By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published October 10, 2016
Dwayne Bravo and Joel Garner have a difference of opinion about the performance and preparation of the West Indies team for the UAE tour against Pakistan. Whom should we believe?
A few weeks ago, I went scouring through the Supreme and Appellate court databases to see if my civil case regarding an accident that happened almost seven years was going to be called up. To my surprise, I pounced upon another case between one of my career mentors/spiritual role models, and his aunt. The judge after hearing both sides of the story – involving the two – formulated what he thought was the truth and delivered his verdict.
Last week, there were conflicting stories from members of West Indies cricket regarding the mood, preparation, and performance of the West Indies cricket team, who is on tour against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Former ODI captain Dwayne Bravo during an interview on Trinidad radio station i95.5 FM, painted a picture of a team dejected and in despair after the loss of their head coach, Phil Simmons. If somehow you did not hear, Simmons was fired unceremoniously, moments before the team left for UAE. After Bravo’s comments, the team manager – former Test and ODI great – Joel Garner airbrushed aside Bravo’s allegations and sketched a portrait of a team that was well prepared for the task at hand against Pakistan. Whom should the fans believe?
The West Indies team went to UAE to play three T20Is, three ODIs, and three Test matches against Pakistan. So far, with only the three Test matches remaining, West Indies have been whitewashed in the T20 and One-Day series 3-0 each. The series loss, in both formats, by the West Indies to a team ranked below them is embarrassing, but what is ugly is the manner of the defeats. West Indies, the reigning T20 World Cup champions, lost the three T20Is resoundingly to Pakistan by nine wickets (with 34 balls remaining), 16 runs and by eight wickets (with 29 balls remaining). In all three games, West Indies failed to achieve the T20I par score of 150 runs: astonishing! And they lost ODIs by 111, 59 and 136 runs respectively.
“I’ve been in the team for 12 years and if it is one coach I actually see come there and the players really, really look up to and really enjoyed playing for [was Simmons]. The players had that trust with Simmons and it is no longer there anymore,” declared Bravo, who arrived in UAE on September 22, the day before the first T20I match.
“I’m very passionate about the game so whenever I step on a cricket field I give a hundred per cent. But the honest truth is, it is very difficult for a bunch of guys – collectively – 15 guys to switch on and go play in a series when on the day of the team travelling, they find out that their head coach was fired. Which organization in the world would do things like that?”
The under siege West Indies Cricket Board and its directors decided to fire Simmons 18 months after hiring him to turn around the stock of West Indies cricket.
“We went on, we won the [T20] World Cup … [we played well] in the Tri-Nations against two very powerful ODI teams and yet still, moments before the team flies to Dubai, they fired the coach so it will definitely affect the morale of the team and the players,” Bravo alluded.
“[Simmons was] the most successful coach the team had in recent years in his short stint. I’m sure the people of the Caribbean see the positive signs with and within the team,” Bravo continued.
Whilst the team did relatively well in the shorter formats, especially in T20, Simmons was hired to transform the poverties of West Indies in the Test format. Unfortunately, it is in that area that Simmons failed to create inroads and thus the board terminated his tenure.
Team manager Garner, whilst not speaking to the trust issue Bravo brought up, he surmised, “This team was well prepared to engage Pakistan considering the conditions and the adjustments that were necessary to bring meaningful benefits to this team. Whilst change is difficult to manage, none of the players were neglected by the coaching and support staff in the execution of their duties.”
Although the players have not been neglected by the coaching or support staff, it seems the players have neglected the instructions of the management team since Simmons firing. Their display on the field hints at them being lost.
“I was there in Dubai and basically players were lost, the management team looked lost … we were looking like school kids again. The team meetings had no sort of positive input or anything like that. It was like we were just there,” said Bravo.
Years ago, I remember a female student I had in my class who came from a non-traditional high school. She was a hardworking student who did extremely well on the first test I gave her. Her father died suddenly and it seemed as if life was taken away from her. For days on end, she would be in class, on the college compound, or in her exams and seemed totally lost. That is how the West Indies players look with these lacklustre performances on the field: lost and overcome by grief.
It took that student some time – a year or two maybe – for her to pull herself out of the abyss of grief and find joy again. I hope this is not what West Indian fans should expect of the current crop of West Indies players.
Though the players are professionals, they can be injured both physically and mentally. The WICB made a logical decision in firing Simmons based on the expectations and performance in the longer format and the “differences in culture and strategic approach”.
From observations, it seems both Bravo and Garner may be telling the truth. The difference is Bravo is speaking mostly to the mental health and preparation of the team while Garner is speaking to the physical health and preparation. Both are important, some believe one may be more important. But then again, which do you believe is more important?
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning freelance sportswriter whose articles have been published by ESPN Cricinfo, Western Mirror, The Jamaica Observer, Trinidad Express, Essentially Sports and others.
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on October 10, 2016.