Former Australian batsman Justin Langer has joined the lengthy list of those who have poured scorn on regional officials responsible for pitch preparation in the Caribbean.
Speaking after the touring Australians won the Tri-Nations One-Day International series by defeating the West Indies on Sunday, the Aussies’ stand-in coach said West Indies cricket would go a long way to reaching its potential if Caribbean pitches regained the pace and bounce of yesteryear.
Langer’s views have been echoed by several persons over the years, but curators under the employ of the West Indies Cricket Board and within the individual territorial boards, continue to produce slow, flat tracts conducive to spin bowing. Annually the leading wicket-takers have tended to be spin bowlers with none of them making any significant impact in the international Test arena.
Langer said he had been in awe of the talent he had seen among local net bowlers over the past month. However, he added the pitches offered up during the series tended to be on the slower side, as has been the case in the region for many years. Langer said he found it baffling that pitches were prepared that would help spinners such as Sunil Narine, who he said was “still going to be a star” on any surface due to his natural talent, instead of fast bowlers who could rattle opposing batsmen.
“There is so much fast-bowling talent here,” Langer said. “You’ve got big, tall, beautiful athletes, and they run in and bowl fast and they keep bowling all day, but I don’t understand why they play on such dead, low, lifeless wickets. It doesn’t make any sense to us.
“If you could harness the natural ability you’ve got in the West Indies with those tall fast bowlers … it would get the batsmen more used to facing fast bowling, more used to facing short-pitched bowling. And with the natural talent they’ve got it won’t take long. But you’ve got to face it. You’ve got to be exposed to it.
“There’s so much natural talent. We’ve seen it in the net bowlers. I’m in awe of how many young fast bowlers you’ve got in the West Indies. We’ve seen it in Guyana, we’ve seen it in St Kitts, we’ve seen it in Barbados, and yet you play on wickets that bounce about this high. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
The 19-year-old Leeward Islands bowler Alzarri Joseph was one such talent who impressed Langer with his work in the nets against the Australians during the St Kitts leg of the tour. Joseph was part of the West Indies side that won the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year, and Langer said he was seriously impressed by what he saw at training.
“He reminded me of Andre Russell,” Langer said. “He bowled fast, beautiful yorkers – and what an athlete. I reckon I’ve seen four or five who have really, really raw talent, and they just kept bowling. That’s what I kept loving. They just kept running in and bowling all day.
“In a lot of parts of the world now it’s so structured with workloads and bowling loads. These kids just kept running in and bowling fast, and it was bloody hot … I do know they gave our batsmen a workout, and there was talent. The talent is very obvious.”
Langer, in charge of the Australian squad while Darren Lehmann had a break at home, emerged from the tour with a series win to his name, but he said West Indies should have a bright future judging by their performances this year.
“West Indies cricket is so exciting,” he said. “They won the T20 World Cup, they’re so dangerous. They’re like a boxer who’s got the big right hook and could knock you out at any time. They’ve got so much talent.
“I really respect and admire the guys who are playing, Jason Holder and Darren Bravo, Carlos Brathwaite to name a few – Narine, Pollard is always dangerous. [Johnson] Charles is a very dangerous player. Until we got him out I was nervous for the game, because he’s a serious player. He whacks it – not a lot of foot movement but he’s a dangerous player. If he could harness his ability and go out and score more hundreds … Darren Bravo got a brilliant hundred the other day.
“There’s a lot of talent and I think they’re playing really well. They made the final, they beat South Africa very well, who are on paper an unbelievable cricket team. West Indies have a lot to look forward to.”
In 2011 The West Indies Cricket Board engaged International Cricket Council pitch consultant Andy Atkinson to conduct a workshop for Caribbean curators. Each territorial board was asked to nominate curators who had responsibilities for the preparation of the Test wickets in their respective territories, to take part in the workshop. Nothing was seemingly learnt.