8th January 2014
The Mason & Guests Show
Vibrant debate and measured response
Mason & Guests returned after a fortnight’s hiatus over Christmas and the New Year, and got quickly again into its stride.
West Indies were a hour or two away from their final ODI of the tour of New Zealand, but we still wanted to catch up on our house-keeping and provide an assessment of the very disappointing Test series.
‘Disappointing’ was not an adjective strong enough for our first guest-on-the-line, Wayne Daniel:
WD: “The tour was a disaster!”
If a two-nil reverse in a three-match series is a disaster, what then is a five-nil whitewash I mused. A calamity? A catastrophe? A cataclysm?
WD: “They couldn’t pick themselves up after the hammering in India,” Daniel continued. “The batsmen and bowlers couldn’t adjust to the different playing conditions.” He went on:
WD: “The bowling was embarrassing, and they repeatedly bowled the wrong lengths.”
The first of the two guests in the studio was Roland Butcher, and he entirely agreed with his former Middlesex colleague’s evaluation. Not for the first time was a finger of blame pointed in the direction of the WICB, and the ill-conceived tour of India:
RB: “The tour of India immediately before left West Indies underprepared for the tour of New Zealand.” This was compounded, he added, by taking many wrong bowlers on the tour. Wayne Daniel seized upon this point:
WD: “How could Deonarine play in three Test Matches?!” he demanded. “An extra spinner on green tops was foolishness.”
Daniel also felt Sheldon Cottrell had been unfairly discarded, and would be bruised by the experience. He would not be the only one coming back to the Caribbean with a few black and blue bits. Wayne also expected changes:
WD: “Best is among those likely to come under the axe,” he reckoned.
This may, or may not be, a little harsh. Only three bowlers took ten or more Test wickets for the West Indies in 2013. Two of those, Shillingford and Samuels, are now banned from bowling by the ICC. The other was Tino. But 11 wickets at 57.72 are hardly the figures of a nailed-on selection.
The other guest in the studio last night was Clyde Mascoll. He announced he was going to be provocative this week. Normally, he doesn’t bother to apologise in advance for taking a hard line. Debate is always loud and lively whenever either he or Mike King are on the show.
CM: “Something has to be done about the management. It is time to fire Otis Gibson,” he insisted.
While results have been indifferent on the field, the leadership axis behind the scenes of Gibson and Sammy has been perceived to be firm in difficult times. Yet despite numerous calls from the cheap seats for both of them to go in the last year or two, the more measured response from the stalls had been supportive.
But not any more. A collective New Year resolution from most media critics has been to press for change.
CM: “We have been hearing about things happening beyond the boundary,” Clyde said. “We need to be told why Darren Bravo came home. What is the situation with Marlon Samuels; and with Darren Sammy etc.?”
Clyde felt for things to have deteriorated off the playing field as well as on was unacceptable. In this he included the selectors, and cited the continued presence of Veerasammy Permaul in the Test Team:
CM: “He took 1-103 in the third Test – but I don’t need statistics to tell me what I can see with my own eyes: he is an ordinary cricketer!” Clyde’s overall solution? He called for Carl Hooper to take over the running of West Indies cricket.
Kenny Benjamin was our second phone guest, and seeing the problem as a wider issue, called for Gibson to have a stay of execution:
KB: “The problem is administration, coaching and development. The problem is our cricket, not the coach.” Kenny has been persuasive in his theme recently of creating a Performance Manager, responsible for the Test team and regional cricket development – and someone who could be held accountable.
KB: “Carl Hooper at the helm would not change our performances,” he said. “Nor would any coach.”
Andrew Mason: “Are the West Indies uncoachable?” (what a great question!)
KB: “It’s not about coaching – it’s about man-management. They don’t have time to address techniques, or strategise. God bless any coach who takes up the job with West Indies right now!” I pointed out it is not impossible that Andy Flower may be available within the next week or so.
I also observed that the current levels of recrimination and calls for accountability in West Indies were uncannily paralleled by the current events in English cricket – rife with calls for sackings and restructuring, and questions about player and coaching staff motivation. In both countries there are murmurings of player unrest, dressing room disharmony, disunity and disintegration.
I noted that in recent Test series India had lost 4-0 in Australia, Australia had lost 4-0 in India, India had lost 4-0 in England, Australia had lost 3-0 in England, England had lost 5-0 in Australia; and West Indies had lost an ODI series 5-0 in Australia before their recent thrashings in India and New Zealand.
The common factor in all these is the problem of the ever-so-short modern overseas tour.
Andrew turned to Roland:
AM: “Roland, do you support Clyde Mascoll’s call for Otis Gibson’s sacking?”
RB: “I think Otis Gibson will re-evaluate his position.”
Roland is not an outspoken newspaper columnist and former politician like Clyde, but a true diplomat. He sits as a member of the Barbados Cricket Association, and firmly on the fence. The only splintering he would commit to is his own.
Andrew turned the question on Wayne Daniel:
AM: “How do you rate Otis Gibson as a coach?”
WD: “He hasn’t a great record. The coach must take responsibility. The issue is motivation. The coach must motivate your players. And the captain.”
Roland interjected though by asking Wayne, “when you only get them for a week or two before a tour, what can you (the coach) do?”
A caller asked if West Indies shouldn’t sack the lot and appoint a single supremo? This he felt would be new in world cricket and would lead the way where others would follow. I was quick to disabuse him:
DO: “England tried that about twenty years ago with Ray Illingworth. It was an unmitigated disaster.”
Andrew moved on. Naturally his next question was about the skipper:
AM: “Is it time for Sammy to go?”
WD: “He’s not a good enough bowler to be playing Test cricket. He has been a liability for some time.”
Roland felt that while Sammy may go as captain, he might still have some future mileage as a Test cricketer. He pointed to his record as a bowler before captaincy: 27 wickets in 8 Tests at 27 apiece with 3 five-wicket hauls – far better figures than in his 30 Tests in charge, when he has recorded only one further five-for.
I don’t usually disagree strongly with Roland, but I thought this was nonsense. Sammy clearly isn’t the bowler he was:
DO: “I think this is one of those cases that Clyde Mascoll talked about. I don’t need the stats to tell me what I know – Sammy is a club bowler.” This cheap shot got a roar of laughter down the line from Wayne Daniel.
In any case, I think it unlikely that if Darren Sammy is deposed he will be all that keen to play much more proper cricket. Surely he’ll focus on the myriad Twenty20 leagues?
Kenny Benjamin summed up the skipper:
KB: “We have run out of the good things Sammy offers. We have had fractures – in fact pieces are falling out!”
Andrew asked Kenny his usual $64,000 question:
AM: “Is there light at the end of the tunnel?”
KB: “I give you my answer: ………………………….”
He said nothing further. I interpreted for everyone:
DO: “Blackness. Darkness. Silence.”
The Mason & Guests show is broadcast live on Tuesday’s from 6.15-8pm ECT (10.15-midnight GMT) on Voice of Barbados 92.9fm and can be heard via numerous internet tune-in services.