Better grassroots development needed for Windies cricket to rise from the Ashes

By April 06, 2020

When the West Indies were knocked off their perch by Australia at Sabina Park in 1995, the team’s performances, at first, gradually declined and then from about 2000, it plummeted to the point where the Windies have been wallowing in a quagmire of mediocrity.

Since 2010, the West Indies have won nine Test series. They lost 20 over the same period. Counting the ODI losses would make the numbers even worse, so I won’t even get into that.

What we have seen during that period are batsmen who lack the required technique to last an hour at the crease and toothless bowling because the bowlers are incapable of maintaining the required line and length and in many cases, seem to be bowling in the absence of a clear strategy.

What I see are fundamental weaknesses in batting, bowling and fielding technique that leads me to believe that grassroots programmes are woefully inadequate.

When I watch local U15 cricket in Jamaica’s high schools, I see kids wafting their bats as if hoping to make a connection with a ball that is more often than not, off-target.

Like football, mastery of the fundamentals is essential. Back when the West Indies were kings, kids played cricket in the streets and through trial and error learned how to defend. They learned how the play the ball of their legs. They learned how to keep a bouncing ball down.

Kids don’t play cricket in the street anymore so ways have to be found to get them playing in a format that aids development while still allowing them to have fun.

I don’t think Kiddies cricket is the answer even though there is some merit to the pursuit.

What is needed in the West Indies are programmes in each of the territories, similar to those that obtain in India. Coming out of these programmes are scores of eight, nine and 10-year-old players who have already mastered the fundamentals.

Their style of play is already set, which means relatively little honing is done, while getting them to play at the very highest level. By the time they get to the under-19 level, they tend to be better than what we see in the Caribbean.

There are those who will argue that the West Indies u19 teams have done well in recent World Cups. My response to that is if you look at the next lot of players just outside the World Cup-playing batch, do you find players who are anywhere near as good and could form a second XI, performing at the same level at a World Cup?

From where I sit, the answer is no.

Each individual territory needs to be looking at how they can improve coaching levels at prep and high school under a template that defines the West Indian way. By the time they get to the u-19 or West Indies ‘B’ level, they should be ready to kick the door in, not just stare and hope someone opens it for them.

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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