The West Indies under 19 team recently completed an extremely successful series against their Australian counterparts. Winning the one day series two games to one and the only youth 'test' by 4 wickets, thanks to another hundred by Kraigg Brathwaite. This made me remember another good WI U-19 team, the under 19 team of 2004 that made the finals of the youth world cup , losing the finals to Pakistan in Bangladesh.
Of the squad members that participated in that tournament only four players went on to represent the senior West Indies in ODI and test matches. Of the foursome only one, Denesh Ramdin had an extended run in the team, the rest of the squad fell by the wayside.
The WICB should have had systems in place to ensure that the majority of this squad formed the nucleus of the future West Indies teams. Most of the players were left to fend for themselves, this resulted in the majority of the team not fulfilling their cricketing potential to the maximum.
Players such as Jonathan Augustus, Zamal Khan and Rishi Bachan have not been heard of in any significant manner since 2004. There are also the few name that might sound familiar to the few who follow the regional game. Assad Fudadin, Liam Sebastian and Mervin Matthew have managed to become somewhat regular first class cricketers but they have certainly not set the world alight. Then there is the case of Tishan Maraj, who gave up cricket to successfully pursue a career in medicine, now struggling to make the T&T team.
Xavier Marshall, Denesh Ramdin, Lendl Simmons and Ravi Rampaul should be known to the few readers of this blog, have made it due to their own determination to reach the highest level. It appears that this was achieved without any major WICB assistance.
From the current West Indies situation (some might say calamitous) we can no longer just depend on natural ability. There needs to be a concerted effort by all stakeholders in the game to convert teams of natural ability into teams of feared cricketers. In fact all members of the current under 19 team should be drafted into the Sagicor High performance Centre. To turn the boys into a mean cricketing machine.
If something like this is not done, the players may suffer the same fate as the members of the 2004 team. The likes of Kraigg Brathwaite will definitely play for the senior team sooner rather than later, given his knack for scoring hundreds for fun and his obvious desire for the game. Its the other players that may need the help.
Providing the WICB finds the right balance between youth and experience, then maybe then will we see a change in the fortunes of West Indies cricket.