West Indies December 26, 2016

Three steps forward, three steps back

West Indies' year began brightly with a trio of world titles, but then predictable bad blood between players and administrators affected results
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The brilliant and the mediocre made for another unpredictable and challenging year in West Indies cricket.

The unprecedented and unexpected capture of three global limited-overs titles in the first half of the year was tempered by more off-field controversy that affected performances in the latter half. What the West Indies' men's and women's sides and their Under-19 side achieved between February and April is a collective feat that might never be repeated. It was a reminder of what the Caribbean region can still offer to world cricket.

First, the Under-19s impressed with their intelligent play, culminating in Keemo Paul and Keacy Carty steering them to a five-wicket victory over India in the 50-over World Cup final in Bangladesh, after pace find Alzarri Joseph had helped to limit India to 145. It was West Indies' first triumph at this level.

That was on February 14. Then came April 3, in India, when the senior men and women completed the hat-trick. Through 18-year-old opener Hayley Matthews and skipper Stafanie Taylor, the women's side coolly chased 149 to beat Australia and capture their first World T20 title.

Mere hours later, under the lights in Kolkata, the icing was put on a very sweet cake when Darren Sammy's seasoned side snatched a dramatic victory over England in the men's T20 final through the last-over heroics of one Carlos Brathwaite.

When Brathwaite sent his final six into the stands to end the match with two balls to spare, there didn't seem to be anything that could sour the moment for West Indies cricket as a whole. But when Sammy took the microphone for his post-match comments, the mood changed as he took issue with the WICB's handling of the team uniforms for the tournament and the lack of any words of support from president Dave Cameron prior to the final. The WICB felt compelled to issue a press release in which Cameron apologised to the fans for what he termed "inappropriate" comments to a global audience.

Darren Sammy led his side to a World T20 triumph - and then immediately laid into the board © Associated Press

Those statements by Sammy proved to be among his last public utterances in his capacity as West Indies captain. By August, Sammy, who had also been the team spokesman when the players questioned their remuneration for the World T20 prior to the tournament, was sacked.

"I got a call yesterday morning - it was probably 30 seconds - from the chairman of selectors telling me that they've reviewed the captaincy of T20 and I won't be captain any more of the T20 team, [and] my performances have not merited selection in the squad," he said via video on Facebook.

And, by the time the new world champions got to the UAE for the T20I, ODI and Test series against Pakistan in September, they had also lost coach Phil Simmons after 18 months in the job. That brought to an end a tenure that had been marked by a fractious relationship between the coach, Cameron, and director of cricket Richard Pybus, stemming from public complaints Simmons had made in 2015 about "outside interference" in team selection.

"In recent times, based on the public pronouncements of the coach and the approach internally, we have identified differences in culture and strategic approach," the WICB said via press release, announcing Simmons' departure.

The effect of the coach's firing on the eve of the tour was immediate and negative. Sammy's replacement, Carlos Brathwaite presided over a 3-0 whitewash in the UAE T20Is, with senior players Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard claiming that the team had been affected by Simmons' removal and its timing.

In all formats, West Indies won 11 out of 33 games in 2016. Predictably, they did best in T20Is, winning six out of 11. But the lack of sufficient players of experience in the Tests and absence of the very best men in ODIs, meant that those teams, led by Jason Holder, continued to struggle. The ODI team's chances of automatic qualification for the next World Cup were hurt as they won just one match in the tri-series with Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

Nevertheless, the year did not end in total gloom. After the disastrous limited-overs leg of the UAE tour, West Indies showed improvement in the three-Test series, reflecting a certain amount of character and determination. Their five-wicket win in the third Test, in Sharjah, delivered by opener Kraigg Brathwaite, was indication that this group could improve with time.

The way 2016 started for West Indies teams, the future should be bright. That would be a logical assumption. The resumption of cricketing relations with India after the abandoned 2014 tour was also a plus; so too were the flashes of inspiration shown by players in whom West Indies cricket has invested much, men like Kraigg Brathwaite, legspinner Devendra Bishoo and fast bowler Shannon Gabriel. Batting allrounder Roston Chase and explosive opening bat Evin Lewis showed enough talent to be persisted with. And while Jason Holder is still struggling to manage his load both as captain and allrounder, there were signs towards year's end that he was at least becoming more of the wicket-taker his team requires.

Nineteen to get off the last over? Call Carlos © Associated Press

The emergence of young talents like Joseph and Matthews, and the strides West Indies' Under-19 and women's cricket made in 2016 was genuinely encouraging.

However, the decisions to remove Sammy as T20 captain, Simmons as coach, and the handling of Darren Bravo, for all the justification given, did nothing to promote harmony and stability. They did not instil confidence that the region's administrators are acting in West Indies cricket's best interests. In such a climate it was little surprise that no progress was made in getting the best players to commit to representing the region in preference to plying their trade as T20 guns for hire.

One could say, therefore, it was a case of three steps forward, three steps back in 2016. That makes for sober reflection when thinking about a bright and prosperous new year.

High point
There were three big moments for West Indies cricket in 2016, but for its sheer spectacle, the biggest was undoubtedly their victory in the men's World T20 final. The 2012 world champions would have fancied their chances, even after being set 156 to claim their second title. But having found themselves needing 19 off the final over, the odds seemed to have shifted decisively away from them. That was news to Carlos Brathwaite, who put himself into West Indies cricket folklore by bashing four sixes off four balls from Ben Stokes to seal the win with two balls to spare.

It was not just about Brathwaite, though. He was able to do his stuff because, for the second time in a T20 final, Marlon Samuels had produced the goods, this time fashioning an unbeaten 85 that kept West Indies in the game as wickets fell steadily around him.

Style, dynamism and drama were all on display on that Kolkata night. That's the way West Indies do it when they are at their best.

Low point
They were all so similarly listless that they can't be separated - the three matches West Indies lost in their T20I series against Pakistan symbolised the funk that their cricket continues to be in.

West Indies went to the UAE as world champions, having just held off India in a thrilling match in Florida, their first since winning the title. But they did so having just lost Simmons and Sammy, who had led them to victory in India. And they proceeded to play like a team without direction and spirit, a team struggling to overcome yet another setback.

New kid on the block
Call him "Mr Six". Carlos Brathwaite - tall, strapping and with a game built for the razzmatazz of T20 cricket - became a global star in 2016 because of just four balls, in which he hit 6, 6, 6 and 6 to carry West Indies to a memorable victory over England.

That stage at Eden Gardens for the World T20 final was the perfect showcase for his muscular strokeplay. Brathwaite had previously showed he could handle the bat when he debuted down under in a Test series against Australia late in 2015 and got 59 in his very first knock, in Melbourne. Medium-fast as a bowler at best, despite his great height and build, Brathwaite has the all-round potential to be a regular at limited-overs, if not Test, level. His disposition also won him favour with the West Indies selectors, who have made him Sammy's replacement as T20 captain. But Brathwaite's decision not to accept a WICB retainer contract, preferring instead to be a free agent, could test the selectors' faith in him.

Darren Bravo scored a brilliant century in the Dubai day-night Test, but his Twitter tirade against the WICB president could cost him dear © Getty Images

Fading star
At age 27, and with the talent he has already demonstrated, it seems a travesty to be speaking of Darren Bravo as one whose star is fading, but his future in West Indies cricket is anything but bright at the moment.

Bravo was sent home from the tri-series in Zimbabwe for Twitter comments made against WICB president Cameron, comments the West Indies board and director of cricket Richard Pybus considered "disparaging". Calling one's employer a "big idiot" is not likely to guarantee job security, and the words were out of character for a player who has steadfastly committed himself to West Indies Test cricket.

The Twitter rant was prompted by Cameron's defence of the C grade retainer contract offered to Bravo for the new one-year period. With an average of 40.00 in Tests overall, Bravo did not have the greatest of times in 2016 (averaging 31.78). But statistically he is still the best of the modern-day West Indian batsmen, and a potential match-winner. However, his decision to begin legal proceedings against the WICB over his dismissal from the Zimbabwe tour, in addition to his decision to reject the retainer, does not suggest he will be donning the West Indies maroon any time soon.

What 2017 holds
The way 2016 started for West Indies teams, the future should be bright. That would be a logical assumption. The resumption of cricketing relations with India after the abandoned 2014 tour was also a plus. So too were the flashes of inspiration shown by players in whom West Indies cricket has invested much, men like Kraigg Brathwaite, legspinner Devendra Bishoo, and fast bowler Shannon Gabriel.

Newcomers, Test allrounder Roston Chase and explosive one-day opening bat Evin Lewis, showed enough to be persisted with. And while Holder is still struggling to manage his load as both captain and allrounder, there were signs towards year's end that he was at least becoming more of the wicket-taker his team requires.

The emergence of young talents like Joseph, and the growing strides West Indies' Under-19 and women's cricket made in 2016, were genuinely encouraging.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • diwaka2305357 on January 9, 2017, 3:30 GMT

    WICB did a blunder after a hatrick of winning global cricketing events. The biggest blunder was sacking darren sammy and coach phil simmons. Yes, i agree sammy didnot contributed in WC 2016 with bat or ball but every player goes through bad phase. After WC he has been in tremendous form if you have seen him playing with different franchises this year.Under his leadership WI cricket could have gone further with young boys founding his caliber with right directions( ex: Braithwaite).Hope WICB understands his fault and take decisions for greater intrest and not by their ego

  • jaswant on January 7, 2017, 6:42 GMT

    Gone are the days when WI had players of test caliber. The names mentioned left much to be desired. We are going down the slope at a fast rate. All I see is a bunch of youths whose only game is "the swash buckling" 20/20.The purity of cricket has long left our shores. The administrators have much to answer for. Can you imagine men walking out of a tour way in India? The absent of respect and discipline made WI cricket look like joke. Men who show dissent cannot be associated with "champion", rather they are hapless ambassadors who instead of grace have brought us shame.

  • Shekar on January 3, 2017, 11:43 GMT

    The players have changed and rotated for years with the same results. So the constant has only been the mismanagement of WI Cricket and it's players by the board - from the Presidents to the selectors! If the TRUE fans had to pick the WI team, WI would have been a very competitive team by now!

  • Tim on December 31, 2016, 0:01 GMT

    Have to remain positive as a WI fan. Looking forward too watching them in England in '17. Hoping the bowlers could do some damage. The batting is the major concern, especially now with the Bravo saga. Move Chase up the order possibly

  • Balkaran on December 29, 2016, 19:28 GMT

    Accountability...? so why drop Sammy after he won the World T20...gimme a break "I got a call yesterday morning - it was probably 30 seconds - from the chairman of selectors telling me that they've reviewed the captaincy of T20 and I won't be captain any more of the T20 team, [and] my performances have not merited selection in the squad,"

    The administration is a bunch of jokers who like to show they have power.

  • michael on December 28, 2016, 14:41 GMT

    Once they had that in place, they had tons of well respected people in the society willing to offer their services. Have a look at the makeup of their respective boards. There will be names that you don't recognise because they are from the business world more than from the cricketing world but they have skills to offer that are well needed on a well structured board. I think the evidence is there that when they thought their cricket was in trouble and they changed the structure of their board with a host of independent directors, the rot was halted. Surely the West Indies have nothing to lose by giving it a try but we know the directors won't go that route. The West Indies Cricket Board are not the only ones fighting change for the better either. The Supreme Court in India is forcing the BCCI to restructure their board as well and it's not because they are constantly losing cricket matches. It's about TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY. Give me some negatives in that regard.

  • michael on December 28, 2016, 14:31 GMT

    CRICINFOUSER, you have mentioned a lot of things that have occurred because of what I already highlighted, THE LACK OF RESPECT the players have for the board, their employers. Have you stopped to think why there is NO RESPECT? I shouldn't have to go into the litany of reasons as you already mentioned one re Cameron's "incorrect" utterance about Bravo's contract and I know you're aware of other "incorrect" and inappropriate comments by the gentleman. And again I repeat, the president is not to blame for every wrong with the West Indies cricket board so I don't see the relevance of the mention of Sir Wes Hall or any other previous President. As for the question of who should be on the board? Neither Australia nor New Zealand asked that question first, their first task was to constitute a board that had a sensible structure that brought accountability to the table.

  • shinet3915476 on December 28, 2016, 12:55 GMT

    In addition if the Prime ministers really wanted to do something about it , besides get some publicity. They could quite easily, its not rocker science. Then again even they don't agree on a solution. If they really wanted to don't give them the grounds to play on 1st class or international. Don't let them use the 2 major airlines and remove alllllll tax concessions. See how fast things change with the board. The problem still remains what about the players , because we can't create windows for them to play in every T20 league around the world can we? We can't be dropping 5 catches a match or innings and expect to win can we? We can't have a clique running the ream can we? Shawn Findlay played for the West Indies, that never should've happenings

  • shinet3915476 on December 28, 2016, 12:46 GMT

    TEMPUS Sir Wes Hall was President and supposedly a players president and we still had all the acrimony. He was nothing like Cameron, so I don't know. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot from both sides. We pick unnecessary fights. We can't communicate effectively without offending somebody and or running themselves in trouble in the case of the players. Darren Bravo's response to Cameron a case in point. IMO all he had to say was "as president you need to check your facts , I have never been given an A contract". Guess what he wouldn't have been sent him e, and now looking to go to court. For me that was non sensesical and completely avoidable. You can call a man a idiot , an ass or whatever you want with the correct use of language and get away with it

  • shinet3915476 on December 28, 2016, 12:35 GMT

    TEMPUS when you look you will see exactly where all the flare-ups justified or not started and by whom. Now if you and everybody else wants to get rid of the board fine. Seeing how we do things in the Caribbean it will be a cold day in hell , before the relationship to improve . Even marginally. Everybody are friends until somebody wants to do their own thing . Do you remember the peixe of paper in the pocket after Ramdin scored his hundred in England. if Sir Viv hadn't said anything would he have scored that hundred? Our lead bowler goes to Australia and bowls extremely poorly , the chairman of selectors asks him to play a practice match to try and find some form and he retires , saying it was disrespectful. In Australia ,England ,New Zealand ,South Africa , if your told to play a warm up game , county or Sheffield shield game they do like it or not.I'm just saying you can change whatever you like ,but until their is a complete attitudinal shift across the board ( by everybody ) it will be more of the same. Chris Gayle isn't playing big bash this year , it certainly isn't because he wanted to spend time with his family. We know this.Russell had his bat banned , because of ball discoloration , not a peep out of him. Sammy isn't in the big bash is he? I'm just saying there is more than enough blame to go around. So like I asked before change to what and to whom?

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