Oh what an awful lot we are – WI Cricket team
The entire Caribbean is still trying to recover from the devastating defeat of the West Indies team in the first test against Edgbaston, England. It is not an easy thing for Caribbean people to accept the kind of humiliation visited upon the regional team by the cricketing representatives of the former colonialists in the recent past.
England handed West Indies a defeat by an innings and 209 runs, achieved in only three days. This has left many pondering whether it is in any way worth the while to engage the West Indies team in a test series in the future since the performance of the players continues to drop and does not prove attractive to cricketing enthusiasts in test-playing nations.
That first test
It is not just that England humiliated the West Indies at Edgbaston last week. More incredible, is the manner in which the defeat was delivered.
England batted first and posted 514 for eight wickets and then declared. It was amazing that our team found immense difficulty coming to terms with the English weather conditions enough to muster any challenge to the English batsmen.
That the English team opted to declare after having lost eight wickets and amassing 514, is reflective of the very low estimation and respect that they have for the hapless, some may say hopeless, West Indies team in the longer version of the game. Of significance for us is the manner in which the English treated us in that first test.
Cook hammered our bowlers all around the competition arena for 243 while Root served up a highly supportive 136.
When the West Indies took to the crease we could only muster 168. Of course, we were readily sent back to bat for a second time and managed to perform even worse than in the previous innings, producing a paltry 137.
Few could have ever imagined that England would take 19 of our 20 wickets on the third day of the test, making it the final day.
The West Indian fans in England must now be wondering what has happened to the once great West Indies and how did it ever come to pass that we now appear to have a test-playing team that seems too ignorant about the game as to be labelled, schoolboys.
There was a time when the West Indies cricket team had become the most feared cricketers in the sport, with genuine fast bowlers literally oozing out of the woodwork.
As has happened with Jamaican sprinters, the world wondered what it was about the Caribbean that allowed for the emergence of such a consistent rash of players of such high quality, passionate about the game, knowledgeable about its several components and committed to seizing every opportunity to showcase the abundance of talent on the field of play.
Those were the days when it was our turn to end one test match after another in three days. Indeed, this had become so commonplace for the West Indies that the cricketing world revealed its own form of racism, chiding our team for creating huge losses in gate receipts by completing the routing of opposing teams in such a commanding fashion.
It was also stated then that our players had little respect for their opponents and the niceties of the game. ICC at the time opted to crush the West Indies by agreeing to place limits on the number of short-pitched deliveries a bowler could make in a single over. This occurred at the same time that the English Cricket Board opted to limit the number of overseas players that a country’s team could employ in any given season.
The shame was that our cricket leaders at the time cowered under the despicable actions of those who felt offended that the West Indies had taken command of a game that was introduced to them by the colonialists.
The former colonialists and their minions were very much aware of ‘liberation cricket’ as also were the players of that particular generation.
For our players it was ‘payback time’.
Everyone understood the change in the dynamics of West Indies cricket when captain Richie Richardson, in leading the regional side against South Africa on their re-entry to international cricket following the end of apartheid, commented on the loss, “It was just a game”.
Over the past few decades we have seen flashes of cricketing brilliance but very rare. We have also seen the media create some heroes only to have them deflated later on.
There is a sense now that we have allowed the sport to depreciate significantly, with the team being considered amongst the weakest in the ICC.
Emphasis is now placed on the revenues generated via the ICC than on the systematic forensic analysis of the state of the game in the region.
Attendances at national and regional cricket competitions have attained an all-time low with no revitalisation in sight.
Players are today eager to garner contracts to ply their trade across the world in the T20 version without any genuine commitment to the game at the national and regional levels.
The leadership of the sport in the region appears to have lost all sense of where they are going.
Pathetically, the worst crop of political leaders in the history of the region are today of the view, for the most part, that they know how to solve the problems of West Indies cricket even as they show their respective populations their incompetence in respect of lifting their respective countries out of the current economic, political and social morass into which they are sitting rather uncomfortably.
The state of the sport of cricket in the Caribbean today is in large measure consistent with the region’s perception of what it can deliver.
When the West Indies were awarded the Cricket World Cup 2007 (CWC2007), no one took the time to really engage the then West Indies Cricket Board, regarding the premise on which the decision to accept the award was based.
Without any sort of analysis, the WICB managed to convince CARICOM that the hosting of CWC2007 was a guaranteed economic boon and the decidedly weak leadership at the latter organisation fell for it, ‘hook, line and sinker’. No analysis was necessary; at least that was the general impression given.
One government after another readily expended already slender economic resources without thought.
All of them fell prey to the glitz and glitter, enacting the now infamous, ‘Sunset Legislation’, in the process denying their own enthusiastic lovers of the game the historic opportunity to maintain their entertainment tradition at cricket matches.
Colossal stadia were built with little regard to cost.
Today, a number of white elephants dot the Caribbean sporting landscape, legacies to an entirely unplanned programme that fell under the guise of sport development.
None of the political leaders that so readily accepted involvement in CWC2017 have taken the time to engage in any form of critical analysis of the impact or lack thereof of such an undertaking. Why should they? They did no analysis before getting involved, in the first instance.
The Vincentian debacle
Here at home there has been no critical analysis of the impact of our involvement in CWC2017.
We hastily constructed some pavilions at Arnos Vale. In the case of the double decker pavilion, the toilets on the ground floor became useless in the very first year of operation, 2007. They are yet to be repaired 10 years later. Every major competition at Arnos Vale #1, the nation’s premier playing field, requires of the organisers, the contracting of portable toilets.
This country has not featured as host of any major international cricket contest involving the men’s West Indies cricket team. This phenomenon has gone unexplained for some time.
Dominica has long since taken our place as a featured host nation of international cricket alongside Grenada and St Lucia in the Windward Islands.
All of the hype about legacy related to our involvement in the CWC2007 has faded without so much as a whimper from cricketing authorities here and at the regional level. We have been unable to benefit from using our sport facilities as a training option for international organisations.
We see no projects being undertaken to facilitate a change in this regard any time soon.
It is clear that the local cricket bosses are hopeful that their work towards the development of the sport can allow young Vincentians to aspire and eventually make it to the regional side, beginning at the lowest agegroup through to the senior team.
However, the challenges are monumental since as yet the organisation, like so many other national sports associations in this country, does not possess its own home. There remains heavy reliance on the governmental authorities where facilities are concerned.
We continue to talk about the immense economic benefits that could and should accrue from the systematic development of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines but there is little evidence that there is any genuinely scientific approach to realising this, here at home.