Friday, February 23, 2018

Same old songs

 You may have read them already, but I want you, dear readers to take a look again at the comments of the new West Indies chairman of selectors, Clive Lloyd.

Hear him on the state of WI cricket and some of the new initiatives proposed by the director of cricket, Richard Pybus.

 “I was quite happy with what Mr Pybus has discussed with me and where he wants to go and I am sure if we can get those things on track, our cricket can only go upwards...

“I have been watching the Under-19 cricketers and we have a quite a few good cricketers. The point is trying to get them to the standard that is needed.

“We cannot be in the doldrums as we’ve been, for a long time. We need to be more consistent with our play and we have to move up the ladder where Test matches are concerned. We have a structural change and let’s hope the youngsters realise that we want to move into a new era and that they can be part of this new thinking.” 

More or less, haven’t you heard these words before?

“We cannot be in the doldrums as we’ve been” sounds a lot like “we cannot continue like this” from another former West Indies captain of more recent vintage, Darren Sammy in 2013.

“We need to be more consistent” are words that every West Indies skipper since Richie Richardson would have uttered at least once, not to mention the beaten to death “let’s hope,” aka “Hopefully.”

Sometimes, when I hear the principals in Windies cricket speak, I feel like I’m listening to a well-worn CD, like a soca tune that keeps telling you to jump and jump and jump and wave and wave and wave. 

In fairness, it is not so much the fault of the speakers, like the beleaguered captains, reduced to catch phrases since there are just so many words they can use to describe the same old story.

Even the late CLR James would have been seriously challenged to add fresh description to the decline of close to two decades in Caribbean cricket.

So what does the move to appoint legendary former captain Lloyd mean at this time? Or better yet, does it mean anything significant? 

The first thing to keep in mind, is that Clive Hubert Lloyd has worn several different hats since playing his last Test match in 1985 in Australia.

He has been a West Indies team manager and coach, an ICC match referee between 2001 and 2006, and has sat on ICC and West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) committees. Lloyd’s playing career alone however made him a person of stature. His 7,515 Test runs at an average of nearly 47 established him as one of the Caribbean’s best-ever batsmen. But even if, for argument’s sake, his playing record would have been average, his moulding of the players of his era into a unit that won the first two World Cups and  that began an unbeaten streak in Test series that lasted for 15 years would have made him a cricketing legend of his time. To manage that latter feat, Lloyd had to know a bit about the game and how to manage men. So, on the face of it, he would seem to be  a fine fit for any number of positions in the West Indies.

But as manager and coach in the 1990s, the decline in discipline and performance was not halted. Lloyd was also a Legend in Allen Stanford’s short-lived Twenty20 venture as were a number of the mentors currently employed with the Caribbean Premier League--Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Andy Roberts, Sir Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. Their input back then with the nucleus of the players who are still playing leading roles on the international teams, does not appear on the evidence of the last eight years, to have had much of an impact. 

One current mentor, Gordon Greenidge, was forthright in a recent television interview about the influence of former players. He said he preferred being a coach rather than a mentor because players in general did not seek out help and that taking the initiative to approach today’s generation did not meet with great success.

That, to some degree--to a large degree--would explain why, when so many outstanding former players have been made available to their successors in various capacities  over the last 15-20 years, things have not changed for the better. 

I don’t know how much interaction Lloyd has had with the present generation, although his work with the government-appointed Interim Management Committee in his native Guyana has ensured at least that he is now based in the region once more. But it would be unrealistic to expect that the presence of himself and Walsh on the selection panel is going to bring a shift in fortunes.

Just as the panel under his predecessor Clyde Butts found out, the new group will also discover that the success or failure of selectors depends on the quality of the player pool before them. If the pool is meagre, so also will be the results.

The real chance of success depends on the setting up of effective programmes at school and grassroots level. This is part of the Pybus plan. Let the legends and mentors try something with those youths. It is at that stage that the culture of the young cricketers can be most positively influenced. 

As for the present crop, prepare to hear the same old songs.