Rebuilding the West Indies Cricket team to the stature it once had, is a great task and one of the surest ways to seal that revitalization is through the establishment of structures and plans to solidify gains and recruit new team members. In its mandate to rebuild West Indies cricket to its days dominance, the WICB has made it publicly known that solid performances in the Regional Four-Day and limited overs tournaments were the main paths to cementing a place in the “A” team and eventually selection to the West Indies Senior Men’s Team.
The West Indies A team’s recent successes against Sri Lanka A is one of the surest signs that the initiatives being implemented through the various franchises in Regional cricket are succeeding. Both the “Test” and “ODI” teams are comprised of players who have been outstanding over the last two season of the Regional Four-day and NAGICO Super-50 tournaments.
Stand out players such as Rahkeem Cornwall (48 wickets in 2015-2016) has been performing consistently well over the past two season and was rewarded with selection to the A team’s “Test” squad of Sri Lanka. A choice that proved to be an excellent one, as Cornwall finished the tour with 23 wickets for 456 runs, the most by any West Indian on the tour. Kyle Hope (533 run with an average of 34.55 in 2015-2016). While Kyle has been included in the A Team tour of Sri Lanka, his brother Shai who also had a solid domestic season, is a sophomore West Indies Senior player. Another standout Professional Cricket League player, Vishaul Singh of Guyana was named on the A Team. Singh smashed 161 runs in the second unofficial “Test” to help the West Indies route the Sri Lankans by 333 runs. Their largest victory of the tour.
Other players who had outstanding seasons in the WICB Professional Cricket League were, Kraigg Brathwaite, Ronston Chase, Shane Dowrich and Leon Johnson. These players have since been selected for the West Indies Senior Men’s team.
Though the results of the Senior Men’s team have not shown much success or changes over the past ten years, the WICB is hoping with the revival and solid performances of the A Team, the dynamics and results of the Senior Men’s team will change. The A team is a transitional step for the top domestic performers to get themselves noticed and acclimatized to international cricket.
International exposure is key for the development and progress of West Indies cricket. The pitches, playing conditions and players themselves are very different in South Africa, England and Australia than those in the Caribbean. The top players over the last two domestic seasons have been teammates and comrades over the years, and it can be said that they have grown accustomed to the playing styles and techniques of each other.
Though there might be slight variations in the preparation of pitches in the Caribbean, the playing conditions and temperaments of the pitches remain more or less the same. Flat and slow pitches are the modus operandi since the 2007 World Cup which was hosted here in the Caribbean. The bowlers are made to toil extra hard for wickets at times, matches are slow and spectators absent because of lackluster play. Batsmen though, are 99% of the times the benefactors of the pitches.
There is no doubt that the West Indies A consisting of the top players in WICB Regional Four-Day and NAGICO Super-50 tournaments is the most sensible and direct route to rebuilding West Indies cricket. However in addition to these domestic tournaments, cricket needs to be developed from the grassroots in all the playing territories. The players need more rigorous strength and conditioning works to get them on par with their international counterparts. Cricket is not only a physical sport but intellectual development is key in addition to technical ability. Remedial work with the players helping them to understand playing conditions, strength and weaknesses of opponents and working with the groundsmen in the preparations of better pitches around the region is also key for the development of the upcoming players who will don the maroon of the West Indies cricket team.
The results of the “Test” and “ODI” A Teams in Sri Lanka show that the Caribbean has the talent and ability to help West Indies cricket start upward mobility from the 8th and 9th positions that we currently occupy in Tests and ODIs. By no means is it an overnight transition nor an easy one, but as West Indians we are able to overcome any challenge.