Thursday, 3 September 2009

Wotzup In Da Windies Maan?

To understand wotzup in the Caribbean, you have to combine a knowledge of geography, history, politics, human nature and leadership. An understanding of the pervasiveness of American culture and how it seeps into the holes left by human weakness might also aid your clarity.

The West Indies are a loose federation of 27 islands which roughly encircle the Caribbean Sea, south east of the Gulf of Mexico. Just about everyone has had a hand in discovering, exploring and exploiting them, most notably the British, which is why cricket, that symbol of Empire, has been played on the islands there. The West Indies team is selected from the member nations from within that group of twenty seven. Therefore, when players pull on that maroon cap, they are not representing their country but a disparate group of countries.

Traditionally, this was always the reason the West Indies could produce fine cricketers but not necessarily fine cricket teams. Apart from selection disputes and the jockeying for power among the nations who make up the West Indies Cricket Board, before 1960 there was rarely a sense of oneness.

This changed when Barbadian Frank Worrell became the first indigenous West Indian cricketer to captain the team in 1960, possibly because of his colour which was certainly a rallying point for some but especially because of his skills in man management. At his disposal for two watershed tours of Australia and England were some of the greatest names in West Indies cricket history including the greatest cricketer of all time and all nations, Gary Sobers, but there was more to it than that. Worrell insisted on standards of behaviour and instilled desires in his men usually associated with belief in nationhood not just self. Worrell's impact spread beyond his team and cricket was changed in both Australia and England by those tours. We could certainly do with the level of sportsmanship he epitomised.

After cricket, he managed West Indian teams for a short while and became a senator representing Trinidad & Jamaica where his belief in federation may have had far reaching affects, had he not died of leukaemia, tragically early at 42.

Unfortunately, his gains were largely lost and his world class team were shadows by the time they reached Australia in 1968-69. By the mid 70's, under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd, they were again a loose collection of talent which occasionally blasted opponents out of the water but couldn't sustain their performances. In 75-76, they were flogged 5-1 by Australia, in Greg Chappell's first series as captain, a series memorable for three things: the mastery of Chappell's batting; the emergence of a brash, swaggering kid called Viv Richards; and a sustained pace battery from that sheila Lillian Thomson. Noting how uncomfortable the Aussies had been on a fast Perth track when Andy Roberts took 7fa and blasted them out with the support of young teenager on his first tour called Holding, Lloyd went away and formulated the basic blueprint for a West Indian dominance that would choke world cricket for the following eighteen years.

The engine room of his plans were four very fast, very hostile bowlers who sustained the attack by bowling only 12 overs an hour, an aggressive batting lineup that scored runs quickly and captaincy which was relentless, thorough and completely supportive of its players. Whilst the names changed over the years, the impact remained the same with the exception of the captaincy. Man management is a gift. Worrell had it, Lloyd had it but his successors didn't. Gradually, under Richards, Richie Richardson and Lara, things became unstuck, with the turning point being Richardson's ungracious response when Mark Taylor's Australians finally unseated the West Indies in 1994-95. His spiteful claim that the Australians were not that good a side, made to the media after the presentation of the Frank Worrell Trophy to Taylor, was not the legacy that either Worrell or Lloyd left him.

By the late nineties, success on the cricket field was harder to come by and usually based on individual performances, often from Lara, but hedonism had replaced pride or team spirit and quality players were becoming harder to find thanks to the lure of American college contracts. Young lads from the Caribbean were being snapped up on lucrative contracts in sports such as basketball and baseball for figures poor boys from financially deprived cultures could only dream of but cricketers would never see. These opportunities became the dominant force and the preferred future for island kids, as more and more of the American black culture was soaking into the pours of of West Indian skins, in much the same way that it had from the Empire following the second world war. In the seventies, before their own cricket heroes completely covered the horizon, a Jamaican 12 year old could tell you all there was to know about the Chappell's or Walters or Lillee and English cricketers were their second favourite. It was much the same adulation that Indian kids have now for our players. Twenty years later, in the late nineties, it was all Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and the number 23 on shirts wasn't hero worship for Shane Warne!

Off the field, the WIBC was struggling. Poor results, declining incomes because those results and the all pervading lure of and interest in American sports - a new colonialism - and bad management by the Board had led to increasing argument among member countries which was concerned less with resolution and more with a power struggle for control. The damage this was doing to an already wounded beast may not have been apparent as the noughties started but the lack of fruit on the tree is all too apparent now and stems from a lack of judicious pruning.

In 2006, the then President of the WIBC, Ken Gordon, a moderate, commissioned an investigation into West Indies cricket, to be headed by PJ Patterson (not the fast bowler). The report, handed to the Board in 2007, called for wide ranging changes among its 65 recommendations and was hailed across the Caribbean and beyond in other cricket playing nations, as a clear, workable, and important document upon which the West Indies could anchor their survival.

The new President, Julian Hunte (no relation to the rather superior, Conrad Hunte) has chosen to lead the WIBC in a different direction and has adopted only 47 of the recommendations, completely ignoring the major reform that was the centrepiece of the report. That reform would have seen the formation of the West Indies Cricket Council, a representative body of all of the cricket playing nations of the West Indies, with a Chairman elected by that body. It would be the supreme controlling body of cricket in the Caribbean and the current WICB would become a paired down, executive body, answerable to the new WICC. Strangely, President Hunte and his group have been unwilling to relinquish power. Hunte is a former union official who now owns his own insurance company and is a career politician. He has no cricket playing background.

Member nations are showing signs they have had enough. Trinidad and Tobago boycotted the recent AGM of the Board, which amounts to a very large rebuke from a very powerful player in the politics and cricket of the Caribbean.

Add to the mix Dinanath Ramnarine, a disenchanted former Test leg spinner of average ability, who retired from cricket at 29 because he spent the last two years of his career in the Test wilderness with no explanation from officials. His belief was that he was scrapped for being an outspoken critic of the WICB. In 2002, he was elected President of the West Indies Players Association and has taken a rather nondescript and ineffective organisation to a point of real power in West Indies cricket. His rise coincided with the furore over the Marlon Samuals suspension. He has a "no prisoners" approach to negotiating over players pay and conditions , which included leading players withdrawing their services for a 2005 tour of Sri Lanka. As Tony Cozier says "The upshot has been fees and conditions from the WICB for leading players which were unthinkable when he took over." He became so dangerous to the WICB that Hunte offered him a seat on the Board but as with all such marriages of convenience, the annulling came sooner than later and was bloody. Ramnarine resigned has been a more effective voice of the players since.

Dinanath Ramnarine and the WIPA want to establish better pay, better conditions and the same superannuation provisions now available for most of the leading teams in world cricket. It's the theory of "if your pay peanuts, you get monkeys", although he wouldn't want to say that around Andrew Symonds. Not surprisingly, Julian Hunte and his reactionary WIBC, don't want change, don't want to invest in the players and now, see it as imperative that this challenge to their power base from the WIPA is fought off. In the process, they are killing a a game already badly in need of a transfusion in this part of the cricket world.

Thirty years behind England and Australia, this dispute has at its core the same sort of power struggle which fractured cricket in the late 70's, with the exception that Kerry Packer never sought to control the game, just the TV rights. Ultimately, no matter what happened, the game was never in jeopardy in England or Australia. That's not the case in the West Indies.

John Dyson was scrapped because he was seen to be a players man and was pointing to the need for change at the top - something the Patterson Report had done clearly. Media in the Caribbean have been very critical of the WICB and have placed great pressure on the Board for Patterson's recommendations to be fully implemented. In many ways, the player's dispute is a distracting sidelight to the main game.

The Board have not chosen leading players for the Champions Trophy and negotiations have fallen apart again, in the last few days, even after a high level negotiator was approved by both sides. What this means for the approaching tour of Australia is anyone's guess but one would think it likely a truce may be negotiated as a tour of Australia is the best trip a West Indian cricketer can make and certainly the most lucrative. Chris Gayle has enough pride to want to tilt at the Australians, especially when they are vulnerable and Chanderpaul likes our tracks, especially without Warne. Mind you, with people that bloody minded on either side of this dispute and human nature what it is, perhaps we had better invest some time in reading the player bios so we know who we are looking at.

Some links you might like to follow:
http://www.cricinfo.com/westindies/content/story/422960.html
http://www.cricinfo.com/westindies/content/story/420221.html
http://www.cricinfo.com/westindies/content/story/419969.html

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

great to get some international readers/comments

Friday, 31 July 2009

open letter to Cricket Australia

To whom it may concern,
as a fanatical follower of the greatest game, it has become obvious that CA is glacial in its response to dealing with players that are not carrying their weight.

I accept that the weight of a nation is a heavy burden to bear, and that past consistency deserves consideration and some leeway, but the situation over the last few years where a player (most notably a batsman) consistently fails to produce an acceptable tally has become farcical!
When the general public make jokes about it being harder to get out of the Australian side than in, questions must be asked, and answers expected!

Case to point was the dramatically obvious situation of M.Hayden last summer. He has been a great player, but "waiting" for him to find form contributed to a series loss at home to RSA.
How long, and at what cost (the Ashes?) do we have to wait for Michael Hussey to find form?
Twice bowled leaving MUST be enough! As well as his scorecard.

When the talent pool is so deep- with both up and coming players, and older cricketers that appear undesirable for whatever pathetic reason- why are you so lethargic when it comes to change?

Of course, politics will have its way when dealing with a board such as yours, but in this modern era where everyone has a very public display of opinion, your response will be appreciated and action required.

sincerely
Stoph Verismo
Down the Wicket

4 comments:

Nospmas said...

Well written Stoph. For too long I have watched quality players making tons of shield runs miss out while test batsmen are given chance after chance to find form. Hussey is not just going through a form slump; he has lost the ability to play at test level. They were two very ordinary leaves. The second was going nowhere except off stump. It's a shame because in his prime he was superb and probably waited too long for his chance however that doesn't mean the selectors owe him anything. Hughes whilst unlucky should cop it on the chin and bounce back like other great Aussie batsmen who have been in the same position. Steve Waugh and Michael Clarke are but a couple. I really think Johnson should have been dropped too. His radar is too far off to just be form. Something terrible has crept into his already overly complicated action. I humbly admit that my prediction of a Johnson revival was way off the mark. Why his teammates even bother suggesting he is bowling well in the nets is beyond me. For a bowler there are fieldsmen everywhere in the nets. The team needs to declare it what it is instead of wheeling out the tired, worn clich├ęs.
Rain may save us in this test which would be Karma but our batting collapses are becoming all too regular and we don't have the deadly attack to roll sides cheaply anymore.
Poor old Ronald, he stars in SA and then gets dropped. What state is he from again?

stoph verismo said...

thanks mate, i sent it CA via their guestbook. i'm happy for anyone to use all or part of this one to bomb their site to push the point.

too true that great batsmen bounce back, and the better ones appreciate and benefit from it

piyush said...

i am a great AUSTRALIAN CRICKET TEAM, RECENTLY THIS GREAT TEAM HAVE SUDDENLY SLUMP IN FORM, WHICH THEY HAVE TRIED FOR ATLEAST 2 YEARS, BUT NOT SUCEED.I HAVE A SUGGESTION FOR CRICKET AUSTRALIA NO: 1 IS THEY MUST PLAYED FAST BOWLER SHAUN TAIT, NO:2 IS THEY MUST HAVE FAITH IN WICKETKEEPER LUKE RONCHI, HE IS SPECIAL TALET, NO;3 IS WHERE IS SHAUN MARSH, HE IS FAR BETTER BATSMAN THAN PHILIP HUGHES, I BELIEVE SHAUN MARSH IS BEST BATSMAN IN DOMESTIC CRICKET IN AUSTRALIA, AND BEST TALENT AFTER RICKY PONTING, NO:4 IS THEY MUST PLAYED LUKE POMERSBACH, HE IS GIANT HITTER OF CRICKET BALL, HE IS USEFULL FOR 20-20 & ONEDAY MATCHES. ALSO INCLUSION OF BLIZZARD IS GOOD OPTION IN 20-20 CRICKET, HE IS ALSO GOOD ONEDAY CRICKET PLAYER.I REALLY SURPRISE BY INCLUSION OF WICKETKEEPER TIM PAINE, HE IS NOTHING PLAYER. MAIN POINT IS SELECTION COMMITEE HAS BLUNDER IN PICKING PLAYER FOR ASHES, SO AUS. LOSS ASHES, PLS.READ MY PLAN AND INCLUDE SOME PLAYER IN CHAMPIONS TROPHY AND SEE RESULT. I AM GREAT FAN SO I GAVE SUGGESTION, I AM INDIAN AND PASSIONATE FOR GOOD CRICKET TEAM, MY EMAIL ID :- piyush_sorathiya82@yahoo.com, pls contact through my email id. good buy, your sincerly
piyush(india)

stoph verismo said...

thanks for your input Piyush.
it is great to get fanatical supporters from every corner of the world, it makes both the game, and our blog site more interesting.

the champions trophy certainly promises to be an interesting test of the teams involved, particularly now that the format is more entrenched within the cricketing community.

al the best, and thanks again, i hope to hear more from you.

stoph

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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

ICC World Test Rankings

The latest player rankings have been announced following the Test Series just completed between Sri Lanka and New Zealand, They are as follows:

Batsmen
1. Kumar Sangakkara (SL)
2. Gautam Gambir (Ind)
3. Mahela Jayawardena (SL)
4. Shivnarine Chanderpaul (WI)
5. Mohammad Yousef (Pak)
6. Michael Clarke (Aust)
7. Younus Khan (Pak)
8. Graeme Smith (SA)
9. Ricky Ponting (Aust)
10. Jaques Kallis (SA)
Bowlers
1. Dale Steyn (SA)
2. Muttaih Muralidaran (SL)
3. Mitchell Johnson (Aust)
4. Makhaya Ntini (SA)
5. Harbhajan Singh (Ind)
6. Stuart Clark (Aust)
7. Paul Harris (SA)
8. Zaheer Khan (Ind)
9. Jimmy Anderson (Eng)
10. Graeme Swann (Eng)

In the history of these rankings, this must be Australia worst representation because outside the top ten, only Katich sneaks into the next ten at 19th - symptomatic of the batting collapses witnessed against England. Of the bowlers, the out of work Brett Lee is at 12th and Peter Siddle at 13th but then its a long way to Ben Hilfenhaus at position 34.

The dominance of South Africa and Sri Lanka at the top of the team rankings in underlined by the prominent position their batsmen and bowlers have in the rankings, with South Africa having three bowlers in the top ten. Mind you, its hard to imagine Paul Harris as the 7th best bowler in the world! Then again, Mitch Johnson sits at three.

With pointers to the summer, contractual negotiations not withstanding, the Australia public get another chance to see an aging West Indies batting line up in which Shivnarine Chanderpaul continues star. Their problem, like Pakistan's, will be bowling Australia out. With bowlers well down the list, Jerome Taylor (15), Fidel Edwards (24) and DJ Bravo (31) and Australia smarting, they will serve as retribution. Pakistan with Danish Kaneria (17) who bowls better than his pastry name sounds and Umar Gul (20) are a long way ahead of other Pakistani bowlers. In the batting, it will be a pleasure to see the two stars of world batting for the last few years, Mohammad Yousef and Younus Khan, taking on the Australia bowling attack at Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart.

Monday, 31 August 2009

You Think We Are Crook: How Bad Are New Zealand?

In these times of despair when the national team has lost the Ashes and all and sundry associated care more about keeping knifes from their backs than accepting responsibility - except maybe the coach, who rather cunningly put his hand up, blamed himself and endeared himself to everyone from Ponting upwards and in so doing, kept his income stream steady ... where was I?

Oh yes, in these times of despair, it is the Australian way to find someone else who is doing even worse and heap derision on them, as a means of feeling better about ourselves. All the better if they live across the ditch, all have girlfriends call Baaarbaraaaa and keep beating us at a favoured winter equivalent to cricket. No, its not the game they play in heaven, its the game they play in the off season.

Our sheep shagging brothers across the Tasman have just lost 0-2 from two against those lovely fellas from Sri Lanka who, a long time ago were most famous for tea and Kamahl but by this stage of their cricketing history has passed beyond such lofty achievements and have produced the crankiest and possibly fattest captain in Test history - although The Big Ship Armstrong might present a fair wrestle over a meat pie with Fattytunga - through to giving the cricketing world the most unusual, controversial and successful bowler of all time. Times have changed. In the early sixties, they legislated to get rid of bowlers called Charles but today, with political sensitivities the way they are and with all the money and power residing on the sub continent, we legislate to include them!

Actually, to say New Zealand lost is a gross exaggeration. In truth, they were flogged. Sri Lanka scored 400 plus in both their first innings and New Zealand only managed one total in four innings beyond 300 and then, only when their skipper Dan Vettori scored a heroic 140 batting up the order at 8. In fact, so bad are New Zealand, that Vettori is now considered an all rounder, although not apparently by himself, because he usually bats at 9. The century was no fluke, as Dan the Man scored 272 at 68.0 for the series and was also their top wicket taker with 10 wickets at 32.5.

Do I not rate the Kiwi skipper? Far from it. He's a fine cricketer but his status among NZ's best is what worries me. Admittedly the Sri Lankan series victory lifts them No 2 Test playing nation and yes, they have the remarkable Murali sending them down, all mystery and china plate eye balls and yes, the Sri Lankan batting line up on slower wickets is thick with stroke makers ... it's just that, how does a bowler of reasonable talent who bats with application but little else, became such a dominant force in the NZ side.

Vettori is at best a handy late order bat who plays straight. How can he bat four times in a losing side, mostly at 9, record those numbers without the benefit of not outs? The next best Kiwi batsmen averaged 39 (Taylor) and 31 (Ryder)? Likewise, Chris Martin 5 @ 43, Iain O'Brien 6 @ 53 and Jateel Patel 7 at 55 were all a long way behind their skipper in the bowling numbers.

If I were the Kiwi sellectors, apart from worrying how that ram is looking at my girlfriend, I'd be making sure security is taking good care of one Daniel Vettori. He should be travelling on a separate plane - preferrably QANTAS - because if New Zealand cricket ever has a Man United moment, they could afford to lose the other ten. Don't have Vettori with the rest of the mob (although they are unlikely to use that particular collective noun for fear of untimely arousal).

At least this quandary about how much worse the rest of the Kiwi cricket team are than their skipper and how much better our fallen Aussie side is than them, gives me something else to ponder about the land of the Long White Cloud. For the time being, at least, I can set aside other matters ... such as, how can a two hour flight create such differences between us, here in Dorothy's Land Of Oz and a group of people who can't conquer normal things like vowels and animal husbandry without making themselves sound queer?

(Click the title if you want to link to Cricketragics and other cricket stuff)

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Cricket brings us together

Guys before cricket fades into the obscurity that is the 50 over game I want to take this opportunity to say how much I have enjoyed the Ashes series on this blog. As the series has waxed and waned I have read and written with great enthusiasm. Although we do not agree on some things it is nice to be listened to and respected.
I doubt I will comment too much on the upcoming money grabbing 7 matches. My best friend just died and I need to take stock of things for a while. I will be back with gusto at some stage but for now it is just too difficult to put my mind around.
I look forward to more at Down The Wicket.