper admitting that it was a bit of a problem, which is putting it rather mildly.

And speaking of a one-time powerhouse, Mohammed drew attention to the great concern there should be over the dismal descent of the Leeward Islands in recent years, referring to the outstanding cricketers that have emerged from that area, led by the incomparable Viv Richards, followed by Andy Roberts, Curtley Ambrose and Richie Richardson.

Something has to be done, and quickly, to arrest the slide of that once vibrant cricketing nursery, for it goes without saying that the West Indies can only compete with the best if every component is at peak power.

There is some consolation in that Barbados is in the final, for as Barbados goes, so goes the West Indies is a long-held theory which still rings true, so there is cause for optimism.

Those so inclined to think positively might also point to a few leading lights sidelined by injuries of late, including Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels, who will all, hopefully, be back in the fray in time for the Windies’ defence of the World T20 title.

But a team is only as good as its bench and there is a lack of suitable reserves to sway the sceptics from having negative thoughts.

So something has got to give—whether it is in administration, coaching, selection policies, or a combination of all three—to change the direction of the West Indies graph, and put it pointing upwards once again.