BY BRYAN DAVIS
TOBY Radford is the Welshman who was employed by Cricket West Indies some years ago as the coach responsible for supervising the WI Cricket Academy in Barbados. Afterwards, he was made the batting coach of the WI team. He returned to England in 2019 when the new administration of WI cricket, under president Ricky Skerritt, changed the coaching set-up.
Radford has made some serious comments about the fitness of the present WI players and, for what it’s worth, I cannot agree with him more. His bold, positive statements pulled no punches. One of his most potent remarks was “Everybody has got to be treated the same way, tested the same way and whatever the results are, the decision that’s made for A has to be the decision made for B, C, D, E, F and G as well.”
Radford suggests, “At the moment it’s being used however they want to select.”
Then he added, “For testing to be fair, everybody should be in the same place on the same day doing the same test, and you can all see them doing it.
“When you start doing it at different times, and this person had a waiver and that person’s got a waiver, it gets messy and then it’s open to people looking at it (the process) and saying, ‘What went on here?’ And even if it was fair, it doesn’t look fair.”
The fantastic West Indies team that ruled the world during the 80s and half of the 90s is a powerful case in point. There’s no way selectors or trainers would’ve got away with revealing such a lack of integrity.
When the Kerry Packer revolution in cricket started in 1977, 15 West Indian players signed up to join World Series Cricket.
Michael Holding, WI icon, delivered the feature address at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club’s annual awards dinner some 20 years ago and told this story.
Packer stormed into the dressing room after WI had done badly in yet another game, while players were relaxing. Packer threw airline tickets on the table. telling the cricketers that they were the biggest attraction in his entire competition, but if that’s the type of cricket they were going to play, he might as well cancel his investment. He was not prepared to finance the deal any more.
“It is over, and those are your airline tickets back to the West Indies.”
There was a tension-filled few minutes of awkward silence when Packer left the room, then Viv Richards told the men, “We have to do something about this.”
After a team discussion and an apology to Packer, they organised with Packer’s officials and got on with the business of playing cricket. A cricket trainer, Dennis Waithe, was attached to the team and Holding described how they got down to tough training and lots of practice.
They didn’t lose a game after that and were victorious in the tournament.
Holding’s conclusion to the QPCC members was that the experience brought unity and improved dedication through a new understanding of what being a professional meant. Then, through the leadership of Clive Lloyd and Richards, they went out and conquered the world for the next 15 years. Holding explained that the importance of fitness contributes to the improvement of cricketers’ performances.
Waithe stayed with the team throughout the WI cricket years of dominance. Unfortunately, he walked out after 20 years when he could not get subsequent players to follow his training schedule. This was in South Africa (1998/99), under Brian Lara. It is no coincidence that WI lost that series five-nil – the first time that had ever happened.
Another Aussie, Bryce Kavanagh, took over, and lasted three weeks. After this brief time, Kavanagh said the players were not taking it seriously and did not know what basic training was. Plus, they lacked interest. They would arrive late for sessions and some would not appear at all. When they were reported, frustrated managers would just allow things to slide.
This indiscipline is still very much present. Hence the WI team is unfit for international competition.
Holding’s story indicates the need for that professionalism.
No team should ever get away with excuses of medical exemptions.
So in 2022, for WI to improve their game, they need to:
Work harder at their physical fitness
Bat, bowl and catch for longer hours at practice
This should enable them to adjust to any confrontation they encounter, which ought to build self-confidence, and thus a winning attitude.