The recent three-match between West Indies and England in the Caribbean ended in a 1-0 victory for the hosts. Caribcommx turned to Eric McClymont, an informed supporter, for his view of the play and the players.
For a good many years now Eric has been more than just a student of West Indies cricket. He has been involved at every level which is possible for somebody who is not employed professionally in the game. Mr McClymont first came to our notice over twenty years ago by writing letters to newspapers – mainly to the Gleaner – commending what he saw good in West Indies play and advising where he thought improvements could be made. Later in this interview he explains other ways in which he has supported the regional side.
Well, Eric, what is your overall impression of the series?
The build up to the series lacked the normal hype around a West Indies/England series. I was concerned that England would bounce back from the drubbing they had at the hands of the Australians, and was, therefore, surprised that Broad and Anderson were dropped as that deprived the bowling of any real potency. With regards to West Indies, my concerns were around the batting and whether they could go past 300 in an innings. Also the recall of John Campbell raised a question-mark. I think the pitches played a big role in the series generally. Nevertheless I was impressed by how a number of West Indies players contributed with bat and ball. They had a lot more resolve this time and it led to a series win.
How did you keep up with the series?
I refuse to pay for any sports coverage from BT Sport, so I followed the series on Talk sport Radio/ The Guardian Newspaper and the highlights package that was free courtesy of BT Sport.
Whom do you consider to be the best commentators on the series and why?
Ian Bishop and David Gower are two commentators in particular who have considerable knowledge and provide a bit more insight to the dealings of Test cricket.
Which individual performances impressed you most?
The leadership and batting performance of Kraigg Brathwaite – it goes to show that long periods at crease builds confidence and will convert into runs; Kyle Mayers – his agent must get him a English county contract; Kemar Roach under-rated but he has a heart as big as a lion, seasoned pro, his time at Surrey has helped him; Nkrumah Bonner came late into Test cricket but his temperament and technique are suited for the longer format and here again a season or two in England would greatly help with that Dukes ball. Joshua Da Silva also keeps getting better.
Can you let our readers know a few details about yourself and how you relate to cricket?
My family are from Jamaica. My father was a keen sports person with Cricket and Boxing as his passions. He passed on his love for Cricket – especially when West Indies toured. I was tasked with updating him with the score from the Test match, and in particular the performance of individual players be it batsman or bowler. So, I had a keen interest in the individual players as to where they came from through which a geographical interest developed.
The success of the West Indies gave me access to players and notably fans and journalists, I have always been keen in development and when I can do so I donate equipment to players, clubs or schools. I am currently working with Lords Taverners in the UK to help develop a cricket program in rural St Elizabeth with Maggotty High School. Also with Excelsior High school in Kingston the project will run for a number of years and should yield players that will go on to represent Jamaica, regional cricket and, hopefully, Test Cricket. We will look to develop partnerships with teams in the UK and have talent going to the UK to my Jamaica for development.
Which were your earliest memories of West Indies / England cricket?
It was the 1973 tour in England
Did you have an early hero? Who is your favourite all-time cricketer?
Yes, Roy Fredericks, I saw him regularly on TV playing for Glamorgan when he was not touring. The 1976 tour was a good tour for Fredericks but also his last in England. I am disappointed no footage exists of his 169 against Australia in 1975 of 145 balls. Remember they bowled 8-ball overs back then. It was against a very potent Aussie attack. Ian Chappell (the Australian captain at the time) talks about it in detail which you can find his account on You Tube.
How do you think West Indies reputation was enhanced/improved by the recent result?
The series win was very important for cricket in the Caribbean, especially Test cricket which is the only form I watch. I am hoping that this win will go some way to bringing about a rebirth of the game in the longer format. Small steps, maybe, but an important win for West Indies.
What in your view was the deciding difference between the teams?
English test cricket has some major problems – notably in finding a steady opening pair and I was surprised by the omission of senior bowlers Anderson and Broad. The loss to Australia has highlighted just how brittle England are. West Indies, on the other side, had a team wanting to prove they can do battle with England. Braithwaite led by example and I believe that was crucial also Nkrumah’s innings in the first test.
Are you happy with Brathwaite’s performance as captain? If so, what were his strengths? If not, what were his weaknesses, and would you prefer somebody else to be captain?
Braithwaite seemed relaxed, led by example and made important decisions. He was backed up by notable performances with bat and ball. This victory will do wonders for his confidence.
Were you satisfied with the three-match format ? Or would you have preferred a longer traditional extended five-match in which Tests would have been played in Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad?
West Indies /England series should be played over 5 tests. I am more concerned at the matches not going to Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana. These venues with a rich history are missing out on major tours time and time again. The authorities have a responsibility to bring the best sides to these islands because generations of future players are missing out in the name of tourism. Jamaica, in particular, have a crisis brewing and need to address it. Hopefully for the 2023 series against Australia, Sabina Park can host at least a Test – something which is long overdue.
What did you think of the batsman’s paradise pitches in Antigua and Barbados? Is it good for the game to see so many runs? Or would you prefer more challenging conditions as in Grenada?
I believe Michael Holding made a comment about pitches in the Caribbean. Yes, I am surprised Barbados was so flat. It seems we have lost the art of wicket preparation in the region in what should be an even contest between bat and ball. I am pleased the Grenada pitch had a bit more in it and West Indies exploited it, but the Englishmen through bad shot-selection contributed to their downfall.
Do you think there should be any changes in the West Indies team and administration? Are the right people in the right positions?
I think the side is taking shape to be a decent side. However, the search for quality batsmen must continue. We need batsmen who can occupy the crease for long periods and turn good starts into big scores and achieve consistency.
I would look at the head coach and support staff, as well as the technical director role. Some moving around of positions is required. I would also have more people who have played Test cricket becoming more involved in the decision-making roles. Businessmen should definitely not be running Cricket West Indies – we are in this awful mess because of them.
Thank you, Eric. There is quite a bit there for all of us – including, I hope, decision-makers in the game – to think about. We hope to hear more from you as the present season progresses.
Eric McClymont was in conversation with Clayton Goodwin