The days of recycling senior failures could be at an end in West Indies cricket.
That’s because new West Indies selection committee convener Clive Lloyd has stated that youth development will be his primary focus in helping to revive West Indies cricket. Lloyd said that in order to ensure West Indies’ ascension in the International Cricket Council Test rankings, emphasis had to be placed on honing the potential of youngsters at the regional under-19 level, something he said has been undervalued in the past.
“We have always had a lot of talent at the under-19 level but we lose a lot of these young cricketers. We need to harness this talent and get them up to standard that is needed,” he said. “We cannot be in the doldrums as we’ve been, for a long time. This [new] change is a structural change and let’s hope the youngsters realise that we are moving into a new era and they can be part of this thinking.
“We have got to think a lot more about our cricket and I hope that can be injected in our young players that are coming through because these Under-19 guys, they will be the future of West Indies cricket and if they can inculcate the right sort of things, we would have a very good future.”
Since 1995 the West Indies Test team have slipped spectacularly from their once lofty position in world cricket and currently sit at number eight in the ICC Test ranking, ahead of only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Lloyd pointed to the High Performance Centre in Barbados as ideal for inculcating the skills youth cricketers needed to progress. According to Lloyd, the facility would be crucial in instilling a mindset adapted to the rigours of Test cricket in the younger players.
Lloyd also stressed that West Indies needed to be more formidable and mentally stronger to regain respectability in Tests. West Indies have not won a series against a top-eight side since August 2012. The side suffered 2-0 series defeats on their tours to India and New Zealand and recently lost a three-Test series at home to New Zealand.
“I know we won a T20 championship, but we need to be more consistent with our play. We need to move up the ladder, specially where the Test matches are concerned,” he said. “We have some good bowlers around the place but our batting has not been up to par. But there are some good cricketers here and it’s just a matter of getting people who want to bat for long periods. As I said before, I want to see players bat ugly. Not every day is going to be one where you can drive it around, you’ve got to be able to battle your way out of situations.
The frailty of the West Indies’ batting stocks is exemplified by the fact that only three players of its current line-up average over forty in Tests: Chris Gayle (42), Darren Bravo (43.92) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (51.88). Chanderpaul, the stand-out in the side, turns 40 on Saturday.
“We shouldn’t be bowled out in two sessions in a Test match. We should not be beaten in two-and-a-half days in a Test match. We have to think properly and if you notice, any time there is a close game we get beaten. So our thinking has got to be much better.”
Since the 2003/2004 tour of South Africa the West Indies have played 99 Tests, lost 53 and won a meagre 14. Of those 14 victories eight have been against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
Lloyd, who has a two-year contract as convener of the selection panel, welcomed the appointment of Courtney Walsh and Eldine Baptiste as selectors. He revealed that other former players could join the set-up in different roles and hoped the changes would work as a catalyst for improvement. He expressed optimism with the plans suggested by WICB’s director of cricket, Richard Pybus, and said the ideas could help West Indies move upwards.
“They are all experienced guys – some have captained, some have managed,” he said. “Some other guys will also come into play, there are a lot of other guys who will be working in different areas of our cricket. So we are bringing in experienced people, guys who are accustomed to winning, guys who are professional and that’s what we need – a professional body not only on the field but off the field and I hope that will be the catalyst that will get us moving again.”
The West Indies Cricket Board has been involving a number of former legends in its programmes with former West Indies opener Desmond Haynes being taken on board as batting consultant. Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Curtley Ambrose and Sir Garry Sobers have also made inputs with the West Indies High Performance Centre.