My last column inevitably created some debate amongst some of our cricket fans as I received a few emails from supporters giving me their opinion on what the Under-19 team should have done to win the quarter-final match against New Zealand. The most consistent view was that Jayden Seales should have bowled in the last few overs against the Kiwis.
Undoubtedly the most interesting email was one which read, “COACH GRAEME WEST SHOULD BE FIRED” - a strong statement indeed. The cricket fan went on to suggest that he should shoulder the blame while questioning perhaps xenophobically, why a foreigner should be coaching our up and coming cricketers in the first place.
Finally, he wrote about how Cricket West Indies (CWI) should stop appointing “nice boy” image captains and instead opt for aggressive captains in the future. While I agree with this last comment, it is unfortunate as St Lucian Kimani Melius may have shown all the right qualities of leadership during the last year and, to be frank, aggressive U-19 leaders can be difficult to find.
At the U-19 level, you have to have confidence in your ability to lead. You must be able to make quick decisions based on how the game is going; analysing the batsmen, assessing your bowlers and ensuring one bowls them at the right time; making sure one has the right fieldsmen in the correct positions; motivating the team while on the field.
Most U-19 captains are unlikely to have much experience in terms of playing first-class cricket. It is seldom easy to select a captain unless the youngster from early shows leadership qualities. Young Melius made an error in his decision as to who should bowl at the death but he will be stronger at the end of the tournament.
The comments about the coach to me are far more noteworthy than that of the captain. The Windies supporter felt that our failure to win the U-19 World Cup is largely due to the failure of the head coach. Admittedly, I never thought about this notion until I met a former West Indies player who expressed the same opinion to me and it made me sit up and question: did we fail?
The easy answer is yes, we failed to win the U-19 World Cup but what was the mandate of the coach? It was to win the tournament rather than see us put up a good showing so I suppose CWI would not be happy with our fifth-place finish. Are we a better team than our fifth place suggests? If so, then the coach has to take full responsibility, raise his hand and say that we could and should have done better and failed to execute properly in certain areas.
When this new administration took office, they openly said that our West Indian-born coaches would have the first call on being selected to coach the respective regional teams. While this is true with both the men's and women's teams, fans questioned the appointment of West for the U-19 team, especially as it is the youngsters we are speaking about. I have not seen the credentials of Mr West but I expect that they are up to scratch. However, if CWI is true to their word, then how did the name of Graeme West feature before some of our coaches? Is it that our coaches are not qualified enough? Is it a question of experience? Or is it West being the incumbent that he was simply retained?
In our senior men's team, the batting coach and the team analyst are two foreigners appointed by coach Phil Simmons and skipper Kieron Pollard to work with the squad. I have no problem with those appointments simply because Simmons and Pollard requested them as all coaches feel most comfortable working with certain individuals who they believe will do the job best. It is time CWI looks at our own to coach the younger teams as we want them to play with the West Indian flair but be disciplined in doing so.
Unsurprisingly, Seales and Nyeem Young made the U-19 all-star team and I remain confident that agents will be hounding them down for their signatures. I just hope they seek the right advice as they are two players destined for a great future.
I thought Ashmead Nedd might have forced his way into the All-Star XI based on his fine bowling during the tournament but the selectors seem to have gone on performance rather than a balanced team as they selected three leg break and googly bowlers in Shafiqullah Ghafari from Bangladesh and the Indian pair of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ravi Bishnoi.
Perhaps most importantly, have you noticed that the top three teams in the tournament all came from the Indian subcontinent? It may be that these nations - Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan - are placing more emphasis on getting youngsters involved in the game of cricket than the other nations.
CWI must insist that the respective boards take a deeper interest in their development programmes from U-10 level or these teams will dominate for many years to come. We have two years to plan for the next ICC U-19 World Cup which will be on home soil - an added impetus to not let it slip.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.