As much as one appreciates the effort of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) in issuing press releases pertaining to an international series and other tours, there are some aspects which leave a lotto be desired.
To the average fan, there is plenty anxiety in knowing the 13-man squad for the opening match of a Test series in
a timely manner. It can be argued that the same applies to a One-Day or Twenty20 International rubber, especially when playing at home but a Test series is special.
For whatever reason, however, it would appear that the WICB probably reckoned timing didn’t matter after a squad of 20 was announced on March 24 to prepare for the three-Test series against England, which begins on Monday at the Vivian Richards Ground in Antigua.
So while we have been fed with interviews from opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite, experienced wicket-keeper/batsman Denesh Ramdin and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo during the camp in Antigua, which started on Monday, April 6, up until late this afternoon there was not a single word on the team.
Were we to assume that since all of the players are in Antigua, it was only a matter of sorting out the airline tickets for those who were not selected to return to their home territories? Or were the selectors waiting for results of fitness tests on a couple players?
In addition, it was always a policy of the WICB to appoint and announce a captain on a series-by-series basis. But that has apparently changed and at this stage, one can only assume that Ramdin is still the Test captain.
Such glaring omissions again point to the way the WICB has been operating despite all of the pretty talk from Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron and Emmanuel Nanthan after they were re-elected as president and vice-president just over a month ago.
Apart from a couple pictures of new head coach Philip Simmons looking busy in the nets, it appears that he will not be speaking publicly until the eve of the first Test. And it is believed that the rest of the management team is still the same.
Unless there is a hidden agenda, it is baffling why the WICB has not officially named the management team since Ottis Gibson was fired as head coach by way of a telephone call from Cameron last August.
In fact, since a belated release on Gibson’s dismissal on August 19 in which it was stated that the team management unit “remains unchanged otherwise”, none was subsequently named by the WICB.
That unit comprised of Sir Richie Richardson (team manager), Stuart Williams (assistant coach), Andre Coley (assistant coach), Sir Curtly Ambrose (bowling consultant), CJ Clarke (physiotherapist), Hector Martinez-Charles (strength & conditioning coach), Richard Berridge (video & statistical analyst), Philip Spooner (media manager) and Virgil Browne (masseur).
What we can guarantee is that the team for the first Test will be selected from Sulieman Benn, Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sheldon Cottrell, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Leon Johnson, Veerasammy Permaul, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Devon Smith and Jerome Taylor.
Co-incidentally, a long-standing West Indian fan who lives in the United States, sent me a text which stated: “With three days to go before the first Test match, has the West Indies 20-man squad been reduced as yet? I am really puzzled by the way we operate in the Caribbean.”
Knowing his passion and love for West Indies cricket and the many visits he has made to the Caribbean over the last three decades to watch Test matches, especially in Barbados, I sympathise with him.
The WICB has also fallen down badly with detailed information on the youth squad.
Again on March 24, the WICB announced a 16-member Under-19 squad for a two-week training camp in Barbados from March 29 to April 11.
We were told that the camp forms part of the preparations for the 2016 ICC Youth World Cup in Bangladesh, while noting that it was not the final squad “since there is still a chance for players to impress during the regional Under-19 Tournament scheduled to take place from July 20 to August 16 in Jamaica”.
But while we were given the primary roles of the players, there were no references to their territories. Come on. Identity by way of knowing which island or country a player represents was always part and parcel of West Indies cricket. Is it now another puzzle we are creating or better yet, a quiz?
Cameron and Nanthan need to tell those who are in charge of media and public relations that these are areas which must be beefed up. And while it is incumbent on reporters to follow-up by attending camps and conducting interviews, the WICB is still responsible for the basics.
Far too often we have heard the hierarchy of the WICB taking about embracing stakeholders etc. Yet, simple things are left unattended.
In relation to the England tour and bearing in mind the limited number of warm-up matches during international trips in recent years, much more thought has to be put in when determining the opposition.
Scheduling a St. Kitts Invitational team for two two-day matches against England at Warner Park this week always gave one a feeling of a likely farce. Hence, it was no surprise that a few England players turned out for the local team in the second match and the exercise was only of benefit to Alastair Cook’s side.
On the heels of the WICB Professional Cricket League season, it would have been wiser to give some of the outstanding players a match of first-class status.
After the back-to-back Tests against England in Antigua, Grenada and Barbados, Australia will visit for another brief series of two Tests in June in Dominica and Jamaica, to be preceded by a three-day match in Antigua, starting May 27. Since there has been no naming of the opponents, it would be nice to pick a WICB XI of note.
And hopefully, the 13-man squad for the opening Test will be known in a timely manner.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholdergmail.com.