The Guy in the Shorts and T-shirt

13th September 2014

The Mason & Guests Show

Developing development themes

The Masonic musical chairs continued this week. Andrew was in St Vincent, covering West Indies’ 1st Test victory, so I was back guest-hosting (should that be ‘ghosting’?) the show. In the studio with me were Steven Leslie, Manager of the CCC; Winston Stafford, Board member of the BCA, and regular Mason & Guests contributor, Pearson Bovell. We began by looking back at the game:

DO: “Many of the match-winning performances were by Barbadians. In a room full of Bajans, or adopted Bajan in my case, we can feel quite pleased and proud.”

WS: “We expected them to win, but there’s some work to be done on the fielding and dropped catches. We need to get our concentration. It’s one of the weaknesses of WI cricket.”

DO: “The most glaring was Kirk Edwards drop. Was that concentration, rather than bad technique or bad luck?”

WS: “Well he can’t be that bad can he?”

DO: “Did the team get tired? Are they match fit?”

PB: “The pitch didn’t help. You had to ‘put in’ to ‘get out’. But Bangladesh were weakened by the absence of their best player, Shakib Al-Hassan. But we applied ourselves in partnerships, although our running between the wickets is a concern. We must see this series as a stepping stone to the India and South Africa series, and improve. Darren Bravo should be used as an inspiration. He has improved his fielding hugely in the last 3 years, and he took 6 catches in this game.”

SL: “One of the low-lights of the Test was how Shiv Chanderpaul batted in the 1st innings. He cannot be making 85no from 226 deliveries. Against such a low ranked side an experienced player has to do better than that. Not against this attack.”

DO: “An attack that in the 1st ODI had WI 34-5. Underestimate any international attack at your peril. There was lots of criticism, and many felt Chanderpaul and Brathwaite should’ve pushed on on Day 2, but you had the two most obdurate, limpet-like batsmen in together. It’s what they do.”

WS: “There are times when Chanderpaul must recognise what’s best for WI cricket. With the uncertainty of the weather it wasn’t good to just plod along.”

DO: “Was the construct of the side right? When WI were 420-odd for 3, with the in-form Ramdin down at 7, I was thinking ‘where’s my 5th bowler?'”

PB: “I’m not sweet on Shannon Gabriel. He has pace, but lacks consistency. His action needs ironing out as well as his run-up. In the field he’s clumsy and ungainly, and he’s not picked to bat. But the alternatives were Shillingford or Jason Holder. Shillingford would’ve been familiar with that wicket in the Windwards. But I think Ramdin needs to step-up to 6. His batting has come on leaps and bounds. But apart from the fact that we must have a solid batting unit, bowling at India in the subcontinent will be a different kettle of fish. We need adequate bowling stock to bowl teams out. If someone gets injured you can’t be down to 3 bowlers against strong teams.”

SL: “Since June 2012, Ramdin has been really consistent at Test level. Probably only Chanderpaul has been more consistent with the bat. There’s a lot of credibility in the suggestion of looking to get the balance right for tougher opposition. Jason Holder could’ve played ahead of Jermaine Blackwood. Both scored 50s in their last Test. We’re going to have to play 5 specialist bowlers. Blackwood bowled more overs in this Test Match than he has for Jamaica in 2 seasons of 1st-class cricket. You need Ramdin at 6, Holder at 7 and 4 other specialist bowlers. To compete against India, WI must have 5 bowlers. We can’t be asking Gayle and Blackwood to trundle at MS Dhoni, Pujara and company. We’re going to win this series 2-0. Anybody could have been coach of this WI team against this opposition. We’re thinking series by series. We have to start thinking about a 6 month plan. But we’re likely to go through a phrase where we may not have a coach to go to India; we may not have one when we go to South Africa; chances are we’ll lose those series. Then there’ll be a time for reassessment, and we may see a clean shop. The new coach will come in with his backroom staff. I think they’ve strategically allowed Ottis Gibson to go now, and not enjoy a 2-0 win v Bangladesh.”

PB: “I understand Steven’s thesis. But it concerns me not having a coach in 2 important series. For example, they’ve fixed on Shannon Gabriel who’s not the finished article. He’s raw.”

DO: “And to answer your earlier point, I’ve checked your conjecture of whether or not he is in for his batting. In his last 7 Tests his scores are: 0no, dnb, dnb, 1, 0, 0, 0no, 0, 0, 0no, dnb, dnb, dnb. I think he’s not in for his batting.”

PB: “If you look at Shannon’s build and his run-up, he has a lumbering run-up. I want to see him work with Wayne Daniel. Because they are similar. Wayne bowled off of his physical strength. He didn’t generate his pace from the rhythm of his run-up. He has similar attributes. Wayne honed his skills with Middlesex and became a more refined bowler.”

DO: “Wayne Daniel’s opening bowling partner at Middlesex was Mike Selvey. He described Daniel’s bowling action thus:

‘Daniel’s action was instantly recognisable, beginning with a run like a bather first ooh-aahing onto a hot beach then sprinting through the shallows to sizzle his feet, followed by a classical back-bending gather, heaving delivery and knuckle-scraping follow through.’

Does that sound like Shannon Gabriel?”

PB: “Something like. Apart from the fact that Shannon falls away to his left. Most of our great players cry out that we don’t engage them enough in sourcing their help for younger players. I’m looking at like-for-like. Daniel would be excellent to work with Gabriel.”

WS: “Pearson’s given a classic demonstration of the confusion in West Indies cricket. You’ve a cadre of young, promising cricketers who need to get the basics right – but they’re without a coach. We’ve got two very able cricketers in Miguel Cummins and Jason Holder who we can make into formidable quick bowlers. But we need to develop them.”

SL: “We need some structure and order. We have a new Director of Cricket, and we’ll have franchise cricket at the 4-day level, so the new Coach coming in has to buy into that direction.”

PB: “But we don’t have a person in charge of the overall coaching structure of the team at the moment. We need a Head Coach.”

SL: “I want to share something with everyone. I work at the University of West Indies, and the WI A Team are currently there going through their paces, working with Sir Vivian Richards and Vasbert Drakes. There was a white man there asking questions suspiciously. So I followed him. From his accent he may have been from England. The guy was taking video of all the bowlers – Cummins, Carlos Brathwaite, Sheldon Cottrell. Do we suppose he’s been planted here, in shorts and t-shirt, and actually taking footage back of WI’s second string bowlers for maybe a series to come? Do we do anything like that in the Caribbean? No, we rely on bravado!”

DO: “Very interesting! Let’s hope it IS what you suspect, and not someone come over from an Australian university checking up on actions!”

Time for a word from our sponsor, and Around the World in 2.

DO: “Winston, in the first half of the show you talked about development a lot. If you’ll excuse the pun, I’d like us develop those ideas. Saeed Ajmal has been found guilty of throwing. Ian Bishop on this show last week felt very strongly that suspect actions almost have to be strangled at birth. How important is the development of young men’s cricketing skills, and their humanity skills?”

WS: “I think we need to look at the complete person – not just bat and ball. Compare the dedication of our past cricketers like Weekes, Hall, Worrell, Walcott, Griffith – they were intense at their game. During a cricket match they didn’t indulge in jollity and hilarity – they were very serious about the game. Cricket is a game where you need to have the capacity to concentrate. We need to work with our promising Caribbean cricketers’ mental capacity, application and dedication. Most of our cricketers are not succeeding simply because they cannot concentrate for long periods. We need to develop the person.”

We took a call from someone who felt Fidel Edwards should be in the Test side ahead of Shannon Gabriel. I feel very strongly about Fidel:

DO: “I haven’t checked the figures for a while, but in the last 2 years I think he’s played one game of first-class cricket here in the WI. It may be less than that. The year before last he played one match in the home domestic season, and that was a 50-over game. He preferred to go off and play in the Bangladesh Premier League. I don’t think he’s shown a great deal of allegiance to Barbados cricket or West Indies cricket, and I don’t think a great deal is owed to him.”

PB: “Shannon Gabriel is obviously where the WI selectors are going. We’ve seen that over the last 3 years, even though his bowling action and run-up has deteriorated. He’s not progressed. If he’s going to be the shock bowler in our attack we must work on him to iron out those issues. And we must do it quickly. The selectors have made an investment in him, but he needs help.”

DO: “I want to hear Steven’s opinions on the crop of young fast bowlers. I’m interested in his view, and not just the opinion of the Englishman in the shorts with the camera.”

But first we took another call. The caller felt the Bangladesh fielding was more committed than the West Indies’.

SL: “Chris Gayle is not very mobile in the field. He commands his Test place through reputation. But he has to sharpen up. It could be a result of fast food cricket. He’s in the latter part of his career and we’re not seeing the big effort.”

DO: “Do you expect to see much more of Gayle, Stephen?”

SL: “I think he’ll surprise us all and announce his retirement as opposed to being forced out.”

DO: “I’d find that less surprising than if he did decide to go to South Africa and face Philander, Steyn and Morkel.”

SL: “I won’t be surprised if he does it before that series.”

DO: “Perhaps even tomorrow! And the next Test will be his last.”

SL: “Which is why I’m so pleased with Kraigg Brathwaite. But let’s not fool ourselves – facing South Africa will be different. Gayle will be flamboyant and aggressive. But I’m not sure Darren Bravo will be able to handle short bowling well and he’s suspect. Brathwaite will be peppered as well. We’re in for a rude awakening in South Africa. It’ll be a tough assignment. And Kraigg needs to strike a little bit of fear in the opposition. If a half volley comes, and it won’t come too often, you need to crash it – not prod it.”

DO: “I disagree. At this stage in WI’s development, as they try and edge back up the ladder, don’t try and do it in one vault. I’m not worried if Steyn, Philander etc don’t fear Kraigg Brathwaite. I just want them to know there’s every chance when he comes out to bat first thing in the morning that he’ll still be there at 6 o’clock.”

SL: “But there’s something about the West Indian style of play – the flair we have. The bad bowling has to be put away. I think he’s going to be the next Chanderpaul in WI cricket.”

WS: “Hope we don’t have them batting together for too long!”

SL: “That’d be terrible for the gates!!”

PB: “We also need to look at our batting resources. Lendl Simmons is still relatively young. And he’s a utility player. I’m hoping he’ll be on the tours to India and South Africa. Sometimes when you look into the face of a player you can see whether there’s fear or confidence. And he exudes confidence at the crease. That means a lot.”

DO: “In the weeks to come we need to think about what squad WI ought to be taking, and point the selectors in the right direction between us!”

Our next caller asked how could the WI produce fast bowlers, without fast wickets? He also felt WI needed 5 bowlers, rather than relying on batsmen bowling a bit:

Caller: “Because we only had 4 bowlers, we had to get some help from elsewhere.”

DO: “Blackwood helped out didn’t he?”

Caller: “Yes. It worked out this time, but it can’t be the plan going forward.”

DO: “Let’s hope not.”

Caller: “We want Jason Holder.”

WS: “I want to take up the caller’s point about wickets. We’ve never paid any attention to providing information for groundsmen. They’re still employing hit and miss groundsmen. We had one fella who was sent off 2 years ago to do a groundsman’s course, and as soon as he returned he was made redundant. How do you expect to get good wickets if you don’t know what you’re doing?”

DO: “Is this another area of coaching and development, to develop groundsmen in the region?”

WS: “It’s looking at cricket from a holistic position. It’s not just bat and ball. It’s all sort of elements…”

DO: “Umpiring, scoring…”

WS: “And administration. We are still romantics about cricket in the region in a very primitive way. We are not looking at it as a profession.”

SL: “In terms of development we need to be smart in how we do things. There should be video footage of all WI U-19 tournaments played annually, and U-17 too. That information should be available to coaches of the WI A and senior team, so when they reach that level you don’t just see players in the nets for the first time. And you refine the bright prospects at that stage. We lack that development process. Let’s get those videos into a database systematically. Mr Pybus should not leave the Caribbean without us having an established database of all the technology for players from U-17 right through to at least aged 23.”

Our next caller felt Test cricket was dying in the Caribbean.

DO: “Do we need to invite some gentlemen to join us from Haiti to breathe some life into this dead body? What does it need? What is the answer?”

Caller: “You’ve got to replace Chanderpaul!”

PB: “We need to know where we’re going. We need to have a strategic plan in place for development. We need to know what our resources are. And we need to have a player appraisal system to match performance to expectation. The late George Linton used to talk about players who made runs, but weren’t batting. Guys like Johnson Charles who are hitting at the ball, but it’s not batsmanship. Your limitations are soon exposed and exploited.”

WS: “But what have we been doing? We haven’t produced replacements to come through. Where has Barath gone? Or Powell? What has happened to their rehabilitation?”

DO: “Will the new 4-day Regional tournament system starting in November provide a continuity and identify who the best players are?”

WS: “Anything is better than nothing. It’s a beginning.”

And that was where we ended.

The Mason & Guests show is broadcast live every Tuesday from 6.15-8pm ECT (10.15pm-midnight GMT)  on Voice of Barbados 92.9fm, and can be heard by clicking on ‘LISTEN LIVE’ on the website page via the link provided, or via numerous internet tune-in services.

David Oram

The forum of the guys at Caribbeancricket.com and their conversation thread discussing this week’s show can be found here.

David Oram is the resident ‘statto’, and sometime presenter of ‘Mason & Guests’ – Voice of Barbados’ weekly cricket talk show, the leading cricket radio show in the West Indies – hosted by the Caribbean’s principal  radio commentator, Andrew Mason. You can tweet me at DavidOram@colblimp1983.

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