Kiwi Guts and West Indian Failings

9 03 2010

New Zealand have, this morning, slipped behind in their one day series against Australia, going down by 6 wickets. After a blip in the first game, the Aussies are back on track and in this game rode a steam roller over the Kiwi bowling attack.

This notwithstanding, the Kiwi cricket team are a marvel of world cricket and long have been. From a relatively small playing populations, they consistently find players who can mix it with the best teams and frequently trouble their neighbours across the Tasman sea. They are the kings of bits and pieces cricketers, with the honourable exceptions of Dan Vettori, Brendan McCullum, Ross Taylor and potentially Martin Guptill who are very good players. Yet all of these bits and pieces players chip in at some point when they have to.

Indeed it is our view , that, as the West Indies prepare to meet Zimbabwe in the deciding game of their current series tomorrow, the Windies would do well to take a leaf out of the Kiwi book. In terms of raw talent the men from the Caribbean probably outshine the Kiwi’s, yet they seem locked in a cycle of defeat and often simply don’t appear to have the stomach for the fight. 

In their current series they have already managed to lose a 20/20 and ODI to the Zimbabweans, which when you have players like Gayle and Chanderpaul is criminal. Chanderpaul, it must be noted, we except from these criticisms as he has proven time and again to be one of the best players of his generation. Gayle et al on the other hand underperform so frequently that you have to wonder what is wrong. The eternal politics and machinations of the WICB don’t help matters and the lure of the 20/20 dollar is probably affecting their performance, yet it seems there is something else missing.

Perhaps it is pride. Pride in the badge and honour of playing for a united West Indian team, which once so evident in players like Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall doesn’t appear to be there anymore. Cricket is of course their job and their livelihood and as such would be a drag on certain occasions, yet playing for your country should be more than that. Perhaps it is a possible burn out factor caused by the proliferation of test, one day and 20/20 cricket in the last 20 years but whatever it is, it needs to be addressed and quickly.

Chris Gayle has come in for much criticism over the past couple of years with his actions surrounding the IPL, seemingly lackadaisical attitude  and his stated preference for the shorter form of the game. Ottis Gibson, the Windies new head coach, must work with him to ensure that he is fully on board and motivated. Without a strong figurehead any team will suffer, and to have the most important job in West Indian cricket in the hands of someone who doesn’t appear to be totally committed is a mistake. As a captain he is tactically sound and we know he is capable (consider his recent crucial hundred against Australia before Christmas) of performing when the chips are down. He must simply do it more often. 

We read somewhere (please correct us if our memory fails to serve) that in their last 64 games, the West Indies have only won 7 games. Bangladesh have won something like 5 in the same period, as have Zimbabwe. This is as damning a statistic as there is available and if the situation does not improve, cricket will suffer dreadfully over the next 20 years in the region. Nobody likes losing again and again, and so to inspire new youngsters and even to keep such potentially brilliant individuals as Dwayne Bravo from becoming a Flintoff style free lancer, they need to rectify this record.

The cricket world needs a strong West Indian team, as with Pakistani cricket also appearing to be collapsing inwardly and struggling with factors outside of their control, there appear to be only 6 strong nations playing the game today. The Windies and their fans provide a vitality and spark, without which cricket would be much worse off.

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