Cricket Xtra: West Indies cricket is crumbling

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Simmons (c) was sacked after speaking out over selection.

West Indies cricket is in crisis. This piece of news has been played in loop for such a long time now, it doesn‘t elicit the same response as it once used to, and should do. Nowadays, when fans face another revelation about the poor state of Caribbean cricket, all they can do is shake their head in familiar disbelief.

One crisis is generally enough to rock the boat. The West Indies had two within the span of a few days. First came the news of West Indies coach Phil Simmons being suspended for his comments on selection policy. He was unhappy with the ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour, stating that he was not given the best possible ODI team.

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He wanted experienced all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard to be considered for selection after garnering the support of captain Jason Holder and Clive Lloyd, the chairman of selectors. But the views of those actually handling the team didn’t matter as they were out-voted during the selection meeting, which didn’t go down well with Simmons.

As soon as the coach made his displeasure public, the West Indies Cricket Board suspended the former all-rounder and asked for an explanation from him. Irrespective of the end result of this confrontation, the fissures in West Indies cricket are out in the open. The mistrust between the players and administrators, which led to the team suspending last year’s India tour mid way that led to Bravo and Pollard’s exclusion in the first place, has reached such a toxic level that the results on the field just don’t seem to matter.

It’s poignant that this act of seeming indifference towards the health of Caribbean cricket came a few days before the West Indies were officially out of the reckoning for a spot in the 2017 Champions Trophy. The elite ODI tournament only has places for the top eight ranked teams and as of September 30 – the cut-off date for the tournament – the West Indies weren’t one of them. Bangladesh made the cut and that pretty much sums up the state of West Indies cricket. 

A team that gained Test status at the start of this century has overtaken the two-time world champions for a place in the championship. It’s evident that the situation is dire in West Indies cricket. The real fear now is that the national team is becoming irrelevant to international cricket. 

Make no mistake, Caribbean cricketers are hot property when it comes to Twenty20 leagues around the world. A Chris Gayle, Pollard, Bravo or Sunil Narine will continue to attract big bucks for their talent in T20 but the national side will continue sliding into obscurity. The more the infighting goes on, the more the matches involving the West Indies lose their importance.

If the pathetic state of affairs continues, it won’t be long before people start questioning their Test status. I know they have a proud and rich history but most would agree that Ireland will offer a much better fare in the five-day game than the West Indies can hope to at this point.

But there are still some among us who remain optimistic. They hold on to memories of an era gone by where outlandishly talented individuals kept their personal differences aside and played to succeed on the field. Their numbers are dwindling by the day and when the last supporter switches sides, West Indies cricket would have reached a point of no return. And looking at the way the West Indies board is handling its affairs, they are speeding towards it. 

Early warning signs
The first T20 between India and South Africa was a high-scoring affair and the Proteas came out on top while chasing a stiff target at the picturesque Dharamsala stadium. It’s never easy chasing 200 in a T20 but South Africa coasted towards the total.

While it’s difficult to gauge where a team stands from a T20 performance, some assessments can be made. Firstly, it is clear India are in for a tough time against South Africa at home, which happens every tour. Secondly, batsmen from both sides look in form and one should expect some scintillating batsmanship over the next couple of months across formats.

And thirdly, India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will play the biggest role in India’s performances. The Proteas proved they can match India’s batsmen shot for shot. Where the Indians have the edge is spin bowling and Ashwin showed he is miles ahead of everyone during the T20 game.

His flight and control was mesmerising to watch and in a game where the Indians leaked 200 runs, Ashwin gave way just 26 runs from his four overs and also took the prized scalp of AB de Villiers after the batsman was well set.

Ashwin has raised his game to a new level and given the way the Proteas struggled to play him, he should look forward to some fruitful days on the field. As for the Proteas, the most pragmatic way of tackling him would be to simply play him out. It’s going to be riveting.

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South Africa's Behardien backs multiple captain approach

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Keeping things fresh: Behardien.

Middle-order batsman Farhaan Behardien believes South Africa’s policy of fielding different captains in the three formats of the game keeps the think-tank buzzing with fresh ideas, especially on their current tour of India spread over 72 days.

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Faf du Plessis leads the South Africans in Twenty20s, AB de Villiers in one-day internationals and Hashim Amla in Tests.

Behardien, 32, feels another aspect that drives the Proteas forward is that all captains bring in different characteristics and lead from the front.

South Africa have already begun their tour on a bright note by winning the first Twenty20 game by seven wickets on Friday and are in a buoyant mood ahead of the second game of the three-match series in Cuttack on Monday night.

“AB, Faf and Hash command different kind of respect. It’s nice to have new and fresh ideas in all three formats especially on a long tour like this to India (involving three T20s, five ODIs and four Tests). All three lead by example.

“For one guy to captain in all three formats becomes a bit tough to go from press conferences, to team selections and worry about your own performances. So the split captaincy takes away the pressure. They are massive players for us in all formats, and this keeps them fresh and all the teammates enjoy this fresh perspective.”

Hosts India will be aiming to put up an improved bowling display after failing to defend a formidable target of 200 in the first match. 

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New BCCI president Manohar vows to improve dented image

Kuldip Lal 5/10/2015
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On a mission: Manohar.

Shashank Manohar, who was unanimously elected president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Sunday, vowed to restore the governing body’s image after a string of corruption scandals over the past few years.

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The Nagpur-based lawyer, 58, succeeds veteran administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya, who died last month, in what is arguably the most powerful job in world cricket.

Manohar, who had earlier served as BCCI president between 2008 and 2011, will remain at the helm for two years.

Dalmiya’s death had triggered a bitter succession battle within the faction-ridden BCCI, with former chief Sharad Pawar a key contender for the post.

But Pawar, a veteran politician, backed out of the race after reportedly being opposed by the nation’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. It paved the way for Manohar to emerge as a consensus candidate in the election held during a special general body meeting of the board in Mumbai on Sunday.

Manohar, who has a squeaky-clean image and a no-nonsense approach to cricket administration, will be charged with restoring the BCCI’s credibility. He is an exception among power-hungry officials in the chaotic and often turbulent world of the cash-rich BCCI.

Manohar hates being in the spotlight and is often regarded as a recluse who is known to shun mobile phones and even a watch. He did not possess a passport until he was required to travel abroad to attend meetings during his first stint as BCCI president.

But behind that introvert veneer lies a hard taskmaster, with many in the BCCI seeing him as the best man to usher in a new era. 

“The BCCI is a huge brand which has been created by the love of fans,” Manohar told a news conference after his election on Sunday.

“The confidence of fans has been shaken in recent times by some unpleasant things that have taken place. The duty of the board is to rebuild its image on a priority basis.”

Manohar said he planned to appoint an independent ombudsman – or an ethics officer – to take up any dispute involving Indian cricket.

“I plan to lay down norms to prevent corruption in the game,” he said. “A perception exists that the BCCI is not transparent and has something to hide because information does not come out.

“To clear this myth, all the financial dealings of the board, including the balance sheet, will be posted on the BCCI website.”

“In two months’ time all these things about which I have spoken will be implemented in full force,” he added.

Manohar’s elevation is expected to be a setback for Narayanswami Srinivasan, the controversial head of the International Cricket Council, who was stood down as BCCI president by the Supreme Court last year over conflict of interest charges.

Manohar has publicly blamed Srinivasan for bringing the BCCI into disrepute following a Supreme Court probe that found Srinivasan’s son-in-law guilty of corruption in the Indian Premier League.

It remains to be seen if the Manohar-led BCCI will endorse Srinivasan’s bid to serve out his two-year term as ICC chairman which ends in June next year.

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