25th January 2014
The Mason & Guests Show
Dropping them nicely!
Curtly Ambrose had kindly consented to follow on from his innings last week by taking guard for a second time. Andrew began the show gleefully by jokingly commenting on England’s latest defeat in ‘The Tour From Hell’:
AM: “England were battered again, and captain Alastair Cook hints he may resign. Cooked and battered!”
But we had other fish to fry, and he swiftly handed over to me to give the listeners a brief summary and explanation of The Cricket Coup – and what it means for the West Indies:
DO: “The big news of the week is the potential earthquake facing world cricket. In a document leaked to ESPN Cricinfo, the boards of India, Australia and England are intending to reconstitute the ICC, with them as the 3 powerhouses. In a draft proposal, details of which initially came to light late last year and were first brought to the attention of the Caribbean by Roland Butcher on the Mason & Guests show, the BCCI, CA & the ECB plot to share the proceeds of international cricket amongst themselves to a much greater degree – further impoverishing countries like the West Indies. In addition to this they plan to scrap the Future Tours Programme and replace it with a 2-tier Test system, with relegation and promotion, possibly between 2 divisions of 4 teams. However, India, Australia and England would be exempt from relegation, thus limiting everyone else’s promotion prospects; while relegation from the 2nd division would mean loss of Test status. For a Test nation with a history like the West Indies, something so unthinkable could become a reality. If this nightmare does come to pass then let’s hope it galvanises rather than destroys Caribbean cricket. The WICB held an emergency meeting to discuss events on Monday, and will be reconvening to continue discussions tomorrow.”
Andrew asked me where this left the West Indies, and how I thought the WICB would respond to these 3 school playground bullies? I admitted I had no idea, and wouldn’t know what to do in their position. I added that it was possible that the current draft was a smokescreen for a lesser, but nonetheless unfavourable proposal. Either way, bad things are on the horizon.
Andrew turned to Roland Butcher (who had just arrived, having been briefly locked out of the Starcom Network building) and asked the same question. Roland could see little option for the WICB but to regrettably acquiesce. “This is business,” was his realistic appraisal.
It was Curtly time, and I introduced him with a few stats:
DO: “Curtly Ambrose’s 1st-class debut was for Leeward Islands in February 1986 v Guyana; and his 1st wicket was Roger Harper’s brother, Mark. His final first-class match was the 5th Test v England at The Oval in London in August 2000.
“He took 405 wickets in 98 Tests at 20.99, including 128 in 27 Tests v Australia at 21.33; & 164 v England in 34 Tests at 18.79.
“In 239 1st-class games, Curtly took 941 wickets at 20.24, including 163 for the Leeward Islands in 37 matches; & 318 for Northamptonshire in the English County Championship in 78 matches. In international cricket in total he took 630 wickets, with 225 ODI scalps to add to his Test haul.
“Curtly’s 1st Test victim was Mudassar Nazar in Georgetown in April 1988; and his last was Marcus Trescothick in his final Test. His 100th Test victim was Australia’s Mark Waugh; his 200th England’s Michael Atherton; his 300th Sri Lanka’s Sajeewa de Silva; & his 400th was again Mike Atherton.
“But we mustn’t forget Curtly’s batting: he also scored 4 1st-class 50s, including 1 Test 50 – 52 v Australia at Port-of-Spain in 1991, when he helped Jeffrey Dujon to lift WI from 110-7 to 227 all out. His 1000th Test run was scored on his home turf in Antigua v India in 1997.
“And his highest ever score was a match-winning 78 for Northants v Somerset in 1994. Needing 301 in the 4th innings to win, he came in at no. 9 with his side 152-7. He added 145 for the 8th wicket with Tony Penberthy, against a Somerset attack containing Andy Caddick, Neil Mallender, and the Dutchman, Andre van Troost – who at the time was considered one of the fastest, and wildest, bowlers in world cricket. But that day, Curtly tamed him.”
Curtly positively bloomed at the mention of his batting prowess, and filled with pride. He vividly recalled his partnership with Dujon (“I outscored Jeffrey – I was the senior partner!” he pointed out) and his battle with van Troost. “We were a long way off, so I gave it a go” he said. He also added another stat which I wasn’t aware of:
CL: “I was one of only 2 West Indies fast bowlers to score 1000 Test runs. The other was Malcolm,” he pointed out. We checked – and yes, he was right. We were laughing heartily at the warm memory of the left-hander’s occasional savaging of attacks. Reds Perreira joined us on the line:
RP: “Andrew, you have a very happy panel. I hear lots of laughter tonight!”
Reds provided the news that Barbados’ Miguel Cummins, who was only picked as a reserve for his island’s Super50 cup squad, had been approached by the Leeward Islands to play instead for them. Cummins had declined, preferring to remain on stand-by for Barbados. Roland asked an intelligent question:
RB: “Reds, if Cummins plays for the Leewards, could he still play for Barbados in the 4-day tournament? What are the rules?”
RP: “This was Cummins’ concern, that he’d have to play for them in the 4-day games.” This is clearly not on. Cummins was Barbados’ match-winning bowler in last season’s 4-day tournament final. Surely he wouldn’t relinquish a place in the defending champions’ XI in order to feature in a brief one-day competition? But his non-appearance in the upcoming matches does highlight a shortcoming of the regional set-up. Andrew pursued it, turning to our second phone-guest, former international fast bowler, Tony Gray:
AM: “Tony, do you think a time will come when players can move between Caribbean island teams more freely?”
TG: “Yes indeed. I think this may happen.”
Andrew went on to look back at the recently concluded West Indies tour of New Zealand, and asked Reds for his analysis:
RP: “New Zealand is always a difficult tour, and it’s always a challenge to bat there. I’m not happy with the side we took there, though. Cummins should have gone there, and it was surprising that Jason Holder wasn’t taken either.”
Reds was critical of the WI selectors – and at this point former chairman of selectors, Mike Findlay joined us on the line. He’d been delayed in coming through. Andrew wondered if he’d been held up in ‘Stumps’, a popular watering hole. Mike shouldered arms to that one with a chuckle, and gave his reaction to the NZ tour:
MF: “The problem is that the standard of our domestic cricket is very poor. There is a huge gap between that and the international game.” Andrew then asked Curtly for his assessment:
CA: “I wasn’t impressed by our run of 6 Test wins – look at who we’d played against. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and changes have to be made. How can these guys dominate in Test cricket if they don’t dominate in the domestic scene?” I interjected here:
DO: “How can they dominate in the domestic scene if they’re not playing? They need to be playing domestic cricket, not in the Bangladesh T20 league.”
Roland weighed in, giving the example of cricket in Australia, where a similar number of sides as in the Caribbean make up their domestic structure – but they play home & away, giving the opportunity to players of up to 10 games of annual domestic 1st-class cricket. Mike Hussey, for example had played hundreds of 1st-class games and scored thousands of runs before he ever broke onto the international scene for his highly successful Test career. This was the crux of Roland and Curtly’s point – the current crop are simply not playing enough proper cricket.
Mike Findlay also felt the players, coaches and selectors don’t examine performances closely enough, and grow from identifying the mistakes, and not repeating them:
MF: “We need to look at our results in-depth. We gloss over it and don’t learn lessons from it. We have to look longer term. We have to instill a sense of purpose in the players. They have to be motivated and unified. The great players had to prove themselves to the world to show their superiority. And that drove the players.” Mike continued, warming to his theme:
MF: “The standard is so poor, and we have to improve them. We must iron out the bad habits and teach youngsters as young as 8 and 9 good technique. We have to put in place measures to sustain young talent. We are not going to compete adequately until we raise those standards.”
Motivation was the concept that Roland seized upon, in trying to understand the apparent underperformance of West Indies’ current crop:
RB: “The time West Indies have been dominant was when they had a common purpose to play for. As a young man I played because I loved the game. But what motivates these young men? For Viv, Curtly and the rest it was a desire to be the best. Today, the motivator is money. Through the game young players have become financially well set. Do they still have the same motivation for success as well?” Curtly responded:
CA: “I have no problem with a man making money. My problem is if that is your ONLY motivation. You must have pride in your performances. And the more successful you are, the more money you’ll make.”
The time had come for our commercial break, and our production assistant asked Andrew if now was the time to cut our phone guests loose. “Do you want me to lose them?” she asked.
AM: “No no! Don’t just chop them. Treat them with respect. Drop them nicely!” What a gentleman!
After the interval Andrew turned once again to Mike Findlay, who had been able to stay on the line with us:
AM: “Mike, you were Chairman of Selectors. It must be a difficult job?”
MF: “People believe selecting a team is based on performance. But it’s not how many runs someone makes, but how they score them. Do they have the technique? You also need to understand what a player’s motivation is. Now the standard is so poor so there’s not much choice for the selectors. But I would still limit the selectors to a 2-year spell to keep them fresh. You take a lot of bashing and can get stale with so much travel etc.”
AM: “How is Otis Gibson doing as coach?”
MF: “You can’t make a boat from cocoanut shells. He’s trying his best.”
AM: “Do you think the West Indies team is coachable?”
MF: “A good question. Either Gibson isn’t doing his job properly, or the players can’t be coached. There are some very bad attitudes.”
AM: “Would you make a change in the captaincy?”
MF: “I don’t know if we have alternatives. Bravo is trying in ODIs. Sammy has done a good job moulding the team together. But it has to be examined. There is no imminent successor. I heard Darren Bravo returned from New Zealand for personal reasons, and that there were people blaming each other within the team for the poor performances. This needs to be looked at.”
Andrew thanked Mike Findlay for his excellent contribution, and before departing Mike offered Andrew this little tribute:
MF: “Andrew, I heard someone say to me recently, ‘that man Andrew Mason – he is something else!'” Very true!
At this point we turned to look ‘Around the World in 2’, and then Andrew turned to Curtly. He asked him if he considered Chanderpaul a great batsman?:
CA: “He’s got great stats – but isn’t the same talent. Chanderpaul is nowhere near the talent of the other guys of my generation: Lara, Richardson, Hooper, those guys. But he puts in the work and gets the rewards.” Also, when asked, Curtly did not support the suggestion that Shiv should be higher up the WI batting order. We had a quick look at his undeniably great stats, but I chipped in with my own thoughts:
DO: “I think the difference is that if Sobers, Richards or Lara came to the wicket bowlers would fear them – but they don’t fear Chanderpaul. They might think they’ll never get him out, but they don’t fear him.”
Mike King joined us on the line for the show’s closing overs. He had a stab at the week’s question, got it wrong twice, with Curtly providing the correct answer. Mike got his own back by throwing a couple at me that I was unable to field:
MK: “Who was the first Barbadian to score a Test 100 in Barbados?” The answer is Clyde Walcott.
MK: “Who scored the 1st WI 100 in England?” The answer was Ivan Barrow, with George Headley at the time on 99! A very appropriate question on the Errol Barrow national holiday today in Barbados.
Last week Curtly had begun picking his all-time WI bowling attack. He’d got as far as Marshall, Holding and Ambrose (first change). I asked him if he’d want a four-man pace attack, or a spinner? He said it would depend upon the pitch, but his spinner would be Lance Gibbs. Collectively, Curtly, Andrew and Mike selected an all-time WI XI:
1. Gordon Greenidge, 2. Conrad Hunte, 3. George Headley, 4. Viv Richards, 5. Brian Lara, 6. Garry Sobers (Capt), 7. Jeffrey Dujon (or David Murray) (WK), 8. Malcolm Marshall, 9. Michael Holding, 10. Curtly Ambrose, 11. Lance Gibbs.
I interjected that I’d want Frank Worrell in my side: great batsman, left-arm seamer and useful slow left-armer – but most of all as captain. Therefore he’d open the batting in place of Hunte. Mike objected that I’d be selecting a make-shift opener to accommodate Worrell, and that was wrong. But is a man who carried his bat in a Test for 190-odd a makeshift? (After the show another fine judge, with a keen sense of history, quite rightly pointed out that without a stand-out wicket-keeper in the team, Clyde Walcott would be an entirely justified selection. And he wasn’t a bad keeper either! This was a man who ably stood up to Ramadhin and Valentine).
I followed up by asking Curtly to evaluate the WI skippers he’d played with:
DO: “You played under a number of different captains for the WI: Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Courtney Walsh, Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams. What were their strengths and weaknesses?”
CA: “They were all different. But with all of them I pretty much got what I wanted! But Lara was the most experimental and adventurous.”
DO: “You said last week that basketball is your first love. Would you forego your great Test career and place in West Indian history for an equally successful career in the NBA?”
CA: “Good question. Let me say first of all that to represent your country is an honour and a privilege. But you’re right, basketball is my big love and yes I would trade the two if I could. I would have loved to have made the grade.”
Andrew’s final question of the night was to Curtly. He asked him what was the biggest disappointment of his career?
CA: “My biggest disappointment? Certainly, not winning the World Cup. I achieved everything else in my career, but not that.”
AM: “Well thank you very much, Curtly. We’ve got two cheques in the post for you now! This has been Mason & Guests, and it’s goodnight from me your host, Andrew Mason. Here’s hoping for a brighter tomorrow!”
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.