By Colin Croft
It is very unfortunate and disappointing to discuss the current standards of men’s representative West Indian cricket and cricketers.
While I am severely disappointed by our recent international results, I am not surprised. I believe, as I have said many times, any present West Indies men’s team players you name are doing their very best. I genuinely believe that. It has nothing to do with making money.
India’s and England’s players, and probably Australia’s, are the best-paid cricketers in the world. So why do their standards not drop and flop appreciably?
The answer is straightforward. These other teams’ players prepare properly for the games, series, situations, and competitions, not focusing on match fees but expecting to be well paid.
The point is that most West Indies men players’ best efforts and skills are not even 50% of what is required to compete at international levels and win Tests and ODIs regularly, even T-20 Internationals.
Of course, we will win a few games here and there, but that is not acceptable! Consistently playing at that required higher level is a priority.
What confuses me more is that the people who run West Indies cricket seem to be living on another planet, as they cannot be on earth, and expect and believe that these collective men’s teams players, who represent us, will do well regularly.
Simply – Madness!
Following the ICC WT20 in Australia a few months ago, Cricket West Indies published that Brian Lara, Mickey Arthur, and Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Justice Patrick Thompson are to “undertake a holistic assessment of the team’s preparation and performance at the global tournament.”
Precisely what is that group, including West Indian Brian Lara and South African Mickey Arthur, going to tell us that we do not already know?
So many reports have been commissioned over the last decades, including one from former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
Where are all of those now cobwebbed reports, observations, and recommendations? Do we need yet another set of people telling us what we already know? That our regional and international cricket standards are deplorable?
Right now, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Public Servants, Primary School students, and those in between all know that already!
Indeed, when Brian Lara took over the captaincy, West Indies’ cricket efforts and standards were severely depleted and diminished. That was more than 20 years ago! What the hell will we learn that is now new?
Papa! That our cricket teams have become individualistic instead of being qualitative and quantitative units? We knew that already over two decades ago! West Indies cricket is also severely top-heavy.
It has more supposedly integrated directional and operational people than Amazon.com and the US Space Force combined!
But are these people properly functional for purpose and looking out for West Indies cricket, or are they looking only at their well-being and survival to enjoy their spoils at their hierarchy positions?
Most of our on-field representative cricketers are not physically fit enough to finish regional games well, much less Tests or ODIs. Even in T-20s, where we have had relatively recent successes, we struggle much, as our natural preparations are simply below par and the basic requirements.
How could playing T-10 cricket around the world help you bowl ten overs, if required by your captain, in one inning, as in ODIs, or at least 40 overs in two innings, as in a Test match?
There is a massive difference between JUST bowling and bowling WELL!
The current guys train primarily to bowl a maximum of four overs. Not 40! So it is not a mystery to me why so many of our current players break down so quickly when exposed to long sessions of activities.
All the people preparing our guys have proved to be of no use or value.
Please do not tell me that players do not have time to train correctly.
That is absolute unadulterated crap!
As quoted to me by Ambassador Deryck Murray, the former Trinidad & Tobago, and West Indies wicket-keeper, back in 1975, when I first met him: “Crofty – Everyone has talent. How that talent is developed, individually and collectively, is the biggest problem we have here in the Caribbean.”
He was not wrong!
The players’ responsibility is to be ready for cricket combat entirely, not the teams’ coaches. The coaches are there to augment each individual’s abilities and efforts, not to teach senior cricketers how to be fit for purpose or how to field, especially at the international level. Those ought to have been learned at the developmental levels.
So, as most know, I was an Air Traffic Controller between 1973 and 1982.
I was also a Guyana Youth and Senior player and West Indies cricketer between 1970 and 1982, almost the same corresponding period. My two primary professional lives coincided closely back then. Indeed, since 1971, I have almost always had two forms of employment simultaneously and for nearly all my professional life.
Yet, I managed to run much, bowl much, learn to field properly, bat to an acceptable level, and excel very well, too, at cricket while being an Air Traffic Controller and on West Indies teams.
Also, as I have often said, I ran over 15 miles daily, if not traveling to play. I would run on the runways at airports in Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, at cricket grounds in Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago or wherever we were, or on the streets of Georgetown or Port of Spain, etc., or the Unity-Lancaster beaches in Guyana, or any combination of all of those.
I even remember running in the streets of Lahore, in Pakistan, Sydney, Australia, London in the United Kingdom, Hamilton, etc., in New Zealand while still playing, which continued even after I had stopped playing for West Indies. Anywhere! 15 miles per day! Anywhere!
I also augmented those hundreds of miles with zillions of skips – very few of our present-day cricketers even know how to skip at all – and regular light gym work! My skipping routine was on the high recommendations of three prominent people – Roy Fredericks, late former Guyana, Glamorgan, and West Indies opening batsman; Geoffrey “Reds” Murray, former Guyana wicket-keeper, one of my Air Traffic Control Managers at Timehri (Cheddi Jagan International Airport); and Michael “Joey” Carew, late former Trinidad & Tobago and West Indies opening batsman. That advice has been invaluable. Even at nearly 70 years old, I still skip when my shoulders can take the pain!
Check Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Cheryl Swoopes – all successful professional sports people; they ALL skipped very well. Yes. If you make the time, you can do it!
I had to be very fit, especially playing and bowling for Guyana, alongside off-spinners Roger Harper and Clyde Butts and Alvin Kallicharran’s younger brother, leg-spinner Deryck Kallicharran, all of whom delivered six-ball overs in 90 seconds or less! Papa – Those guys were really quick slow bowlers!
If you noticed the West Indies Academy team in the 2022 Caribbean 50 overs tournament in Antigua & Barbuda, you would have seen when fielding second; their energy levels sapped appreciably after the first 20 or so overs in the field. They looked dead on their feet after about 30 overs fielding second, misfielding much, dropping catches, and wandering around.
But how could this be, remembering that these guys are “in a learning environment in West Indies’ Academy”?
Eating and sleeping, especially hydrating properly, are all part of a proper fitness routine. These are the bases of all physical activities and high achievements. Regularly eating commercial fast food is eating empty, useless calories; drinking sodas regularly is even worse!
Also, while doing that recent Caribbean 50 overs competition in Antigua in November, I noted that most, if not all, of the players seem to need help understanding the basics of cricket. Most of them cannot correctly call runs when batting, seemingly not knowing or understanding the dynamics and responsibilities of each batter at the crease.
These are things that we learned, as aspiring youths, on the beach, playing in the streets or in primary school. We had no “real” academies!
That visage was appallingly poor in Antigua. The players in the 50 overs tournament could not even field correctly.
But, every, and I mean, EVERY player in that competition has been playing regular, organized cricket for at least five years, from Under-15 level to Under-19 level, CPL or IPL, representative regional cricket, and playing in some format and age group for West Indies.
So most of those so-called “young men” at 21 or 22 or 25 years of age had already played more organized cricket over the recent five years of their lives than Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft had played, collectively, before we had played our first Test match.
If you remember, Michael Holding, aged 21, had only three first-class (List A) games before his first tour to Australia in 1975/6.
Joel Garner, 23/24, had four games, and Colin Croft, 23/24, had six such “List A” games before they played Test and ODIs for West Indies vs. Pakistan in 1977.
We learned to play cricket well while playing for West Indies, as our real coaches were the teams’ older players.
Nowadays, these guys have so many games long before playing for the West Indies, and they still need to learn the basics.
About 75 to 90 percent of the current Caribbean cricket’s representative players seemingly did not know how to call for a simple run!
What the hell is wrong with this picture?
One lucky break for West Indies cricket before ICC CWC 2023, in India late next year, is that after that tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa in January – March 2023, West Indies has a massive lull until India comes to the Caribbean and USA around August 2023.
Cricket West Indies must, not MAYBE, but MUST, immediately, after that Zimbabwe/South Africa tour, name 40 or so players to be prepared in a proper camp somewhere, from April to July, for ICC CWC 2023.
If required and asked, I am fully available and prepared to push them hard and not pamper them for fear of losing my job, as many of our present coaches do.
I am an honest Analyst and Coach. I am not a cheerleader, and I do not need friends! Cricket West Indies will probably play its Regional Four-Day tournament during that time too.
Those months MUST be used to properly prepare about 20 eventual players for ICC CWC 2023, if the Cricket West Indies team could even be competitive to get to the semi-finals, at least.
This “jump up and kiss me” approach of using CPL and IPL tournaments to select players, especially for ODIs, has not worked and will not work.
Quite simply, it is madness!
Again I ask? How in God’s name does one fool oneself into believing that a 20 game – where any bowler bowls a maximum of only four overs – prepares any player to play properly in a 50 overs game?
2023 cannot come fast enough.
West Indies 2021 and especially 2022 cricket has been pot-holed, like driving along the roads in some parts of the Caribbean.
In the last two years, a few good games here and there have been severely overwhelmed with our obvious embarrassments and massive underachievements. West Indies cricket is currently running on fumes in all aspects and formats!
Retooling, refueling, and inside refurbishing are urgently required; immediately, if not sooner!
But, if all that fails, as John Belushi’s advice suggested in his great film – “National Lampoon’s Animal House” – we should all start drinking very heavily!
Colin Everton Hunte Croft is a former Guyana, Lancashire, and West Indies international fast bowler who garnered 125 Test wickets in 27 Test matches between 1977 and 1982. He was integral to the West Indies’ fearsome fast-bowling repertoire of the 70s and early 80s and has taken 8/29 against Pakistan in his debut year. It remains a West Indies record today.