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Saturday, June 9, 2012


Christopher Gayle’s re-entry and Ernest Hilaire’s imminent exit from West Indies Cricket may be worthy of profound reflection, partly because of the limitations these two "monster" gladiators have imposed on our progress in the game.

And indeed two questions merit reflection and analysis: (1) Are Chris Gayle and Ernest Hilaire the biggest failures in contemporary West Indies cricket? (2) Has WI cricket suffered irretrievable collateral damage in the struggle between these two warring gladiators?

While Gayle - a product seeking the highest bidder - brought much honour and glory to himself in the DLF/IPL T20 format of the game, he may equally have also jeopardized his own legacy in West Indies cricket. No amount of money earned can erase or reverse that legacy.

Comparatively speaking, despite Gayle’s formidability with the bat – earning the reputation as a hard-hitting colossus - and his overwhelming success at the IPL level, Gayle must be regarded as a colossal failure in West Indies cricket; and given the circumstances that circumscribe international test cricket, he may well continue this trend of failure, despite being an IPL multi-millionaire.

When Hilaire assumed the position of CEO, many of us had high expectations of him. We thought he was bringing a “calculus” to the table for helping WI out of the black holes of vandettas and skirmishes that crippled our progress in cricket; only to discover that he too fell into those same holes and might have even augmented them.

The reality is WIPA soon recognized Hilaire’s leadership weaknesses and exploited them mercilessly. In that sense, Hilaire typified the contemporary West Indian batsman, constantly falling into the “bowling traps” that WIPA set for him. Amidst all this, the sorry story of collateral damage to west Indies cricket continued unabated.

It is against that background that that Professor Beckles article “Cricket, Cash and Country” – despite being WICB-centric - is relevant. It is a brilliant academic treatise on contemporary WI cricket and it has far-reaching significance.

The thesis underpinning the Professor’s article is our cricket is now driven by a sense of self-seeking materialism, and not necessarily by patriotism. That view was underscored by Gayle’s irresistible performances in the recently concluded DFL/IPL. His recording-setting knock of 128 (not out) for the RCB on same day that West Indies team was reeling at 243 for 9 against England at Lords was more than a symbolic representation of where Gayle was headed.

Even if RCB didn’t make it to the semifinal and final knockout stages, Gayle’s batting aggregate of over 750 runs was insurmountable at the end of the DLF/IPL series.

A few questions therefore emerge:
(1) Does Gayle only perform in proportion to magnitude of the monetary rewards?
(2) Can he transfer his mastery and consistency in T20 cricket to Test Cricket? 
(3) Has he now matured and is only now ready for the game?

Now that he has been called back into the team, we should soon know the answers to those questions. And whatever the answers, we will agree that it’s unfortunate that he has not brought that quality of batsmanship to test cricket, especially when it was most needed during his stint as captain of the WI team.

Indeed, Professor Beckles article provided us with a model to rationalise Gayle’s “transition” from average performances in international Test cricket to sheer brilliance and unbelievable consistency in the DLF-IPL T20 version of the game. In that regard, I want to pay tribute to Dr Beckles seeming “gut” feelings of honesty and seeming sense of patriotism.

On the other hand, Dr Beckles article also suggests that the Board may be in “a state of siege” and are looking for something to hang on! After all, we haven’t savoured victory for a long time now and any straw would be welcomed!

One such straw was the untenable attribution of a “Walcott-type captaincy” to Sammy. Yes, Sammy has shown some significant improvement!  But despite those (which include a maiden test century against the world’s top ranked team); but that attribution is largely hypothetical and perhaps too premature.  Sammy has had a few performance spikes; but tis much too early to award Sammy with any “Walcott-type” honour just yet!

The ultimate question is: Will the return of Gayle and the exit of Hilaire make a difference? Will it lay the framework for a better West Indies cricket? If Gayle’s propensity for power-hitting can terrorized his adversaries on the field of play, then it may well bring some short-term gain to the WI; but I must confess that the future lies not with Gayle, but with the younger generation (Sammy, Bravo (Darren), Samuels, Ramdin, Narine, Roach and Rampaul); once these young guys can overcome the psychological hurdles and begin to bat and bowl with a sense of patriotism, courage and purpose, then we are well on our way!

With the warmongers getting out and the potential for the collateral damage minimized, there is perhaps no better time to begin to make a mark. 

All I can say is "Let us pray"!

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