My intention for a while has been to express thoughts on our beloved and frustrating West Indies cricket team, but the CONCACAF Gold Cup is on now and supporting the Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors football team is akin to similar fan frustration in ‘another universe’. Supporting these two teams over the years has been a chore for myself and many avid fans alike. Even the brilliance of our local sporting icons, Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Brian Lara could not lift these sporting teams to ‘the promised land’. Qualification for the 2006 football World Cup was an exception, but the decline has since been very rapid. At the end of this post, I will take a different angle at explaining one of the possible reasons for the poor performances of our local footballers and regional cricketers, but let’s first take a look at the recent performances of the West Indies.
The Windies crashed out of the Champions trophy in England via the Duckworth Lewis formula which was applied because of a rain stoppage against South Africa. During the Tri Nation series in the Caribbean against Sri Lanka and India, the Windies failed to reach the final after winning the first two games. I might add that before these two tournaments it was decided by the West Indies Cricket Board that Dwayne Bravo should replace Darren Sammy as captain in the 50 over format due to poor results in this form of the game.
Collectively the West Indies showed no inclination to bat sensibly with a measured approach, especially when confronted with pitches that offered movement to the bowlers. The ‘slam bam, thank you Ma’am’ method which can be applied in the T20 version of cricket seems to suit the West Indians as this form of the game is shorter and requires less patience and diligence. Indeed many of our current team members are stars of the top T20 leagues around the world. No batsman in the top order seems to be able to consistently attempt to bat through the innings.
The experienced Chris Gayle should know that trying to bludgeon every ball out of the ground is not the wisest approach and better shot selection will get him bigger scores. Gayle has often been getting good starts and then giving his wicket away with loose shots when his aim should be to bat through and allow the other batsmen to bat around him. His scores recently have read 22,39,21,36,109,11,10 and 14. He is the senior batsman in the side and when one compares his performance to the senior batsmen of other countries such as Sangakkara for Sri Lanka and Clarke for Australia it is like chalk and cheese. Young batsmen Johnson Charles and Darren Bravo have flickered in between but it has not been often enough to help the team amass impressive totals. Pollard and Samuels have hardly scored a run and have been getting out via the rising delivery pitched outside off stump. Could there still be room for the ‘Tiger’ Chanderpaul? The Windies should be milking him till he retires as his experience and temperament can offer much to the team. In my opinion he is the perfect man to bat through the innings while the stroke players bat around him.
The bowling has been good in spells but tends to fall off either in the middle or end phases of the innings in different games. Tino Best’s brainless method of running up and pounding the ball in short at pace is a joke and should be rewarded with an immediate dropping by the selectors. Injuries have affected the consistency of Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine. Have our players lost the ability to concentrate and have their techniques also suffered due to the amount of T20 cricket they play? This may be a reason but I will give another reason later.
The Trinidad and Tobago football team has been on a downward spiral since the historic qualification for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Poor administration and a dogfight between the players and the former TTFF-Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (now TTFA) are the main causes. The new administration has aimed to wipe the slate clean with an approach of running the game in a more structured and professional manner. Trinidad born Stephen Hart was hired as head coach and former coach Leo Beenhakker was appointed as technical director. The coaching staff had three weeks with the team preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Warriors have drawn 2 all with El Salvador and lost to Haiti 2 nil.
1. What is Densill Theobald doing in this team as a player? Just to make it worse he was appointed as captain in a team that contains seasoned veterans, Carlos Edwards and Kenwyne Jones. Theobald has offered nothing defensively or offensively in both games and this has hampered the team’s performance badly. He does not look fit and his passing has been woeful. This man is the ‘engine of our team’!!!??? Please Coach Hart, put us fans out of our misery and replace him for the final group game against Honduras. Perhaps Chris Birchall or Andre Boucaud can be inserted into the lineup giving the midfield more bite.
2. Our centre is a bit soft and there seems to be a lack of communication between Hyland and Theobald in the center of the midfield and Power and Mitchell in the center of the defence.
3. While the Warriors showed some improvement in the game against El Salvador, especially with regard to possessing the ball, there was regression in this aspect against Haiti. The team had no answer for Haiti’s pressing and defensive organisation. At no time did T&T get behind Haiti’s defence and cut balls back into danger areas.
4. Kenwyne Jones has been huge for the Warriors in both games but his impact in the second game against Haiti was negated by the fact that his midfielders played too far from him and the link up play necessary was non-existent. Our #10 Daniel who played behind KJ did not get into the game and was not able to bounce passes between himself and Jones to get other attackers into play. Long balls hit to Jones had no effect most of the time as there was no midfielder to latch on to his knockdowns.
I will conclude by pointing out that what you put into your body as an athlete you will get out. There is no hiding from it and a poor diet results in poor performances. In March of this year the psychologist with the West Indies cricket team, in his letter of resignation, noted that he had been unable to make the West Indian cricketers change their diet. Mr Hoad was quoted as saying that the players “eat too much fried foods and as everyone knows, fried food is not good for you, it makes you weak”-Trinidad Guardian, April 2, 2013. This says a lot and explains why our cricketers cannot concentrate and perform over longer periods but excel at T20 cricket where a game is over in 4 hours or less. It also explains why our cricketers succumb so frequently to injury. Bear in mind Mr Hoad’s statement when you agonize and invest so much of your emotion into the West Indies cricket team. If we as fans care sufficiently enough we will insist on better from our cricketers and those that run the game in the region. Do they care? Should we care if they don’t? Similarly the penchant for fast food or ‘junk food’ in our country is hurting our local sportsmen’s performances including the footballers. The Soca Warriors’ stock has dipped so low from the heights of 2006 and it will take a herculean effort from the TTFA, the footballers and the new technical staff. Hopefully Mr Hart and Mr Beenhakker will recognize that the simple things like getting our boys to eat properly can make a difference.
Let’s go Windies! Let’s go Warriors!…sigh…