Keeping faith in the Young Turks
HEADINGLEY gave West Indies cricket a lifeline when least expected.
That magnificent victory over England, against the longest odds, restored self respect and the cricketing world’s admiration.
It showed that all hope wasn’t lost and there was something there to work with.
I believe it is against this background that the selectors decided to stick with the same players for the Zimbabwe tour. A humiliating whitewash against England may have prompted some changes. The selectors would have been under some pressure if they had done anything different in different circumstances.
The naysayers weren’t able to say “I told you so”, therefore the Courtney Browne panel had some breathing space to manoeuvre to their advantage. I say advantage because I get the feeling they are intent on rebuilding the Test team with the core of this squad and to do so there has to be continuity.
In other words, the players must be given a reasonable run for the selectors to get the blend they are looking for.
It is not going to be an easy road getting back to the top as the dominant teams are maintaining their prowess, and even some of the former minnows are getting better. Bangladesh recently won their first Test against mighty Australia. In fact, in the past ten months they also did the same against England and Sri Lanka. Zimbabwe also posted their first away ODI series win against a major team in 16 years by beating Sri Lanka in July.
So the trend is towards more competitive cricket and we haven’t been able to do that consistently except in the T20 format in recent years. We have been left behind in Test and ODI exchanges. We have to come up with a strategic model to take us back to some level of respectability in those formats.
It is for the technocrats to formulate strategy but it is the players who have to execute it. The selectors can, or should, only use the performances of the players in regional cricket when choosing teams. If this provides a dilemma for them based on the players’ returns so be it, but it is the only yardstick they have at their disposal unless they use blind faith in selecting underperforming players, but who they think have the potential and are prepared to give them a chance to develop.
The same approach can be used to fast-track cricketers who may only have had limited first-class experience but appear precocious enough to get the nod in the hope that they would develop into something special. Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Malcolm Marshall fell into this category. The rest is history. Just saying there are different options and reasons available to assist selectors in doing their jobs effectively. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. They have to live with the outcome and the public perspective that comes with it.
The choices for Zimbabwe will be judged accordingly. It could be that they were impressed with what they saw in England and/or they believe this is a chance to build confidence against a weaker opponent even if it is in their own backyard.
I think we can agree that those who didn’t deliver in the last two series should know that there will be no hiding place if they don’t show marked improvement in Zimbabwe. There is only so much time that selectors can vouch for players who aren’t delivering the goods whether it is against strong or weak opposition.
In a very recent conversation someone opined the only reason Bajans aren’t clamouring for some changes is because there are nine of us in the squad. Would our tone be different if players from another territory had an equal number of players and the results weren’t to our liking or if some of those players were failing?
These are very real situations that can play on selectors’ minds in a time of sustained famine even if we accept that insular considerations are part and parcel of the culture and geography associated with West Indies cricket through the years.
Despite this phenomenon, I think the Browne panel did the right thing in maintaining the squad that toured England. It is for the players on the radar to repay their faith on the trip to Zimbabwe.