Kieron Pollard captained West Indies in the game against India when there were more experienced and tried and tested leaders in the side. Nishad Pai Vaidya explains why Pollard leapfrogged ahead of the others.
When Kieron Pollard walked out in place of Dwayne Bravo for the toss during the second game of the tri-series, it did surprise many. A team that has a few senior players with experience of leading the side were overlooked in favour of a man who has never led. But, this only goes on to reflect a confused approach as far as the reins of leadership in West Indies are concerned.
Over the last two years, Darren Sammy has led West Indies in most of their One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Bravo only led when Sammy was rested for the series against Zimbabwe early this year. A few months down the line, he was elevated to the captaincy in the format and Sammy was only retained at the helm in Tests.
Sammy’s dismissal from one-day captaincy was a surprise as he had masterminded a revival of sorts for West Indies cricket. His most significant achievement as a captain was leading the side to the title triumph at the ICC World T20 2012. Not only that, West Indies have significant raised the bar under Sammy and regained their fighting spirit in Test cricket. However, their record in ODIs under Sammy wasn’t too great. What seems to have gone against him is the series 2-3 defeat to Bangladesh and a 0-5 whitewash Down Under earlier this year.
As one of the commentators pointed out, West Indies have had numerous vice-captains in the last two years. In Test cricket, they had Brendan Nash and Kirk Edwards assisting Sammy at different points. As far as one-day cricket is concerned, Denesh Ramdin was their preferred option. With Dwayne Bravo getting a promotion, one would have expected Ramdin to lead if he missed out on any game. However, Pollard was summoned for the duties against India on Sunday.
Perhaps, even a Sammy could have been an option for that game as he has the experience of leading the side and would have been at ease in the role. The team also wouldn’t have had a lot of trouble adjusting to his style as they were led by him until a few months ago. By constantly changing the vice-captain, West Indies may cause instability as there won’t be clarity on the lines of leadership. The captain may be a set option, but the presence of a constant cohort is always a good option.
Chris Gayle is the senior player in the side, but it looks unlikely that he would lead the West Indies again. He came back into the side after a long-drawn dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was settled. They certainly wouldn’t want to burden him with responsibility and would want him to play freely. Leave him out of the equation, and one doesn’t have too many options. Marlon Samuels is another senior player, but hasn’t been considered so far.
Pollard may be experienced, but his commitments around the world pull him away from the West Indies. He did a fairly decent job in his first game as West Indies huffed and puffed their way to victory. Now, the West Indies team management must persist with him if he continues to produce results in his limited opportunities. By chopping and changing the deputy, they would do no good to their own cause as that would only lead to insecurity within the team.
As is Pollard’s case, several West Indies players are lured by numerous T20 leagues around the world and some of them have even skipped national duty to participate in them. That leaves them poorer in terms of leadership as they need someone who is fully committed to West Indies cricket and would answer the call of duty irrespective of other factors. Perhaps, that is the root cause of this problem and it might trouble them for some time. Someone like a Darren Bravo could be an option as he is young and is currently unattached to any cash rich T20 league.
West Indies cricket is going through a very delicate phase as the World T20 victory has ushered in new hope for the future. On that foundation, can they rebuild their fortunes. A sound and capable leader is what they need and the musical chairs should be done away with. Sammy would continue in Tests and T20 internationals, but would a change of face in ODIs trouble them in the long run?