The West Indies started their Australian tour today with a four day warm up match in Brisbane today. Thank goodness that the full strength West Indies team is here. The dispute between the West Indies Players’ Association and the West Indian Cricket Board that has simmered acrimoniously for several months is at an uneasy compromise.
However, that hardly puts the West Indies in a position of strength or stability. One question has been, “Who should be captain?”. Chris Gayle was the incumbent before the strike and there is no doubt that he commands respect for his batting powers.
Sir Viv recently suggested to Cricinfo (http://www.cricinfo.com/ausvwi09/content/story/433935.html) that perhaps they should have looked at Daren Ganga. Gayle’s motivation has been questionable in the past few months, being fuelled with his own remarks that “maybe it wouldn’t be so sad if Test cricket dies out”. On the other hand, Ganga’s leadership was inspirational as he led Trinidad & Tobago in a memorable tilt in the Champions League.
It would have been a bold and decisive move for the West Indies to replace Gayle with Ganga and perhaps West Indian Cricket is not well known for such attributes. It should be noted that Ganga is not even on the tour.
Adding to the dilemma and intrigue is that just today, Gayle has returned home to be with his seriously ill mother. He is obviously missing the tour match and common sense says he must be doubtful for the 1st Test which starts next Thursday. Denesh Ramdin has taken over the reigns against Queensland.
The question of captaincy is an interesting one when it comes to the West Indies. While most nations have their factions, and these are often defined by geographical allegiances, the West Indies is actually a collection of small nations. You don’t even need to look for geographic bundaries. At the Champions League, T & T were not representing their state or province – they were representing their country. It is a challenge to lead a team of players where rivalries built on national pride exist. It has long been recognised that it takes a special man, a man of maturity and stature to lead the West Indies.
In 1960-61 in Australia, Sir Frank Worrell’s leadership received accolades starting with his opposite number, Richie Benaud, and on through the ages, beyond his untimely death. Worrell’s spirit and attitude was reflected in his team and in a series that is regarded as one of the best ever.
For 15 years, the West Indies benefited from the cool head of Clive Lloyd. He was a different man to Worrell but in his own way, he was a giant (not just physically).
Since Lloyd, the West Indies have had a string leaders, starting with Richards, who may have been superstars as players, but they sacrificed leadership for arrogance and egos. A few exceptions spring to mind (such as Courtney and Chiv) but the West Indies have been let down by their leaders for more than a decade.
What sort of a leader is Gayle? Is he an inspirational leader? Will his players make sacrifices for him? Will he make sacrifices for his team? As a batsman, he can be inspirational but I don’t think that is enough. And even his batting record does not stand up to closer scrutiny. Gayle has scored around 5,500 Test runs. His average is a shade under 40. He has scored just 10 Test centuries. To put that in perspective, the guys five either side of him on the list have scored between 14 and 18 centuries each. Gayle does have prodigious talent, but you have to question if he often enough shows the resolve to turn potential into runs. Any captain needs to be nothing, if not resolute.
Personally, I’m not so sure about Gayle. I don’t think he is the right man. I believe that the Windies hopes will be pinned on Chanderpaul (again), Sarwan and Bravo. And I almost forgot, there is a red herring. His name is Brendan Nash. If his name sounds familiar, it probably is because it is. Nash looks like an Aussie, sounds like and Aussie and is an Aussie. He was born in Western Australia and played for Queensland until 2006-07. As his father was Jamaican, Nash moved to Jamaica and within 12 months received a call up for the West Indies. It was a real call up – it was before the strike. In fact, Nash was involved in the strike.
It will be interesting to see if Nash gets a Test against his old country at his old home ground.