You can always bet on the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to “jump you” and increasingly so under the leadership of Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron.
Last weekend was a perfect example. From the poorly attended inaugural Town Hall meeting at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies which should be another wake-up call for Cameron and his cohorts, to the impromptu Press conference at the Accra Beach Hotel here on Sunday afternoon, which in a nutshell was an exercise in clearing the air on a misleading report in a Guyanese newspaper the same day about the Test future of veteran batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the WICB took the spotlight.
In the case of Chanderpaul’s omission from the Test squad for the two-Test series against Australia starting next week, which effectively ended his career despite his expected stubborn style of not giving in, Michael Holding, the outstanding former West Indies fast bowler who works as an international television commentator, hit the nail on the head when he said that Chanderpaul was no longer good enough to be picked for West Indies.
But even before getting to the Chanderpaul issue, I am still wondering if the heavily cash-strapped WICB is really serious about having a series of public town-hall meetings around the Caribbean over a period of three months.
Please Mr Cameron, tell us what’s the cost and if based on what transpired at Cave Hill last Friday night when there were just about 50 people in attendance, whether you seriously intend to throw away money which could be put to far better uses such as developing youth cricket in the region.
You should have been advised by some of your close local friends that Barbadians have long lost faith in your leadership style. Furthermore, Friday nights are best spent in Oistins Town eating some of the tastiest fish from Ronald Payne at Roslyn’s Fish Fry, crunching gizzards, necks and livers from Granny’s or liming and dining up north in Moon Town.
Never mind that the likes of veteran Barbados Cricket Association Board member Winston Stafford, Elsworth Young, Anthony Rocheford, Annette Beckett and a few other die-hards made excellent contributions at the Town Hall meeting and would have wished for much more time to express themselves, but to have such discussions before a sparse audience, was downright disappointing. The timing was wrong.
Perhaps, it would have been far more gripping if you had told the audience that your chairman of selectors, Clive Lloyd, sitting almost directly in front of you, had called time on Chanderpaul’s Test career after a second straight disappointing series, and three months before his 41st birthday.
The fact that it had been announced a few weeks ago following the conclusion of the three-Test series against England that there would be a camp in Barbados ahead of the two-Test series against Australia, and the WICB could not name the squad even as the players assembled for a retreat here last weekend, again baffled.
And then for your senior communications officer Adriel “Woody” Richard to be frantically calling media houses and a couple freelance journalists to inform them of the hurriedly arranged press conference, set for 3 p.m. while they were having lunch or returning from Church just a couple hours before the start of the fourth round of matches in the Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship, again pointed to being reactive more than proactive.
A release from the WICB after the Press conference listed a 12-man squad for a training camp at the Franklyn Stephenson Academy in Bennetts, St Thomas. It stated that the players “not to be involved in the training camp have been officially notified. This includes veteran left-hander Shivnarine Chanderpaul”.
“Convenor of selectors Clive Lloyd has communicated this to Chanderpaul both verbally and in writing, explaining the selection panel’s omission,” the release added.
“This was a tough decision for the selection panel to make,” Lloyd said. “We recognise the significant contribution Chanderpaul has made to the West Indies teams over the last two decades, but we want to take this opportunity to introduce a number of young, promising players into the squad.”
It was further noted that the squad for the opening Test in Dominica, starting next Wednesday, would be finalised today following the completion of the three-day match between a WICB President’s XI and Australia in Antigua.
Interestingly, a report in the Kaieteur News on Sunday by veteran Guyanese journalist Sean Devers, that “at least two directors of the WICB and president Dave Cameron managed to override the surprising decision by chairman Clive Lloyd to sack Chanderpaul”, forced the WICB into the rushed press conference, clearly to set the record straight.
A couple days ago, Holding was straightforward in his assessment of Chanderpaul, who has managed just 183 runs in his last 11 Test innings at 16.64.
“I don’t believe that cricketers should get a series for getting a series sake,” Holding told ESPN. “I don’t think Shivnarine Chanderpaul has proven in recent times that he is still a good enough player to be playing for West Indies. He has done yeoman service for over two decades. West Indies should be happy to have had him playing for them that long. All good things have to come to an end.
“I saw him play against South Africa recently and he certainly did not look like the Shivnarine Chanderpaul that I was accustomed to seeing. He was a little bit slow with his reactions to the fast bowlers and we know what Australia are going to be bringing,” Holding said.
Brilliant assessment, Mike!
Chanderpaul has had a wonderful Test career with 11867 runs including 30 centuries, at an average of 51.37 in 164 Tests. He is, or rather was, 87 runs short of overtaking the great Brian Lara as the West Indies leading run-scorer, Lara having played 131 Tests.
But one only has to look at Chanderpaul’s recent Test statistics and lack of agility in the field to know that he is over the hill. Co-incidentally, they compare very favourably with the way he batted 11 years ago when he lost his place in the Test side against England in the Caribbean.
In 2004, Chanderpaul was dropped from Lara’s side for what the selectors termed “tiredness and lethargy” during the third Test in Barbados.
England had romped to an eight-wicket win in three days to take a 3-0 lead in the four-match series, and the selection panel, then under the chairmanship of Sir Vivian Richards, targetted Chanderpaul for the axe.
Nicknamed “Tiger”, Chanderpaul was even reluctant to be evaluated by a member of the WICB’s medical panel in Barbados.
To some observers, the news was shocking, if only against the background of Chanderpaul having scored an even half-century in the first innings. He was out first ball in the second innings –– the second of Matthew Hoggard’s hat-trick –– and showed an aggregate of just 101 runs for an average of 16.83.
“The West Indies selection panel felt that Shivnarine Chanderpaul looked tired and lethargic. On further investigation, Chanderpaul confirmed that he felt tired and fatigued,” the WICB said in an April 5 release two days after the match.
“Out of concern for Chanderpaul, the selection panel thought it would be wise for him to be evaluated by the arm of the WICB medical panel located in Barbados, represented by Dr Llewellyn Harper.
“Chanderpaul showed some reluctance to comply with this direction and has been allowed to return home for further evaluation,” the release said.
But after Lara’s majestic, unbeaten 400 which reclaimed him the world record in the drawn final Test in Antigua, Chanderpaul was back in the side for the five-match One-Day International series against the Englishmen.
Ever since then, there had been little or no talk of tiredness as Chanderpaul allowed his bat to do the talking. He scored the most runs (437) and also boasted of the best average (72.83) as West Indies lost all four Tests during the summer in England that season.
After making his Test debut against England at Bourda in 1994, Chanderpaul had been a reliable member of the West Indies team. Yet, he battled with either injury or illness, in addition to an air of selfishness and an inability to express himself fully with words.
When another Guyanese, Ramnaresh Sarwan, was appointed vice-captain to Lara in March 2003, critics blasted the Guyana Cricket Board for naming Chanderpaul as captain of the national team instead of Sarwan.
Then as fate would have it, Sarwan lost the vice-captaincy for the VB series in Australia at the height of an impasse between the WICB and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) pertaining to contracts.
The move was seen as a lead towards “looking down the road” since Sarwan, like Lara and five other players, held a personal contract with Cable & Wireless, the former long-standing sponsors before fellow telecommunications company Digicel took over.
Lara’s decision not to play in the opening Test against South Africa in Georgetown in 2005 in support of his Cable & Wireless contracted team-mates after the WICB belatedly cleared him, opened the door for Chanderpaul to lead the team against the South Africans.
Chanderpaul responded with an unbeaten double-century –– his first in Tests – as West Indies, minus Lara, Sarwan, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, all of whom were drafted into the side for the second Test in Port-of-Spain –– impressed despite being held to a draw.
On April 4, the WICB announced that Chanderpaul had been appointed captain for the remainder of the series, and also that against Pakistan.
Chanderpaul expressed some regret that a few young players were forced to make room for the more experienced cricketers, but welcomed back the four players were involved in the sponsorship impasse
“Brian already called me and told me congrats, and I’m just happy . . . with the other guys back I think we have a much stronger team now,” Chanderpaul said on arrival in Trinidad.
The same Brian Lara is now lashing out at the selectors and the WICB for seeking to deny Chanderpaul the chance of a final Test series against the Australians. He has demanded that his former teammate be reinstated for a farewell along the lines of that given to Sachin Tendulkar by the BCCI.
Well, Brian, you know very well that won’t happen. It would be better to tell Chanderpaul that his stubbornness won’t work this time, even if he sticks to his stated position of playing for Guyana in the first-class Championship in an effort to regain a Test place.
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: [email protected].