Time to explore a country for its cricket conditions and culture, time for contemplation between matches, time for cricketers to go through cycles into and out of form. That is how Clive Lloyd, now chairman of the West Indies selection panel, remembers cricket tours and that is what he hopes they will return to.
“Nice, spaced out tours would be the best thing for cricket,” Lloyd said in Centurion, ahead of West Indies’ Test series in South Africa. “The public will be seeing players who are fit enough and hungry enough to play and not just hoping that the game is over quickly. Right now, everything is crammed. I think you need to have a better itinerary where cricket is concerned.”
Lloyd also wants to see more traditional tours, where the visiting side competes in first-class matches against local teams, something he believes benefits both parties.
“I’ve always advocated that we should at least have two four-day games before any tour. One game is not enough. Suppose that game was washed out – we’d have had no practice,” he said. “And we should probably have one in-between. It’s not only for our players but for your players. You’d want them to play against the touring team to see them.”
Despite being in South Africa for 15 days before the start of the Test series, only one practice match – against a South African Invitation XI – was organised for West Indies. That game, scheduled for three days, lasted for just two, after rain washed out the final day. Although the West Indians were able to assess both areas of their game, because they batted and bowled, Lloyd explained why it may not be enough.
“We just jump into a country and then we are gone. You don’t see other pitches, you don’t see a lot of the country. I think it’s wrong. I think we should have had at least three games surrounding this Test series,” he said. “If somebody is out of form, they can go into a four-day game and get back into it but we don’t have that. You can’t tell if a player is doing well in the nets. It’s not the right place. Match situation is what it’s about.”
Lloyd would also like use tour matches as a way to ease new players in to international cricket. “You can’t groom players anymore. I think that’s the thing you need when you go on tour. You try a few youngsters to see how they will match up against the opposition,” he said. “I’m not saying you have to have 10 games, but enough games that youngsters will get a chance. Now, you have to play players who you think will play in the Test match but if there were more games outside of the Test match, you could try one or two who you think will be able to get experience.”
Sheldon Cottrell salutes towards the West Indies dressing room after dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara, India v West Indies, 1st Test, Kolkata, 2nd day, November 7, 2013
Clive Lloyd has said that West Indies fast bowler Sheldon Cottrell could trouble South Africa on the tour © BCCI
If West Indies did play their likely Test team in the Benoni match, then it appears left-armer Sheldon Cottrell, who took five wickets in the tour game, could form part of their pace attack. Lloyd is satisfied with Cottrell, who is a private in the Jamaican Defence Force, after watching him play at home just days before arriving in South Africa.
“I watched him play a game in Trinidad the other day. We asked him to play that game because we wanted to see how fit he is. He is always very enthusiastic and being a soldier, I think he is fit enough and he wants to play. Left-hand quicks don’t come often and he is somebody we need to nurture and take along with us as long as possible. He could be very lively. On these pitches here, if he swings it and bowls as well as he has been bowling, he could give batsmen some trouble.”
It could mean that either Shannon Gabriel or Jason Holder could miss out because Lloyd seemed hesitant for West Indies to go into the Test without a spinner, even though South Africa are toying with the idea.
“I would think we would play Sulieman Benn. He is our best spinner, he has got a lot of experience and he tends to get the team going,” Lloyd said.
The Centurion surface is expected to be tailor-made for South Africa’s seamers, as they attempt to add to a successful streak at the venue which has seen them win 14 of the 19 Tests played there. Although the spicy-surface strategy backfired in March, when Mitchell Johnson gave the hosts some of their own medicine, South Africa are likely to stick with it against a West Indian batting line-up without Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo. Lloyd could be easily worried by that but he is hopeful some of the potential he has seen will bloom.
“This is a chance for youngsters to go out there and show their mettle,” he said. “They are playing against one of the best teams in the world. That alone should galvanise them to do well. We have youngsters here who we feel are good enough. Wherever we go, West Indies players are still respected because of what we achieved over the years and now they have their own era to work on. I hope that they do. This is the best stage you can have. It’s a wonderful country, terrific people and they love sport. If you can make a name for yourself here, you’re on a roll.”
Five West Indians recently did exactly that, but not in the way Lloyd intended. Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo competed in the domestic twenty-over competition and all of them put in telling performances for their respective franchises. That none of them are part of the Test squad is seen as highlighting the pull of T20 competitions.
While Lloyd didn’t dwell on that, he admitted he was disappointed those players are not regulars in the national team. “It’s obvious that people want to earn a living and they are probably the best at that style of cricket and they have done fairly well. But I want to see them playing for us a little bit more often,” he said. “They are supposed to be our best players and you want your best players playing for you.”