Bleak future for West Indies Cricket

Vincentians like the rest of the peoples of the region are still displaying fits of depression and anger as they recall the putrid performances of the West Indies Cricket teams in the recent T20 World Cups played in the Caribbean.
Careful analysis of the fortunes of the region’s cricket teams in the past several years should however have done much to allay the lower the expectations of the peoples of the Caribbean but we are prone to being loyal and continue to suffer the consequences of flying in the face of reality.
The golden age
Many of the stalwarts of West Indies cricket always hanker back to the golden age of the sport in the region. This was a time when we were able to hold our heads high as we produced prolific cricketers who etched their names in the chronicles of the sport at the international level.
Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramdhin, Learie Constantine and George Headley blazed a trail that allowed the peoples of the region to see the sport as holding greater significance. It became synonymous with the anti-colonial struggle and the thrust towards independence and self-determination. Cricket was a means to an end. We saw in our cricketers the embodiment of our aspirations as a people to rid ourselves of the shackles of colonialism. We used it to show the world that small as we are we were as capable as anyone anywhere in the world in this beautiful sport.
The early movers from the region soon gave way to the 3Ws – Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes and Frank Worrell – who took the game to another level as far as the Caribbean was concerned. Worrell, of course, established himself as a great leader of sportsmen and remains to this day the preeminent role model in the sport in this regard. Conrad Hunte, Rohan Kanhai and Basil Butcher were good with the  bat and Lance Gibbs became the best spinner ever to come from the region.
Garfield Sobers emerged as the world’s best all-rounder in the game’s history. His performances remain the stuff of legends and so they should be. Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith made way for the likes of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, and the best of the West Indies fast bowlers, Malcolm Marshall. Later on came Walsh and Ambrose. Among those with the bat, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards all distinguished himself before the excitement of the double world record holder, Brian Lara.
In the height of the golden age the West Indies team were accused of making a mockery of the sport by completing the routing of most of its opponents all too frequently inside the allotted five days. They often won by the fourth day and occasionally by the third day leaving countless enthusiastic cricket fans holding tickets that they were desirous of using to catch a glimpse of the athleticism of our Caribbean cricketers and their own teams.
It is nonetheless most interesting that following the Vivian Richards’ era the fortunes of the regional team slumped considerably, even to this day at the time of writing this Column. We have seen the emergence and decline of the golden era and the peoples of the region have had great difficulty coping. We have been relatively poor performers in all versions of the game such that we have become a most unattractive team to the game’s enthusiastic supporters around the world, including here in the Caribbean.
There is no shortage of explanations for the slump but the solutions that have thus far been attempted have all failed to effect change.
The One Day 50-over version of the game of cricket was introduced in the 1970’s and the West Indies team thumped the world in the early editions before outsmarting themselves in a final against India. The early successes came almost expectedly given the dominance of the team in the longer version of the game, test cricket.
In the early period of One Day Internationals the West Indies team operated as they did in the tests, like a well-oiled machine, sweeping all before them with relative ease.
The Caribbean got the right to host the Cricket World Cup in the early part of 2007. The peoples of the Caribbean approached the announcement with mixed emotions. On the one hand they were happy to have the opportunity to play host for so important a competition, which they had grown accustomed to watching on television rather than from the stands around the region’s cricketing arenas. On the other hand they were particularly concerned that given the history of the cricketing authorities in the region, there was not a wealth of experience in terms of hosting such a competition. There was also concern about the region’s capacity to deliver an event of the quality to which previous hosts had elevated the Cricket World Cup. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the emotions impacting the cricket loving peoples of the Caribbean at the time was the fact that we got the Cricket World Cup at a time when the regional team was at one of its worst slumps in history. West Indians everywhere dreaded the embarrassment of being humiliated at home.
The result was something akin to a major disaster and it is perhaps only the secrecy of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) that has kept the whole embarrassing truth at bay.
The governments of the Caribbean, all anxious to be part of what they thought was something of monumental and historic significance eagerly spent millions of dollars on infrastructure required by the authorities with little attention to the fundamentals of critical analysis and detailed planning. Led by the nose they al produced outlandish facilities some of which may never be filled in the lifetime of those who made the decisions. They were also hog-tied into enacting Sunset legislation that denied our Caribbean sporting enthusiasts from being true West Indians at the various matches. Accustomed to bringing this and that with them to the cricket ground the average West Indian was shell-shocked, transfigured, into a walking zombie at bat and ball.
The marketing strategy of the Organising Committee fell flat and many Caribbean nations were left holding the bag. Of the expected 300,000 visitors projected we barely attracted 70,000. In some countries even their traditional tourists stayed away fearing the overcrowding and sporting enthusiasm that was being sold abroad.
The West Indies cricket team made an early exit as anticipated. The players did not seem to have had a grasp of the historic significance of the occasion and went about their participation in a manner to which they had grown accustomed – casual and laics faire.
The dynamics of the global economy impacted so heavily by oil prices added to the embarrassment as even Caribbean people struggled to find the resources necessary to travel to the various countries to witness matches, so high were the airfares at the time.
The much-vaunted legacy of the CWC2007 is yet to be realised. Governments never saw any credible impact on their respective economies and must find resources to maintain the plethora of ‘white elephants’ they were suckered into constructing.
What Caribbean people remember most are the devastating performances of their regional team. It was heart-rending.
The leadership of West Indies Cricket were clearly out of their depth in the organisation of CWC2007. There were misfits everywhere and it is no accident that subsequent to the conclusion of CWC2007 the key players amongst the various Organising Committees virtually went into hibernation. The game remained as putrid as ever while the WICB dillydallied ad is their wont, seemingly incapable of impacting the players and the game more generally.
T20 World Cup 2010
The West Indies Cricket Board got the right to host the T20 World Cups for both men and women in 2010. One would have thought that lessons from the CWC2007 were learnt and somehow impact the decision-making process relative to the T20 World Cup. There seems little evidence of this where the team’s preparation was concerned.
The players were all over the place prior to the T20 World Cup and were not sufficiently crafted into a team that could have made headway in the competition. Even those players who are so highly valued in the Indian Premier League, failed abysmally to show Caribbean people at home that they are worthy of their continued support. Every member of the team played well below potential and proved an embarrassment. Gayle remains hard-hitting by the reckoning of the commentators but that is only when he actually hits the ball.
Chanderpaul was not half as reliable and dependable as he has been credited in the recent past.  Dwayne Bravo was consistently inconsistent much to our common chagrin.  Pollard failed to show reason for his huge fee in the IPL and this in both the batting and bowling departments.
Kemar Roach was fast but as fast as he came so he went to different parts of the field, a clear indication of the lack of experience in the game thus far.
At no time did the team look a cohesive fighting unit compared to the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England. These other teams displayed a level of commitment on the field that suggested the competition was their primary and indeed sole focus. To them each game had to be played as if it were the final. The same could not be said of the West Indies team.
New coach Otis Gibson would probably come to the realisation of the monumental nature of the task ahead of him once he tales the time to review the team’s performance in the competition.
The ICC changed its approach. The promotions went the complete opposite to what obtained in 2007. There was no Sunset legislation. Instead everyone was invited to bring something – anything – to make themselves comfortable and fully involved.
The WICB and the ICC did not appear to have effectively impacted the sport tourist to the T20 World Cup. While there were visitors their numbers were not significant. The authorities seemed not to have understood the reality of the Caribbean. The populations are small and essentially lack the resources to fill stadia except on weekends or on the odd working day.
Were it not for the sale of television rights the ICC and WICB would probably be crying all the way to the bank.
Accusing fingers
There is little doubt that the WICB remains solidly lodged somewhere in the Dark Ages of international sport, oblivious to the rapidly changing realities around them in the world of cricket to say nothing of the world of sport, more generally.
The current leadership of the sport in the Caribbean are incapable of effecting the changes needed to elevate West Indies Cricket from its current lowly and embarrassing position. They can neither help the organisation’s administration or the team.
There is no future for West Indies Cricket under the current dispensation.