Leadership and strategy are among key areas, which need to be seriously addressed in West Indies cricket.
And chairman of the West Indies selection panel, Courtney Browne, made no bones about his feelings on such issues during a wide-ranging interview on Mid Wicket on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday night.
Among topics discussed were the West Indies teams named on Monday for the upcoming series of Twenty20 and One-Day International matches against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and the just concluded four-match Test series against India in the Caribbean, which West Indies lost 2-0.
Browne responded to questions from yours truly as the moderator and guest Michael King, a former Harrison College, Barbados Youth and Empire cricketer, who is also a former Ambassador of Barbados to the European Union, the UN at Geneva and the United States of America; a former representative of the OAS to The Bahamas and a retired Permanent Secretary of the Government of Barbados.
Below is an edited version of the discussion:
HOLDER: In reviewing the Test series against India, how would you sum up the showing by West Indies?
BROWNE: We felt that there were some positives, especially in the bowling department in terms of (Miguel) Cummins getting a five-wicket haul, young Alzarri Joseph making his debut and looking very impressive and at times where Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder and these guys looked the part.
When you look at our batting, the pluses were (Roston) Chase and (Shane) Dowrich as recent additions so to speak. They looked like they are very good investments.
I think the disappointing thing for us really was the senior guys in the team not contributing enough with the bat especially to enable us to have a better showing.
When you look back at the (third) Test match in St. Lucia, we should not have lost. A bit of inexperience but at the end of it all, you needed to bat well. Our senior guys didn’t turn up really throughout the series and I think that is why we would have lost 2-0.
KING: Yes, Courtney, I totally agree with your assessment but I would also like to add that your bowling needs to have more teeth, more meat in their approach to bowling. Too often they were just bowling and hoping for something to happen and they need to be a little more aggressive.
Also from time to time the captaincy was relegated to the realm of total defensive captaincy. I believe that there are certain basic things that need to be done. When a new batsman comes in you crowd him and give the bowler a chance of getting him out and not just to prevent him from scoring runs. I think we need to look at that.
BROWNE: And rightfully so. I think it is all about how we strategize and what we teach our young captains in the modern era. When you look back at days of old, youngsters were given the opportunity to lead early. It was about putting together a cricket match in its entirety.
By the time a guy really started to play cricket, he was a leader and knew about strategy. Nowadays, when you look at the modern cricketer, they come up in that coaching environment where they turn up to cricket, the stumps are up, the pitch is rolled, the games masters tell you exactly, A, B, C, what to do.
The thing about it is that as you get higher in cricket and are exposed then to a higher quality, you see a lot of strategies are lacking.
I think that is an area that we spoke about a lot. You can look and you can say ‘yes’ the captain but it is not only the captain. When you look at the other senior players around and you look at the team in its totality, you want to know that there are people out there who can help and spot these little opportunities and go to the captain and say ‘look we need to put this in and put that in’. I think a lot of that is lacking in our cricket.
I am not just going to put it down to one person, one player. We have to start teaching our players about strategy, how to get you team into strong positions and how to get your team out of weak positions. That is where we are lacking and it is very important that coaching staff look at those areas that we know that we can actually improve on, sooner rather than later.
We have to start teaching our players about strategy. I think that’s where we are lacking.
HOLDER: Do you believe there is too much pressure on the current Test and ODI captain Jason Holder?
BROWNE: We have to look at a holistic approach to a cricket match. As I said before, it is not identifying one person. It is about team strategy because you have to tell yourself if a guy goes out to bat and Michael alluded to it earlier and he is missing some key moments in the game, it means that when he goes out after lunch, after tea, he should not be missing those key moments.
If you are a team, then you have a group of people around you. You have senior players; you have coaching staff that should identify these things. So, as I said, I am not going to put it down to any one person. There has to be a think tank within, and that is how you have to look to improve your performances.
When you look at the PCL, it has a better structure now and as time goes on, systems will be put in place to not only capture talent but also to develop leaders because we are lacking in leadership.
I am not seeing a lot of leaders especially in relation to strategy. That has to be a high priority area for us if we want to move forward. We cannot miss key moments. We have been talking about that a lot.
HOLDER: You have been a West Indies selector for six years. How has Courtney Browne found his relatively new role as chairman of selectors?
BROWNE: Well, Keith, I must say it has been very interesting over the last number of weeks but I am actually enjoying it. I think I am accustomed to criticism.
I believe that there are always some positives in criticism so I try to look for the positives out of the criticism.
There are some people who want to say something to you and the only way they can tell you is in an aggressive way or be highly critical.
But I always believe that within there, if you look hard enough you can find some positives. That is how I am looking at it because at the end of the day, each and every person in the Caribbean would love to see West Indies cricket move forward. It is part of what we do. Anytime you are in a position where you have to make decisions, you know that criticism is going to come.
But one of the things that we all try to do is make sure we put our plans in place. We have our strategic plan. We know the direction we want to go and we head in that direction.
I am waiting for the time when it is a little less contentious. But will it ever be? It comes with territory. That is all I can say.
I am happy that there is a medium like your show where I can discuss cricket and people will hear my views and I can hear theirs. And I welcome them. I am not going to be highly offended when people have things to say because that is their democratic right.
I am always willing because I believe the public needs to know about selection and why we choose certain players. It is not a case where you just pick a team and send it out there and no one can ask you a question. I think that you have to be able to explain to people why you select Player A or Player B. They might not agree with you but at least you must be able to give a credible explanation.
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 three-and-a-half 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: Keithfholder@gmail.com