West Indies v IPL is cricket’s crucial contest
The series between West Indies and Australia has been intriguing, but David Green can’t ignore the absence of some key players
Representing your country should be the ultimate aim for any sportsperson, and for a cricketer it doesn’t get much bigger than a home Test series against Australia; or so you would think.
Whilst this may be true for an Indian, South African and especially an English cricketer, the same cannot be sadly said for some of the current generation of West Indian players.
As well as comparing the remarkable victory in the first Test in Bridgetown to the infamous Adelaide win over England in 2006, Michael Clarke made another illuminating comment in the throes of celebration when he reflected on his beaten opponents: “I think they’re probably in a tough position because they haven’t got a full-strength team, do they? That must be hard for them”.
Kevin Pietersen may have pointed out that there are a lot of “second rate Australians getting gigs” in the IPL, but can anyone imagine any of them turning down the chance to wear the Baggy Green in order to to earn a fast buck in the IPL or any other spurious Twenty20 tournament? Thought not.
However, for the West Indies selectors their task of picking a side to beat Australia is severely handicapped by the fact that a number of its top players are unavailable for selection as they are fulfilling lucrative contracts with their IPL franchises. This is in the main due to the uneasy truce between the WICB and WIPA, which means the former has had to give consent for certain contracted players to put the IPL ahead of playing Test cricket for the West Indies. To put it frankly, it is an absolute disgrace.
There is not enough time here to go into the rights and wrongs of the long ongoing dispute between the WICB and Gayle. But suffice to say it doesn’t reflect well on either party. The very premise of a batsman as gifted as Gayle wanting to ration the amount of international cricket he plays in order to enrich himself by playing in a foreign domestic league is both unedifying and of grievous concern.
Sadly, the problem is not confined to Gayle. Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels both featured in the recent limited overs matches with Australia prior to the start of the IPL, and would likely have contested the number six spot in the Test side if they hadn’t opted to play for Chennai and Pune respectively instead.
Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell would also both have had a case to be named in the Test side. Pollard’s batting in the 50 over form has shown increased maturity in the last year and perhaps like David Warner, he would be able to transfer that to the longest form of the game. Russell is one of those cricketers that makes things happen, but instead of playing chin music with the Australian batsmen, he is warming the bench for Delhi.
The most worrying case involves Sunil Narine. He had the Australian batsmen tied up in knots during the ODI series and Otis Gibson would have liked nothing better than to unleash him again on the pitches prepared in Bridgetown and Port-of-Spain. We don’t know yet whether Narine is something special – a new demon spinner in the mould of a Warne or Muralitharan, or a flash-in-the-pan one-trick-pony like Ajantha Mendis who will quickly fade once batsmen work him out. It would have been fascinating to have discovered more in the Test series – alas he is instead fulfilling a $700,000 contract for Kolkata with Gibson powerless to call him into the Test squad as his board had neglected to give the player a central contract.
The scheduling of the IPL at the time of year when the West Indies are usually playing their home Tests doesn’t help, nor does the regular clashing of swords between the WICB and the WIPA or the vagaries of the small print of player contracts, but something has to give as trying to muddle through without your best batsman, mystery spinner and a quartet of burgeoning all-rounders puts you at a serious disadvantage. Imagine England going into a home series without Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad? That is why Clarke generously referred to the West Indies’ “tough position”.
It must be the masochistic nature of cricket fans as despite their sides having all taken numerous and regular beatings at the hands of the all-powerful West Indies sides of the late seventies, eighties and early nineties, most yearn for a resurgence in Caribbean cricket. There are early signs that this could be possible with the likes of youngsters Darren Bravo, Kemar Roach and Devendra Bishoo all performing well in the last 12 months, but what happens if the IPL franchises start waving cheques with lots of zeroes in their faces?
The very future of the West Indian cricket side could depend on what happens off the field over the next two to three years. With a seemingly inept board, players motivated more by money than the honour of wearing the maroon cap and the predatory nature of the IPL franchises, confidence can sadly not be high.
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