CRICKET: No more prima donnas in West Indies teams

By February 12, 2020

Last week Monday, Cricket West Indies’ selection panel released the names of the 15-member squad for the upcoming One-Day International (ODI) Series in Sri Lanka. It was not the routine formal announcement of a group of names but rather a statement to the international cricketing world to ‘sit up and take notice,’ that West Indies cricket is serious business once again.

Evin Lewis, the most outstanding batsman in the recent home series against Ireland, and the young Guyanese batsman, Shimron Hetmyer were the surprising omissions from the team for the Sri Lankan tour. According to Roger Harper, the Chairman of the Selection Committee, they “missed out due to the fact that they came up short in the fitness test.” Apparently, there are now new minimum fitness standards.

“They will be missed, Lewis was the team’s best batsman in the recent Colonial Medical Insurance ODI Series against Ireland where he batted with great composure and proved the bedrock for the team’s series win. Hetmyer appeared to be getting his act together and was an integral part of the team’s batting group,” Harper was further quoted as saying.

Despite being the “bedrock’ and ‘an integral part’ of the line-up, there are no places for Lewis and Hetmyer. The message has been sent loud and clear. There are no longer any guaranteed places in the team, emphasis on the word team, here. The days of the ‘Me Generation’ are finally over. Over the hill players, or rather passengers, limping and incapable of running threes (as we witnessed at last year’s ICC World Cup), need not announce their availability via social media. There are no longer any reserved places for prima donnas.

“Success in sports is based on four interconnected pillars – fitness, physical skill, tactics and strategy, and mental skills. If any one of these pillars is weak, performance will suffer,” Dr. Rudi Webster, renowned sports psychologist, stated whilst delivering a lecture in Barbados in early 2015. No doubt, after long and considerable thought and discussion, the selection committee has opted to cull the weak and garner only the fittest to wear the maroon on the field of play.

One common factor throughout the rampaging juggernaut that was West Indian cricket in the 1980s and early 1990s was the continuous presence on the team of the Australian trainer/physiotherapist Dennis Waite, a holdover from the Packer days. Anyone arriving early for a game involving the West Indies, be it a Test match or an ODI, got the bonus of witnessing Waite putting the players through an intense workout. There was no malingering here. All the players participated, and there was intense competition to try and keep pace with Waite during these strenuous sessions. It was not an uncommon sight back then to witness Waite and several players running back to the hotel after a game rather than riding on the team bus.

Following Waite’s departure from the team (no clues for guessing under whose captaincy this ignominious act was committed), there was a noticeable decline in the team’s fittest levels, one of the contributing factors to the rut that the West Indies have found themselves in for the past several years.

Whilst Lewis and Hetmyer find themselves at home, the two recalled players, top order batsman, Darren Bravo and allrounder, Rovman Powell, following outstanding performances in the early rounds of the Regional Four Day Competition will look to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

In the meanwhile, Hetmyer, who has been chosen to represent Guyana in the match versus the Windward Island Volcanoes starting tomorrow in St. George’s, Grenada, should seek the counsel of the Guyana Assistant Coach, Shiv Chanderpaul. No one, in recent times, worked harder at attaining and maintaining his fitness levels than Shiv, who also spent countless hours honing his batting skills at nets and facing a bowling machine.

How will Lewis and Hetmyer respond to their dropping from the West Indies team? We expect the two lefthanders, who both possess great potential, to show their true mettle and earn the selectors’ nod for their return once they demonstrate that they are ready to commit to being international cricketers.

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Comments

  • Ron Saywack  On February 13, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Citing fitness as the reason: “Evin Lewis, the most outstanding batsman in the recent home series against Ireland, and the young Guyanese batsman, Shimron Hetmyer, were the surprising omissions from the team (for the Sri Lanka tour) …”

    Had this criterion been used in the past, Chris Gayle would not have played too many games for the West Indies. On 1 April 2007 at Providence Stadium, I was seated in the Western stands in the West Indies vs. Sri Lanka match. (Bharrat Jagdeo stopped by to shake hands and take some pictures with the fans.)

    West Indies won the toss and elected to field first. The Sri Lankan openers and the umpires were out in the middle first. West Indies walked down the stairs slowly and huddled for a team talk before dispersing to their respective fielding positions.

    Chris Gayle looked as if he should have in bed instead of a cricket field. He appeared tired and sluggish, somnolent. Apparently, the chap had been out partying late the night before with some Guyanese beauties.

    Maybe this new approach to fitness will help those omitted fight harder to reclaim and keep their spots on the team; and an overall improvement in West Indies’ performances on the world stage.

    Ron Saywack.

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