The West Indies team has been in the process of rebuilding during the past six or seven years, and this has been very visible in the last two years. It was a disaster not making it to the finals of the World Series Cup (WSC). I really thought midway through the Australia tour that we were coming back well but the Sri Lankans outplayed us.
We didn’t play well in England last summer and that led to a spate of controversies: the confrontation between the team and the board and the Brian Lara issue. Questions were asked about Richie Richardson’s captaincy, whether he was producing enough as a player to be captain. Such problems are nothing new, but were glossed over in the past since we were winning all the time.
Considering we set high cricketing standards over the last two decades, an immediate drop is visible when the current team does not win regularly. But it’s not easy to churn out players of the calibre of those of the Clive Lloyd era. The void is visible and the team we have is the best we can produce.
Brian Lara’s return to the team should make a big difference, but the team shouldn’t depend excessively on him. You can’t expect Lara to score all the time. He has set himself high standards and can’t avoid the pressure. One person who disappoints me is Carl Hooper, who has pulled out of the tournament. He’s a class player who hadn’t yet delivered the goods and this was the time the team probably needed him most.
Richardson hasn’t scored the volume of runs he should score. Shivnaraine Chanderpaul may not destroy sides but will accumulate runs. Phil Simmons, who can be a good one-day player, hasn’t scored that many runs either. But Roger Harper’s coming back into the team as an all-rounder does not speak highly of West Indies cricket and shows we don’t have enough young players to pick from . A lot will depend on Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop on the bowling front.
The other point is that the team has a long tail. Apart from Ottis Gibson who had a good run in Australia, Bishop can handle himself a little bit, providing he doesn’t break down. And that leaves Ambrose and Walsh who are not the best number 10 or 11 unlike Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall who handled themselves well at the bottom. So even if the top struggled, we would have a good total to bowl at as these tailenders would have chipped in. We are looking at a very tough situation, but that’s the best we can do at the moment and we have to go in with confidence .
The West Indies, like Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England, have been playing a lot of cricket and could be tired physically and mentally. Injuries are a vital point as you have only 14 players to pick from. Ambrose, I felt after watching him in a WSC match against Sri Lanka, needs to be well - rested before the tournament. Richardson and Walsh too have been facing niggling injuries but with the amount of cricket being played now, especially one-day cricket, every team is bound to carry injuries.
Basically, all the sides are of the same calibre , tactically playing the same type of cricket and there ’s no team which you can say is going to run away with the Cup. The West Indies are under a lot of pressure because they are constantly compared to the teams of the past. This can psychologically affect the players. At the same time, considering we have won the Cup twice and in style, we hope we go into the tournament with high hopes and so perform better.