Windies legends irked by young prima donnas

2010-03-10 00:00

THE performance of the West Indies over the last few years has eroded the pride in this once formidable cricketing nation.

The team’s recent lacklustre performance against Zimbabwe has simply added to their woes.

Working alongside Michael Holding, Jeff Dujon, Colin Croft and Ian Bishop, past legends of West Indies cricket, it’s clear to me how disappointed they are with the status quo.

Even though their playing days are over, these cricketing heroes are still incredibly passionate about West Indian cricket and are profoundly embarrassed by their team’s dismal display.

In their opinion, the team consists of a bunch of prima donnas who are lured by the money and the glamour of international cricket. They feel that the youngsters have a poor work ethic, little respect for the game and a lack of pride in playing for their country.

In the commentary box, conversations on this subject get quite heated. I find it hard to follow the passionate exchanges as accents get even stronger and the pace of the conversation quickens.

What these legends and every West Indies fan wants to see is consistency from their team and cricket played with the same passion, flamboyance and winning ways of old.

In this series, the West Indies have faced Zimbabwe’s predominantly spin attack on difficult pitches, which have taken a lot of turn. This has highlighted the batsmen’s poor technique and their inability to chase down a total.

Chris Gayle and Shiv Chanderpaul stand head and shoulders above the rest of their team. Both these cricketers are in their thirties and have a few more years to go in international cricket.

Their job while they are still playing for their country is to teach the youngsters by example and to develop the next generation of cricketers.

Trinidadian Kieron Pollard has recently been awarded a substantial contract to play for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

This news has seriously irked past players as Pollard averages a paltry 17 runs for the West Indies in ODIs. They feel that if he is able to earn this sort of money just for turning up at the IPL, his commitment to West Indies cricket (where he is paid a great deal less) could be in question.

Past players don’t have a problem with these young players earning more money than they did, but they are concerned that they take lightly the honour of wearing the badge.

The TV crew and both teams flew from Guyana in the early hours of Sunday en route to St Vincent, the final destination of the tour. It was pitch-black outside, yet most of the young cricketers boarded the plane sporting trendy dark glasses. It seems image is everything, even at 3 am.

I chatted to Ottis Gibson, the new West Indies coach, on the first leg of our flight to Trinidad. He says he relishes his new position, but does not underestimate the magnitude of his task. Handling the egos of these talented young cricketers is a key part of his job and one that he will need to handle sensitively if he’s going to bring the best out of his players.

Off-the-field tensions between the players’ association, the cricket board and the past players continue to simmer. The relaxed calypso feel to cricket on these diverse islands from Guyana to Jamaica belies the fact that they are a cricketing nation deeply divided and at odds with one another.

The third one-day international takes place today at the Arnos Vale ground in Kingstown. The West Indies will be desperate to win this and the remaining encounters in order to salvage some of their battered pride. A win for the Windies tomorrow will raise the spirits of their diehard supporters and hopefully lighten the mood in the commentary box.

• Neil Johnson is a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe all-rounder who lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.

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