Windwards Cricket: Weakest Link
Sun, Dec 28, '03
Windwards Islands Cricket is stuck in the doldrums not because of the conspiring influences of greater powers but because of rampant disorganisation and surprisingly, petty politics at the island level.
At the completion of what turned out to be a substandard competition in Dominica, where observers were able to note that a decent local club team could compete with the island teams, so disorganised and indisciplined their approach to games, the Windwards squad was announced. Let us examine the current Windwards situation...
The first is that the selectors committeee of Kenny Hobson, Julian Jack and Irving Shillingford lacked courage. The courage was needed to get rid of Rawl Lewis. Lewis has served as a spinner, batsman, and all-rounder and now functions in a capacity as solely being a captain.
Why is this a problem? Well, for one Rawl Lewis brings nothing to the table for the future of Windwards cricket. Not only is he not capable at this point in time as a player, he has never nurtured anyone into the higher level of the game and is incapable of doing so. Worse still, he blocks the development even of fellow Grenadian players. Mike Brearley he is not.
Let us enlighten. Dennis George, who was named as a RESERVE player is an exceptional talent from Grenada. Experienced observers named George as early as the first game as an outstanding talent. A left arm orthodox spinner who has both the stock drifter and a ball that turns the other way, took the second most wickets in the history of the Windward Islands tournament. He is also an academy selectee. Yet he cannot make the Windwards team.
Why is this? When you have the Vincentians lobbying hard for Orlanzo Jackson based on last year's tournament and his continued ambition to make the West Indies team and you have selectors pushing the view that Rawl Lewis can continue to serve as a frontline spinner, you have the current tournament MVP, Shane Shillingford, Jackson and Lewis, seemingly filling the quota.
Shillingford even may find himself as the MVP of the tournament not being selected. All to placate the seeming all-round talent of Rawl Lewis. And Dennis George is seemingly the victim of all of this.
The Dominica Cricket Association (DCA) nominated Devon Smith for captain of the Windwards team. This was rejected by the other boards who continued with a status quo that promises nothing but continued mediocrity. Ironic at a time when the West Indies are being put to the sword by a team who decided to divorce themselves of a generation tainted by being led by Hansie Cronje and who appointed a 22-year-old to see them to a new era.
The senior selectors who so worry about Devon Smith's supposed future should make sure he can get a proper cricket kit rather than claiming they are looking out for his interest by not appointing him captain.
The omission of Wayne Phillip highlights the selectorial incompetence. The reality is that Wayne Phillip should never have played this tournament. Phillip was late for practise matches for Dominica leading up to the tourney. The plot thickens when it emerges that the coaching sessions were run by Irving Shillingford. There was then debate as to whether Wayne Phillip should be barred from the Dominica team. He survived by the skin of his teeth.
From here, we get into muddy waters. If you decide a player is eligible for a tourney despite indiscipline, you cannot then punish that player in retrospect when he emerges as the best keeper of the tournament, which he is by a long long way. The fact that Irving Shillingford is one of the Windward selectors does not help Phillips situation despite the popular view that island selectors look after their own.
We now have a ridiculous situation where Wayne Phillip has played representative cricket for the West Indies team on tour in England and has never kept wicket for the Windwards. Another first in the amazing nest of incompetence of West Indies regional cricket.
The other situation is that of the omission of both Mervyn Matthew and Liam Sebastien. Though as West Indies Under-19 selectees they are due to leave for Bangladesh, they are eligible for selection for the first two matches. The captain of the Windwards team argued that he wanted to retain a certain chemistry and therefore would prefer to not have players who would be leaving.
This is wonderful advice in the light of a team which has a rich selection of rising stars. But currently the Windwards are regurgitating players, not superstars in construction. With senior West Indies selectors and even regional umpires at the Under-19 level showing interest for example in young Matthew as a potential West Indies prospect, and actually explicitly telling Windwards Under-19 management that he was being watched eagerly for the senior tournament, this has to be another issue to take hold of.
Kenroy Peters is continuously being hampered by the bizarre preference of fellow Vincentian left armer Deighton Butler despite being eight years younger and a better prospect. Peters was a West Indies Under-19 MVP on the tour of England and had a chance to grow his game. But that's if he gets to play. It is not an embarassment of riches that continues to deny him but an unusual localised preference. The bigger picture is being totally lost and Peters is sure to regress and disappear if he doesnt get a regular game.
Even the selection of the coach is an issue of contention. It is well known that the real coach in St Vincent is Irving Warrican. The convenience of Lennox John's friendship with Ian Allen is the main criteria for this situation. It is Warrican who coaches the Vincentian team. It is Warrican who is respected as a coach of any standard subregionally. It is Allen who gets selected as Windwards coach. The nepotism is consistent with that at the higher level of the game, and 'higher' is debatable at this point.
The promise is limited. The fielding and batting across the board were terrible and the batting is so bad that it therefore needs careful analysis of the bowlers to understand who really is of quality and who isn't. With only three specialist batsmen in the squad not much more needs to be said.
The spin of Dennis George and Shane Shillingford, the stoic batting of Andre Fletcher and the reunion of Currency and Smith are the only real highlights for Windwards watchers. Craig Emmanuel is also promising but right now this Windwards team is not one where promising players are likely to have time to bed in.
Be prepared for more of the same Windwards underachievement, but be warned. What is happening in the Windwards is of extreme relevance to West Indies cricket because the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, and if this link gets any weaker it surely will burst.