The leadership of Cricket West Indies must be living somewhere else in the galaxy than on what we have come to know as planet earth.
While the West Indies team strive ever so diligently to establish itself as one of the most debilitating teams in international cricket today, the leadership of the regional game appears only too eager to focus attention on the economic fortunes of the organisation.
Clearly there is a dearth of leadership in Cricket West Indies just as much as there is in the case of the West Indies cricket team.
The recently concluded tour of New Zealand must be the most humiliating experience of West Indies cricket fans wherever in the world they are located at this juncture.
There is actually no fight in the team and the players may well have come to the same conclusion as many of the sport’s critics, that money is what is important and individual performance determines one’s economic future. The team is immaterial. Even less important in the history of West Indies cricket and the peoples of the Caribbean.
WI in New Zealand
It has been some time since the West Indies team showed itself worthy of a place amongst the best in international cricket today.
Whilst many a West Indian cricket fan has been buoyed by the achievements of successive generations of great players produced by the region, the past several years have yielded much that we should be ashamed about, not the least of which has been the unfortunate quasi-political spat between some of the region’s political leaders individually and under the ambit of the CARICOM self-appointed Cricket Committee and the leadership of Cricket West Indies.
The West Indies team to New Zealand for the 2017/18 series was completely outplayed in virtually every department as much as happened in every version of the game played.
The performance record reveals that the opening game of the tour perhaps set the stage for what was to follow in the actual contest. The West Indies opener was against a New Zealand A team. The West Indies flattered to deceive, amassing a mammoth 451 for 9 declared, with Vincentian, Sunil Ambris, posting 153 and young Hope, 110. In response, New Zealand A posted 237 and were 72 without loss when the game ended. Quite honestly, this was by a long way the regional team’s best performance on tour. The problem was their inability to win.
From the vantage point, albeit decidedly prejudiced, Vincentians were hoping for great things from Sunil Ambris. Unfortunately, this too did not work out according to what were the perceived prospects.
The test matches
Once the test matches started the approach of the New Zealanders indicated a profound desire to embarrass the West Indies at every turn in respect t of the game of cricket.
It should be noted that in the 1999/2000 tour the West Indies never won a match in the time spent in New Zealand and it was clear from the start of this most recent tour that the hosts were prepared to repeat the feat against a regional side that had grown accustomed to humiliating them on their own soil.
In the first test the West Indies scored 134 and 319 while New Zealand batted once and serve dup a whopping 529 for 9 declared.
As Vincentians flocked around television screens wherever possible in the hope of a good start for Ambris, the youngster faltered by hitting his own wicket in the first innings for an unfortunate debut duck and 18 in the second innings.
The West Indian batsmen simply did not show up for meaningful duty whilst the bowlers were out of their depth.
In the second test it was more of the same. New Zealand scored 373 and 291 for 9 declared whilst the West Indies posted 221 and 203 respectively. The hapless West Indian players dropped their shoulders in a pathetic display of cricket away from home.
Our own Ambris again hit wicket this time having scored two runs. In the second innings he was struck and forced to retire hurt while on five. That was the end of his tour due to the injury.
One Day Internationals(ODI)
Having been humiliated in the two-test series, fans around the world were hopeful that for sure we would so much better in the ODIs. Unfortunately, here again the regional team received an almost unforgettable whipping at the hands of the New Zealanders.
In the first of the ODIs West Indies amassed 248 for the loss of nine wickets in the allotted 50 overs. New Zealand in response posted 249 in 46 of the allotted 50 overs, embarrassing the West Indies yet again.
The second ODI was even more embarrassing for West Indians. New Zealand were first to the crease and amassed 325 for the loss of six wickets in the 50 overs. This was always a tall order for the West Indies even before they approached the wicket. The regional side made a paltry 121 using only 28 of the allotted 50 overs. Pathetic is hardly appropriate for a team from the Caribbean.
The third and final ODI was rain affected and once more the West Indies found themselves son the receiving end.
As happened with the test series, the regional side emerged from the ODI contest without a victory in three matches.
The final set of matches in the series against New Zealand saw us engaged in three T20s.
Given our performance sin the T20 World Cup it was felt that despite the earlier losses to New Zealand in the test and ODIs, we would at least salvage some pride in this version of the game.
No such luck.
The West Indies were literally beaten out of sight.
The first T20 saw us score 140 in response to New Zealand’s187 for seven.
The second T20 was rained out and some may suggest that this must have been a blessing since the New Zealanders had started a runaway campaign while at the crease when weather permitted in the beginning.
In the third and final T20, as if intent in putting the final nail in the cricketing coffin of a hapless West Indies team, the New Zealanders hammered 243 for the loss of five wickets in their turn at the crease. In response we could only muster 124, leaving the hosts with victory by 119 runs. This in a T20 match.
The series came to an end the very same way it started, with the West Indies decidedly woeful in appearance and out of sorts in virtually any aspect of the game.
Confronting the problem
It is probably impossible to adequately address the problems of the West Indies cricket team without first dealing with the leadership of the sport in the region.
While it is obvious that money solves problems it may also be the case that money creates problems for some sporting organisations.
In the recent disclosure following a meeting of the Board of Directors of Cricket West Indies in Nevis in early December 2017, president, Dave Cameron, reported in a somewhat ebullient manner that the organisation experienced its third consecutive year of surplus.
Cameron spoke of the pathway being so very well served by the policies and strategies that he and his team have established and continue to implement.
The pronouncement of the president of Cricket West Indies serves to highlight one of the major problems impacting the development of the game in the region.
Almost with heads buried in the sand the leadership of the game continue to dream dreams.
One of the proposed strategies for the future is the realization of the potential of the ‘Windies brand’. Precisely what constitutes this phenomenon in the context of the current performances of the team remains a veritable unknown to everyone except perhaps the leadership of Cricket West Indies.
The restructuring of international cricket in the recent past has left Cricket West Indies in a position to benefit from enhanced revenues regardless of the performance of the team in international competition. This may well be the reason that despite abysmally poor on-field performances by successive West Indies teams the leadership of Cricket West Indies continue to remain upbeat regarding the state of the organisation’s finances. It may well be a case of ‘mistaking the leaves for the forest’.
St Vincent and the Grenadines recently hosted one of the regional matches in what some suggest is a sort of professional league in the region. Attendance may have been just around 150 persons on the best day and many of the patrons were an aging lot.
The level of the game witnessed was well below average and many pondered why it is that we even bother to speak of developing the sport when nothing is really happening by any analysis of the sport.
At the local level the game continues to slide.
One would hope that there is a comprehensive review of cricket at the local level.
As one traverses St Vincent and the Grenadines the vast majority of playing fields are dominated by young people playing football, even if only for the sweat it provides. What is evident is the conspicuous absence of youngsters playing cricket.
Even where on sees football being played in the streets the same can no longer be said for the sport of cricket that was once particularly dominant.
There is an urgent need for cricket, like all other sports, to facilitate a long term athlete development (LTAD) programme with clear objectives and activities for each developmental age-grouping. Such an approach would inevitably positively impact the level of the game at the school and youth level and eventually, the seniors in the game.
As it now stands the numbers getting into cricket in St Vincent and the Grenadines are dwindling. The sport has to become more appealing and attractive. There is need for a new infusion of fun with the fundamentals.
The available funding cannot only be used to service the elite in the sport. The point of departure must be innovative, fun-filled and sustainable if we are to ultimately witness a change in fortunes at the international level.