Terry Fenwick

NOT RETAINED: Terry Fenwick

So wait, Terry Fenwick is to blame for this?

That seems to be the general reaction in the aftermath of Saturday evening’s goalless draw with the Bahamas in Nassau which ended this country’s Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign even before tomorrow’s final preliminary group game against St Kitts/Nevis.

Oh, and before everyone goes overboard with how humiliating it is for the Germany 2006 finalists to be eliminated by amateurs who had conceded 15 goals in their previous three group games, just slot this latest setback alongside finishing second to Guyana in the preliminary qualifying group for Brazil 2014 and losing a two-leg playoff with the Netherlands Antilles at the early stages of the journey towards Spain 1982.

Look, I was taken to the Queen’s Park Oval on Independence Day, 1976 to see essentially the same squad that had been robbed in Haiti in 1973 struggle to edge Barbados 1-0 after losing the first leg in Bridgetown 2-1 two weeks earlier.

For the record, they won a playoff 3-1 before having to go the same route with Suriname at the next stage, losing a playoff 3-2 in French Guiana after 1-1 and 2-2 scorelines in Paramaribo and the Oval.

Then, as now, accusing fingers pointed outwards when they should have been curled inwards. But as we see in the government’s Saturday afternoon charades, rambling obfuscation with skeletal specifics works well here because no amount of rainfall is capable of replenishing soil rendered so toxic by a culture of corruption to such a degree that integrity and accountability cannot take root.

Let’s stick with the preferred blame-Terry line though, at least for this paragraph. So I suppose he is responsible for the array of chances—from within the first five minutes to deep into stoppage time —wasted by an assortment of players against the Bahamians. No doubt his tactics contributed to the increasing lethargy and posing on the ball as the game progressed.

And just in case the apparent hostility towards Fenwick has to do with him being white and foreign; did he hire himself? Were the improved financial terms of his contract (a source of much consternation when it came to light) surreptitiously cut-and-pasted in by him and then signed off by then Trinidad and Tobago Football Association president William Wallace?

We all like to make noise, except that it has become a national pastime to bark up the wrong tree because our egos are so fragile, our insecurities so concretised that honest assessment is an absolutely horrific concept.

On the West Indies cricket front though there at least appears to be a willingness to address deep-seated ills when it comes to consistently poor performances on the field of play. That improved effort, as reflected in a 2-0 series win in Bangladesh and drawn matches against Sri Lanka in Antigua two months ago, will surely be forensically examined though over the next 2 1/2 months, starting on Thursday, opening day of the first of two Tests against South Africa in St Lucia.

Those matches at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground will be followed by five T20 Internationals in Grenada before the Proteas are replaced as visitors by Australia, who are scheduled to also play five T20’s back in St Lucia before rounding off their brief visit with three One-Day Internationals in Barbados. Kensington Oval will also host the first two T20’s of Pakistan’s five-match duel with Kieron Pollard’s side with the remaining three to be played in Guyana. Then it’s back to the format which started this busy period of international cricket in the Caribbean: two Tests against the Pakistanis in Jamaica.

South Africa are not the force they once were but head coach Phil Simmons is too much of a pragmatist to tolerate any slackening of intensity from the home side, especially as a run of four Tests unbeaten against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is nothing to get carried away with given the generation-long decline endured by the West Indies in the traditional format of the game.

Yes, those 15 T20’s will also clarify the picture as to the personnel and state of readiness to defend the world title later this year (probably in the United Arab Emirates give the Covid-19 situation in India). There will be time, God willing, to put the T20 performances against these three formidable visitors into perspective.

For the time being though the immediate focus is on Test cricket, and while it remains a continuous source of disappointment that the combination of a packed schedule, broadcasters’ priorities and the stranglehold of India, England and Australia on the global game mean four-Test or five-Test series are now things of the past for the West Indies, the coming fortnight should clarify whether or not a West Indian revival, however gradual, in the red ball game is under way.

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