Sad state of West Indies cricket!!!

I empathize with the regional Governments’ frustrations, and their desire to accomplish something transitional concerning the sorry state of West Indies cricket. But I hope the recommendation by the special committee to disband the West Indies Cricket Board is considered as only a first step by the authorities, because this action, by itself, will not be enough to remedy the woes plaguing the game.

I understand that there are other recommendations that also have to be implemented, hopefully sooner than later.

In order to fix West Indies cricket, we have to retrace our steps historically to examine the factors that made our team great in the past, and compare the circumstances that existed then to the present day construct, in order to properly rationalise what needs to be done to rescue the sport.

When our team started failing we blamed the coaches, managers, sponsors, playing conditions, aging players, tainted water, jet lag and everything else imaginable for our team falling short. Now it’s the board’s turn to shoulder the responsibility for our teams’ painful descent into mediocrity.

I will not  excuse the board from their responsibilities, or their patent failings within the system. But I believe the problem of West Indies crickets demise is a multifaceted one.

We have not focused enough on the end product, the players. Coaches or advisors like Curtly Ambrose or Sir Viv Richards can teach our players how to bowl or bat respectively, but they cannot function for them when they arrive out in the middle to play. I was once a sportsman myself, so I know that when crunch time comes around, the competitor has to deliver. Nobody can do it for him.

For some reason, maybe the allure of celebrity status, criticism of the players is quite scant if compared to their woeful track records. During the recent abandonment of the India tour, most agree that the board, the players association, and the players were all culpable in the unfolding of that debacle. But in my view, the players could have shown some mettle by completing the series, and then resolving their contractual problems when they got back home, because the tour was almost completed at the time that it was unilaterally called off, due to the players walk out.

Years ago when West Indies cricket was great, a number of players still had to work part time to make ends meet. They travelled by sea, had to share sleeping accommodations, were paid a pittance, faced hostility and racism at some venues, but they won cricket matches.

Today, the players are paid, some in $USD, they enjoy the economic security of retainer contracts, can afford to drape 10 lbs of gold chains around their necks, wear designer uniforms, sunglasses and diamond stud earrings, travel first class and are treated like heroes. Yet they cannot win two cricket matches in a row, whether at home or abroad.

The most profound statement I have heard on contemporary West Indies cricket came from someone who stated that our players are products of the present day society. I fully agree. Reward comes too easy for the players nowadays, so they are not sufficiently motivated to work hard for the resultant success.

I believe, in the main, with some exceptions of course, that as a team they have not displayed the required courage (also known as cojones) conviction, dedication, pride, or sufficient desire to win. It cannot always be a lament about increasing match fees. Sometimes, just the honour and pride of being chosen to represent the West Indies team should suffice.

The problems taking place in West Indies cricket comes at a time when the representative players are simply not as good as the players of past decades.

I believe, as fate would have it, that when cricketers like Holding, Walsh, Ambrose, Lara and Hooper exited the game, we blithely assumed that it would be business as usual, that other great players would effortlessly slot into their places, as had occurred in bygone times. Alas, this was not to be. The talent producing well had apparently run dry.

This was unfortunate, and perhaps cyclical in nature. But this circumstance has to be recognised and accepted, because it is also a principal factor in our team’s consistently poor showing over subsequent years.

At this juncture in the evolution of West Indies cricket, there is nothing to lose by bidding farewell to our present day cricket team. Maybe keep on three or four players for the purposes of continuity and match experience. Then look around the region for 20 or 30 young men who possess some athletic skills, a desire to succeed, and a sense of commitment.

Select and bring them together as a group. Train them extensively in all aspects of the game, utilising our internationally recognised great and stalwart past players who have said that they are committed to help as role models, and let’s see how it goes.

West Indies cricket lies almost at the bottom of the proverbial cricketing barrel. There is only one way to go, and that is up. But for this team repatriation effort to work, it calls for an exhibition of retrospection and open-mindedness by everyone involved in the rebuilding process.

Roger Byer

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