Whither the Windwards?
Mon, Mar 7, '05
In 1981,the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) made a decision to split the Combined Islands into two separate units. Fearing that the Windwards would be at a disadvantage, the Windwards Board recruited the Middlesex professional Wilf Slack and Shane Julien, then plying his trade in Barbados to bolster the Windwards ranks.
Exceeding all expectations, the Windward Islands on the back of some inspired victories, none more dramatic than their defeat of Barbados at the Kensington Oval ended the 1982 season in second place.
Proving that it was no flash in the pan,the Windwards were once again runners up in the 1983 tournament. In the process they wrote themselves into the record books with the highest ever 4th innings total in regional Shell history (successfully chasing down the 371 set by Trinidad at the Queen's Park Oval). The team also enjoyed the distinction of notching up one of the narrowest margins of victory, a one-run triumph over the Leeward Islands at Warner Park.
Since the glory years of 1982 and 1983, the team's fortunes have declined sharply. More often than not, with the exception of last year's third place showing, the team has found itself perpetually languishing in the lower half of the table. In the One Day Tournament, wins in 1989 and 2000 gave the long-suffering fans something to cheer about.
But, as was the case in 1983, the batting still remains overly dependent on a few persons. This season, we've seen some dismal outfielding and the usual inconsistent batting as the Windwards again squandered a promising start to the season. Lying in second position after the first round, the team has slipped to the customary bottom tier of the table.
The bowling has always performed creditably, only to be let down by indifferent batting. It begs the question what is the Windwards Board doing to address the situation? Clearly, they must take the initiative and create programmes aimed at developing young batsmen.
The recent replacement of promising but struggling batsman Sergio Fedee with a bowler has made even more obvious the over-reliance on bowling. Were it otherwise, the few batsmen who already qualify would be given all possible exposure. If Fedee is not kept in the team, shouldn't another batsman replace him, considering that his bowling replacement was not a part of the initial squad? Are those with promise so scarce?
Maybe the Windwards cricket authorities are so inundated with ideas for improving the team's batting, that they have stopped listening. Nonetheless, here are additional but reasonable ideas for improving the team's batting:
Conduct at least one annual batting camp for the top offerings from all four islands.
Reward batsmen who have made a hundred or more in club finals with equipment sponsorship for a year.
Pair up Under-19 level batsmen with retired batsmen. This should be a well-considered program that includes proper pairing, purposeful selection of the mentors and monitoring to assess usefulness, effectiveness of mentor and player's attitude and commitment.
It is more important, if not for anyone or anything else, that something be done to support the bowlers who always find some way to keep themselves competitive. A balanced and more competitive team will certainly be a welcome change for them.
It is time for the Windwards Board to get its house in order. The age old problems of organisation and to a lesser extent facilities remain unconquered. Yet, the momentum gained from the team's perfomances in last year's competitions should have served as as platform on which to build.
It should not be a case of one step forward and several backwards coupled with a seeming lack of pride in the team that represents the subregion. Any proud Windward Islander, more so the Board and affiliated associations, should not be satisfied with this state of affairs.