Cricket: Short game riches present a dilemma

By David Leggat

West Indies cricket Captain Jason Holder. Photo / Warren Buckland
West Indies cricket Captain Jason Holder. Photo / Warren Buckland

Picture yourself as a promising 19-year-old cricketer from Barbados, or St Kitts or Trinidad.

You've just seen, or maybe been part of, the under 19 World Cup-winning West Indies team, last February in Bangladesh.

Now you have watched the senior team advance to the final of the world T20 championship in thrilling fashion, toppling the hosts in their semifinal in Mumbai yesterday.

Becoming just the first team to win the title twice is a game away, and against England at that, whom the Windies belted by six wickets with 11 balls to spare, courtesy of a thunderous Chris Gayle century off 48 balls a couple of weeks ago. Add in, for good measure, the West Indies women, who beat the White Ferns by six runs yesterday, are a win away from taking their T20 crown, if they can topple Australia tomorrow night in Kolkata.

So young man, where do you think your cricket future lies? And remember, there's dollars to be made in the shortest form. You come from humble origins, and that matters. This is the dilemma for the hapless West Indies administrators.

The men are a hopeless test team, but boy can they play the short stuff. The likes of Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard - invalided out of this tournament but a violent hitter and useful medium pacer - seem temperamentally more suited to the short game. They play it well; they enjoy playing it.

Just before this championship began, someone wrote in these pages that if you were looking for a roughie to back to win it, look to the Caribbean. Roughie? Yeah right.

The skillful allrounder Bravo is 32. He played the last of his 40 tests in December 2010. Russell has played only one test, in 2010; Pollard hasn't played that many. As for Gayle, he's 36, and he has put in his time as a test player, the last of his 103 matches was two years ago.

Think of Lendl Simmons, the matchwinner in the semifinal, with his unbeaten, blazing 82 off 51 balls. He's only played eight tests, the last five years ago. Okay, he averages just 17 in the five-day game, but at 31 surely is in his prime.

So is this the time when West Indies cricket reaches a crossroads. Do they opt to throw all their weight behind the shorter games, ODI and T20, which resonate far louder with their people or plug away in test cricket, where their halcyon days of the late 1970s and through the 1980s are a fading memory?

Remember how wretched they were when Cricket Australia apparently marked their card as not to be given preferred touring status in the foreseeable future.

You feel for young test captain Jason Holder, a decent cricketer trying to inspire that rabble. If the West Indies go on to beat England again on Monday, the celebrations will be long and loud. But you wonder what sort of future they will herald for West Indian cricket.

- NZ Herald

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