Riley: Cricket's longer versions still the litmus test
Long-serving Barbados Cricket Association member, Conde Riley, has suggested the West Indies Cricket Board properly vet individuals in whom they intend to invest time and money to develop to represent the region at the international level.
“We have to look at how we contract them in order to get the most out of them and that they just wouldn’t be taken away after you have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in them coming through the youth programme and then losing them in their late twenties,” Riley said.
His comments come in the wake of a growing trend of players turning their backs on the longer forms of the game in preference for 50-over and especially Twenty20 cricket. Last December Barbados and West Indies batsman Dwayne Smith quit four-day first-class cricket at the age of 31, and thus any future possibility, though unlikely, of a Test recall. Dwayne Bravo, 31, and Lendl Simmons, 30, have also announced their retirement from the longest form of the game.
Just this week West Indies and Trinidad and Tobago batsman Kieron Pollard, 27, announced he was taking an indefinite break from four-day first-class cricket, citing the wear and tear of that form of the game on his body. However, Pollard has played only a handful of four-day games for Trinidad over the past three years. Pollard, Simmons, Bravo and Smith are all contracted to the lucrative Indian Premier League which starts in a few weeks time, running from April 8 to May 24.
Riley said that perhaps the WICB would have to get a group of guys with the mindset that “playing for the West Indies was important”. He said the board had to develop players who had a focus on Test cricket in order that a situation didn’t develop where there was a sudden exodus of players from the longer version of the game.
The outspoken administrator said he believed Smith’s decision to retire from first-class cricket was a personal one where he saw his regional future resting only in Twenty20 and Super50 cricket.
“There are a lot of young players in the Barbados [four-day] team who are performing now and most of them aren’t even 23. So in that youthful Barbados team Dwayne Smith perhaps saw the need to use his energy on the Super50 and T20 cricket,” Riley explained, while identifying Kraigg Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich and Shai Hope as among those to continue carrying the weight of representing Barbados in first-class cricket.
Riley said Pollard’s sudden decision to take a break from the regional four-day competition came as a surprise.
“Pollard’s break came as a surprise to me because he is a young guy. But he, like Smith, is wanted by many franchises around the world. These guys perhaps believe the shorter version of the game is where their future lies as T20 specialists,” he said.
The former vice-president of the BCA said players who had ability had to be given opportunities to prove their worth even if they were around the age of 30 and over. He explained that when cricket boards developed players from the youth programme and they played all three formats and then decided to specialize [in the shorter forms] that represented a wasted investment.
Riley noted that it would be a difficult problem to solve with the amount of money involved in T20 franchise cricket and the fact that youngsters are focusing on that format. He said regional cricketers were attractive players in terms of their powerful batting and would therefore interest franchises.
Riley said it would not be a bad idea for the incorporation of members of the regional under-19 team into the senior set-up and build from the start once they were willing and wanted to see West Indies cricket advance.