Does West Indies cricket warrant a State of Emergency?

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published January 22, 2018

Some have suggested that a State of Emergency may be warranted in West Indies cricket. CWI President Dave Cameron has been enacting radical changes to West Indies cricket’s structure. Will he get to see the changes bear the intended fruits?

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right), flanked by his national security minister Robert Montague (centre) and the Chief of Defence Staff Major General Rocky Meade (left), declared last week a State of Public Emergency for the parish of St James in Jamaica.
(Source: Jamaica Information Service)

Last week Thursday, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, placed the parish of St James under a state of public emergency. St James, whose capital Montego Bay is dubbed the tourism capital of the country, has been under siege in recent years by an upsurge in crime.

In 2016, the murder rate for St James topped all parishes in Jamaica at 140 murders per 100,000 residents. Bearing in mind that the most murderous countries in the world have murder rates at approximately 80 murders per 100,000 residents, the situation in St James was indeed troubling. In 2017 there was no respite in St James as murders ascended to even more alarming levels at 180 murders per 100,000 residents. As such, last Thursday, Operation Take Back St James or Montego Bay – as some have called it – was in full execution as hundreds of soldiers and police officers patrolled several communities and major exit points in St James. Continue reading

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New South Africa evokes memories of old West Indies

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published January 15, 2018

After West Indian-born South African head coach Ottis Gibson fielded a four-pronged pace attack in the first Test against India, many believe the West Indianisation of South Africa cricket is in progress.

It’s party time at the Wanderers, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day, December 22, 2013.
© Getty Images

Last week I eagerly awaited the start of the Test series between South Africa and India in the country of Nelson Mandela’s birth. The last time the Indians visited, it was a breathtaking series. One match, in particular, stands out vividly in my memory from just over four years ago and that was the first Test. With a first-innings lead of 36, India scored 421 runs in their second innings to set South Africa a mammoth 458 runs for victory. South Africa surprisingly replied with a score of 450 runs for seven wickets when the number of overs and the match ended in a pulsating draw. If South Africa had overhauled the target, they would have shattered the record for the highest fourth innings score to win a Test match.

I remember Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander at the crease in the end. Both players desperately wanted to go for the win, however, their captain at the time, Graeme Smith, directing them from the dressing room, advised them not to. I believe the South African coach at the time was Gary Kirsten and he along with Smith must have made that final decision. Continue reading

2017 Year in Review: A year of Hope turned into utter grief

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published January 8, 2018

A review of West Indies cricket performances in 2017 revealed a year which began with a mixed bag of Hope. However, the year eventually ended in sheer despair. 

When the West Indies ended 2016, several fans and pundits harboured hope of a resurgence in 2017 of the fortunes of West Indies cricket. In fact, West Indies teams had won three world titles in 2016: the under-19 ODI World Cup, the women’s T20 World Cup and the men’s T20 World Cup. As a result, for the first time in umpteen years, hope sprung eternal in the breasts of all West Indian fans. West Indies also won their last Test match of the year in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan, their only Test win in 2016 and only their third overseas victory against a team ranked in the top-8 since 2000.

In that match and series against Pakistan, the perennial and downtrodden fans of West Indies cricket could be heard saying how the boys showed character, fight and did some things right. As such, West Indian supporters held a fragile belief that 2017 would be the year the team turned the eternal and proverbial corner. However, it was not to be. Continue reading

We Are Witnessing Two of the Greatest Ever

By Zaheer Clarke

Published December 11, 2017

In Virat Kohli and Steven Smith, we are witnessing two of the greatest batsmen to ever play the game. 

Michael Clarke cracks emotionally during a tribute to Phillip Hughes before play in the first Test between Australia and India on the 1st day, December 9, 2014.
©Getty Images

For me, December 9, 2014, symbolises a remarkable turning point in cricket history. This day marked the beginning of the Border-Gavaskar Test series, which was hotly contested between Australia and India with the Aussies forever hospitable hosts. Two weeks prior, Phil Hughes, one of Australia’s promising batsman and their youngest ever twin centurion in a Test match, died tragically after a bouncer struck him in the neck during a Sheffield Shield match. On the morning of December 9, 2014, the entire country was still mourning. Tears flowed down the cheeks of every member of the worldwide cricket fraternity and it just kept on pouring.

At the beginning of the series, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith were considered batsmen with immense promise. However, they had not delivered on their potential in the most arduous format of the game, Test cricket. At the time, Kohli and Smith were averaging 39 and 40 respectively with the bat in Tests while Darren Bravo, dubbed the next Brian Lara by West Indian hopefuls, was averaging 43 in the same format. Since then, Kohli and Smith’s careers have soared in terms of runs and batting averages while that of Bravo’s has plummeted. Continue reading

The last time West Indies’ middle-order collapsed like dominoes

By Zaheer Clarke

Published December 4, 2017

West Indies’ middle-order collapsed against New Zealand, losing 5 wickets for 22 runs. West Indies’ middle order has had worse collapses in 1957 and 1986. The next time should be 2047 or later. 

Neil Wagner (left) unleashed a flurry of short balls that left the West Indies line-up reeling on December 1, 2017, during the 1st Test between New Zealand and West Indies in Wellington.
©Getty Images

In cricket, the opening batsmen bat at positions one and two, the middle-order is considered to be from positions three through seven, while the tail begins from positions eight to eleven. Last Thursday, at the start of the first Test match between New Zealand and the West Indies, the West Indies team lost their middle-order for a startling 22 runs. It was atrocious, ridiculous and calamitous.

Analysts and statisticians like myself pointed to this being West Indies third-least runs added in Test cricket history for the loss of wickets three through seven in an innings. In an ungodly fashion, West Indies’ middle-order, which was coasting at 79 runs for the loss of two wickets after losing their second wicket at 75 runs, later became unhinged and buckled to 97 runs for seven wickets. It was unbelievable and cringeworthy. West Indies later crawled to 134 runs before being all out in 45.4 overs. It was a wretched performance by the team. To be frank and disappointed, short-pitched bowling, which was once the staple of West Indies cricket, was the ultimate demise of the West Indies middle-order, with Neil Wagner bagging seven wickets for 39 runs. Continue reading