The recently concluded Indian tour of the West Indies wasn’t an intense exhibition of Test cricket. And yet, ahead of a long 2016-17 season it threw up various pointers. Here, Sir Vivian Richards speaks to cricbuzz.com about the series, the health of cricket in the Caribbean, and Test cricket in general.
What is the way forward though for West Indies’ cricket? Do you think it’s about time that the selectors sat down with senior players and had an honest chat?
Sir Viv: It is. To be fair, when you are not doing well in results you have to listen, you have to open your ears to solutions and advice. I am not quite sure what is happening at present. You hear all sort of talk about what is happening in West Indies cricket. I can only hope that people can come to their common sense, because the game is much bigger than administration and much bigger than players. That’s how it should be treated.
Is the financial might of T20 cricket the root cause of this discord?
Sir Viv: There are a lot of individuals who want to take short cuts and play just for T20 leagues across the world. By short cuts, I mean, the attraction of Big Bash and IPL leagues is too strong and they are truly ignoring the spirit of the game. They must remember that at the very beginning, Test cricket was all we had, and then the shorter formats came much later. So we need to exercise some sort of control over this player movement.
Personally, I do not think there is much substance in T20 cricket. All of the great players of this game – the Gavaskars, the Tendulkars, the Bradmans – they have come from Test cricket. And if we put too much emphasis on other formats, we will lose all those great performances over the years. Tests are the caviar of cricket, and the administrators need to lay a strong foundation here.
Can they say, we are going to put aside a period for Test cricket, and all the teams in the world have to play this format at this time? If this happens, then maybe you can justify the focus on other formats as well. But otherwise, if players keep skipping one format to play in another financially lucrative format, then that will only create a mass exodus of players who just want to play T20 cricket. It will ultimately kill off Test cricket then.
You spoke about a window for Test cricket; do you think the two-tier league proposal could have provided some context to this format?
Sir Viv: I do not think we have enough teams in world cricket playing at a consistently high level for the two-tier structure to come into effect. If it happens, then there will be only a few countries playing each other at the top. People must remember that many of these strong teams at present were weak once upon a time, India included. The great West Indies team used to beat them within three days at times.
But we didn’t stop playing them. So the contribution of West Indies made to world cricket cannot be denied. It needs to be remembered now when we are on our knees and the tables have turned. We need all the help to get us back where we once were, and two-tier Test proposal is not necessarily the way to do it.
And talking about context for the longer format, situation for the Test no.1 ranking is very fluid at the moment. It changed hands from Australia to India to Pakistan in one week. How good is this for Test cricket?
Sir Viv: It is certainly beneficial for Test cricket, and it is nice to have competition because it makes the sport healthy. When you have such intense competition, you get an idea where you are as a team, and it helps you improve even further. I thought Pakistan played well in England, and they have done well in the UAE against the best teams. Australia have had a hiccup in Sri Lanka, and I think England are in the mix too.
Of course, it is a pity that India didn’t get a full game in Port of Spain and couldn’t enhance their ranking. But look at the positive side – they can do it on home soil in their next Test series (against New Zealand). It would be a perfect opportunity for them in my opinion, and doing it in front of their fans, it will help Test cricket’s representation among the spectators. It will help bring more people in through the gates, which is what you want in the end.
West Indies are scheduled to play the second-ever day-night Test against Pakistan in October. Even, India are experimenting with the pink ball in domestic cricket. Do you think that is the future for Test cricket?
Sir Viv: I think weather conditions are an important factor with the pink ball. In England, for example, you can get four seasons in one day. So it will be interesting to see how they will counter it. But some other countries have the perfect weather for it, for example in India or the Caribbean or in the UAE. However, the problem is how long the pink ball lasts there. Earlier we used to have the same problem when we transformed from the red to white ball, but they might be close to finding a solution to this problem.
Overall, I think there is nothing wrong with the idea of pink ball cricket. We have to change the face of Test cricket for us to bring more spectators to the ground. We need the best ways to enhance the game, and we need some experimentation for it. If pink ball is the way to do it, there is nothing wrong with it.
India won the four-match series by an easy 2-0 margin. How would you look back at this series?
Sir Viv: In the very first match itself, India outplayed the West Indies and did not let go off that hold. The Antigua Test set the tone and winning 2-0 obviously proved to be an easy task. Judging from what I have seen through the series, India look like a very well rounded side, and a far superior team at this level against the West Indies. I would go on to say that they are a complete side at present. I am so impressed with their seam attack; Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. And perhaps they should have won 3-0, maybe even 4-0, but the weather did play its part. I guess that is consigned to history now.
West Indies did show improvement in certain areas as the series went on. Is there any hope of a revival?
Sir Viv: Even in a losing cause, you can still have positives in terms of individuals who have done well for you. We have seen signs from Jermaine Blackwood, and there is lots of room for him to improve and get better. Kraigg Brathwaite at the top of the order is solid enough and has good intentions. We have seen Miguel Cummins, who certainly has some potential. And we have seen Roston Chase.
So in every losing cause there is a positive and I hope that the West Indies’ administration will give them more chances and back them, persist with them for a little while. You will not get results with a young team quickly but you have to be patient and give these guys enough opportunities to come through. The only worrying sign is that we have seen individual performances but we haven’t seen the collective performance, which I think is needed at this level.
Was it disappointing that West Indies could not draw in St. Lucia, especially after how Chase fought in Jamaica to save the second Test?
Sir Viv: Yes it was a disappointment because West Indies were outplayed for the first two Tests. Obviously the rain did step in to help draw the match, but they still had the last day to bat and were 300 runs behind. So to erase that, and give India some fight, that was a very positive sign. I believe that if you have done it before you can always repeat it again, because you have a root or road map to follow that pattern and certainly they should have done it again in St. Lucia. This is what Test cricket and sport is all about. If you are in a comfortable environment you have some success and then you fight your way out, and you can repeat it with some confidence then. We didn’t see that in St. Lucia but in the future I am hoping they can learn quickly because at this level you need to do that.