Press Association Douvan spearheads a potential 17-strong field for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next Tuesday. Mullins could also be represented by Alvisio Ville, McKinley, Nichols Canyon, Outlander, Shaneshill and Tell Us More. Just behind Douvan in the betting is the Nicky Henderson-trained L’Ami Serge and Harry Fry’s Jollyallan, and they, too, have stood firm at the confirmation stage. Seedling and Qewy are quietly fancied by some and are likely to represent Warren Greatrex and John Ferguson respectively. Irish interest is also spiked by the presence of two Tony Martin runners, Okotoks and Velvet Maker, Bentelimar from Shay Barry’s yard and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing John. Aso and Some Plan complete the list at this stage. Willie Mullins’ five-year-old will be a popular winner of the opening race of the meeting as he is one of a clutch of hot favourites for the County Carlow handler. Douvan has excelled in two starts since his transfer from France, having won with ease at Gowran before claiming Grade Two honours at Punchestown in January.
COMMITTED PLAYERS The West Indies need to look also for players, good players, who are also proud people, committed people, and people who, although there is not one, respect the flag. And those kinds of players are necessary, very necessary. It makes no sense, or very little sense, to have the most talented players who, at the first sign of adversity, sulk and withdraw themselves from the game, sometimes, most times, affecting other players on the team. The West Indies need players who believe in one for all and all for one, and also players who, even though it is not true, believe, like a journalist, that he, or she, is as good as his, or her, last story. It is folly to fail, and fail, after one or two good performance and to stroll around the ground, to swagger, like the proverbial “cat’s pyjamas”. It is just as bad to treat one who has failed and failed after one or two good performances like royalty. My wish for 2016 is that these things will change. West Indies cricket has been through the good and the bad. It started promisingly, it had its watershed in 1950, it had its ups and downs, it became the best in the world, and now it is back at stage one. The return to the glory days, or near to them, must come back, hopefully, if not quickly. West Indies cricket basically has good, young players. They, however, need to commit themselves to the game and to the West Indies, to train hard and to play hard, and to remember who they are, where they are from, and that although it may not be the best in the world, although players from India, England, Australia earn more money than they do, those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Africa are not. The West Indies players are paid what the West Indies can afford. It is as simple as that. My wish for the new year is that from all the few basically talented West Indies players some can be found with the class to carry West Indies cricket through these parlous times. The West Indies need players who can bat, bowl, field and know how to play the game. The West Indies need batsmen who can do more than reel off a pretty stroke here and there, bowlers who can really bowl and who can get good batsmen out, and fielders who can really field. My wish for this year is that the West Indies will see the light and realise that their cricketers are nowhere nearly as good as those of yesteryear, that their cricketers will also face that fact, that their cricketers play Test cricket two or three years too early in most cases, that our administrators will end their insularity, tighten up on West Indies cricket and make it stronger, and that they need to train and practice until they hear a voice say practice no more. West Indies cricket also needs to see less swagger in the cricketers, less cheerleaders, for whatever reason, among those who should guide, and among those guide technical development, and more people who can inspire and motivate rather than simply tell how to bat and bowl. The New year is just a few days old, and despite all the problems in West Indies cricket – the abandoned tour of India; the defeats at the hands of Australia; Sri Lanka, and Australia again; the crisis facing the Board; and the fact that no West Indian made it into Test cricket’s Top Ten at the end of the year – we wish all those in the fraternity all the best for 2016. The only saving grace last year was the wonderful and thrilling victory at Kensington Oval, the one which handed the West Indies a draw against England and which filled every West Indian with excitement and with plenty hope. Although that hope ended only in wishful thinking, my wish, despite my feeling that things will remain the same, in spite of the huffing and puffing by the toothless CARICOM governments, is that the gloom of 2015 will be replaced by a little light in 2016. I love cricket, and I am passionate about Melbourne, Jamaica, and West Indies cricket. Indeed, most people, those who know me and know me well, especially my family, will say that I eat, sleep, and drink cricket. Last year, the West Indies brought down the curtain with an embarrassing and humiliating performance against Australia. They did nothing right. They were terrible in batting, bowling, and fielding. Indeed, with the exception of Darren Bravo, Kraigg Brathwaite, and a few others, they looked like novices. This year, however, the West Indies are scheduled to play one or two series, and based on results of the recent past, things are hardly likely to be any better. In fact, every year it has been the same. Despite the utterances about improvements and little gains, nothing has changed; nothing at all. Looking at the team, which, despite its weakness, includes a few questionable selections, looking at the management team, which allows inexperience and non-performing youngsters to speak on behalf of the team, and looking at the people who consistently talk glowingly about what to expect from the players despite defeat after defeat, it is easy to write off the players – especially as it appears that nothing is really being done to remedy the situation. Despite all the talk, the huge entourage surrounding the team on every tour, the money reportedly being spent on West Indies cricket, and the outreach in West Indies cricket, nothing is really happening. The West Indies need a system to develop their young players into productive players. They need to play the game regularly, to train regularly, and not only when it is ordered and supervised. They need people, good people, checking on them regularly, and not only to sympathise with them and to pat them on the back like nice guys whenever they fail. They need people, coaches or whoever, who will also say something or do something constructive at such times, which, at this time, is most times.