Indiscipline, indifference and in-fighting

TONY COZIER

JOEL GARNER, as manager, and Gus Logie, as coach, have provided similarly startling accounts of indiscipline, indifference and in-fighting on the West Indies 'A' team's tour of England and Canada in July and August.

The two, teammates during the West Indies' years of invincibility in the 1980s, have been in charge of 'A' and youth teams on several tours in recent years but both rated this, in Logie's words, "the most challenging".

Garner complained that the general standard of behaviour was not acceptable and said he hoped his tour report would influence the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) into taking corrective measures.

"If we don't grab hold of what we have at regional level, we are going to get embarrassed very seriously," was how he put it.

Logie placed the responsibility on the affiliated associations, rather than the WICB itself.

"The territories must see to it that their players conform to standards of dress, of discipline, of general behaviour, whether it is at hotels or any particular function," he said.

"When you go on a tour, the manager and the coach have to set standards and, if the players are not used to that, you are going to have problems," he noted.

The 'A' team was a development team, comprising mainly of players in their mid and low 20s, two in their teens and six with Test or one-day international experience. That they are the immediate future of West Indies cricket added a distressing significance to the comments.

Most worrying was Logie's assertion that the "players did not interact well with each other".

"The island rivalry has fuelled that," he said. "A lot of the players are being touted by their islands and they see themselves competing with their own players (and) that brings about a certain level of distrust."

It is a predicament that Sir Frank Worrell and Clive Lloyd, in their different eras, best eliminated but it is never far below the surface in a team made up of players from 10 small, separately independent territories separated by water.

The attitude was reflected in the results.

In England, the team struggled to overcome counties that, in keeping with recent practise, fielded weakened elevens. They were bowled out for 106 by a Derbyshire attack mounted by little known bowlers Lungley, Gunter, Aldred and Wharton to lose by 145 runs.

When they gave Somerset, a side including four players on first-class debut, a massive 453 runs to win on the last day, the county got them to tie the match with a maiden hundred by 21-year-old Peter Trego.

In Toronto, they lost the one-day series 2-1 to a Canadian team, with little experience of international cricket, comprised mainly of over-30s immigrants.

In that instance, Logie noted that their visit coincided with Caribana, Toronto's equivalent of London's Notting Hill carnival, and that there was a subsequent "loss of focus".

The phenomenon is not new. As far back as 1992, when he retired from Test cricket, the late Malcolm Marshall observed: "Everything seems to be going down the drain. There is no respect, no manners."

But nothing has been done and the 'A' team's problems simply mirrored those of the senior team that has gone into such decline it has lost 23 of its last 27 overseas Tests since 1997 and now languishes near the bottom of the ICC rankings.

The problems highlighted by Garner and Logie and Marshall 10 years back have also had an obvious effect on the reputation of West Indies players that had been built to such heights by those of the past.

It is significant that there has not been a single West Indian professional in either county cricket or the Lancashire and Central Lancashire Leagues in England for the past two years.

Twenty years ago, there were 18 in the county championship not counting the several born in the Caribbean but qualified for England and 12 in the Leagues.

Then, the regard in which the likes of Learie Constantine, George Headley, Roy Marshall and Sir Garry Sobers were held for their commitment and sportsmanship meant West Indians were in demand. Now clubs would rather recruit Australians, South Africans and Indians than contemporary West Indians who are perceived as trouble.

It is a vicious circle and it is difficult to know how it can be broken.