The West Indies cricket team remains at the forefront of the consciousness of our people in the Caribbean if only because of what the game has come to mean for successive generations.
Despite the changing behaviour of our youth the reality still remains that like their fore parents they maintain an interest in the fortunes of the cricket team.
For the older generations the team retains its role in terms of its representative nature. It represents the aims and aspirations of generations of West Indians as we aspire to take what we perceive to be our rightful role in the international community.
When the West Indies began playing test cricket the region needed an institution that brought our people together in our own best interest. The West Indies cricket therefore was seen as representing all of us in the region regardless of size. Interestingly the organisation reflected the state of the region in every period. When race was a factor impacting our respective societies the team reflected it.
When the blacks in the region sought to lay claim to equal standing in Caribbean society this too was reflected in the internal struggles of the team.
Many will recall the role of Frank Worrell when he stood up for the unity of the team in Australia when the host nation sought to impose their racism on the visitors amongst whom were some whites who appeared only too anxious to comply. Worrell’s action changed the course of the way things were done in the organisation for all time but this was only possible because it occurred within the wider context of the social changes being ushered in at all levels in the Caribbean.
Today too the West Indies cricket team reflects the state of things in the various societies of the Caribbean. The continuing wrangling that occurs within the sport in the region and in the team itself is but a microcosm of what is happening in the society at large. In this regard the move towards Caribbean integration remains as adrift today as it has ever been with the leaders of the respective governments still at the stage of wanting to be little King Tots.
The cricket enthusiasts in the Caribbean want to see the team do well without necessarily appreciating to the full the importance of the team to the well being of the region. When the team does well we feel a sense of achievement. It is as though we have done well ourselves. In this regard the team is an embodiment of all that we want for ourselves as a people. We year after international recognition and success.
Caribbean people now boast of the number of nobel laureats from this region. We proudly lay claim to anyone from the Caribbean who gains international recognition in whatever field of endeavour even in cases where the individual does not reside here and has long since given up citizenship of their original home in the region, so anxious are we for success.
It is in the context of the foregoing that we can begin to understand why it is that our people are so anxious to see every hint of a return to former glory by the West Indies team as much more than a ray of hope.
Not surprisingly, the recent performances by the team in the series against Australia led some of the region’s more experienced journalists to fall prey to the blighted concept: ‘We have turned the corner’. The reality ha been so often that whenever we turn the corner we seem to run into a big ugly Mack truck.
Test series versus Australia
The recent test series against Australia saw the West Indies team suffer yet another defeat, going under by a 0 – 2 margin.
The first defeat was in the first test and it was a very humiliating one. It was what many expected to happen.
The West Indies then seemed to have performed well enough to have the cricketing world and many West Indians impressed given the closeness of the result. Of course there are those who would readily suggest that the West Indies should have won two test matches leaving the series 2 – 1 in their favour.
What went wrong?
The response to the aforementioned question is simple. The same things that have been going wrong for a very long time continued. The team is not yet the fighting unit that it ought to be if it is to be recognised by the international cricketing community.
Perhaps the best thing to emerge in the recent test series against Australia is the seeming coming of age of Adrian Bharat. The young man has been impressive since his first Under 15 tournament. He was considered too young to be taken on board with the Under 19s because some of those involved in the decision making process thought that age was a factor in performance. They may well have done him a grave disservice. This is not the first time that this has happened and unless radical change takes place it certainly would not be the last.
Bharat’s batting drew superlatives from some of the best cricket writers around the game today. He is already seen as an accomplished fielder close to the bat in the tradition of some of the game’s greats and his batting has given hope for the future not just of West Indies cricket but the sport in general.
But we have been there before. We have had immensely talented athletes make the West Indies team and not be afforded the guidance that is necessary fro them to realise their full potential. The authorities sat idly by while taking Brian Lara around the world with his immense talent claiming that he was too young and waiting on Hooper to deliver on his promise. At the same time Lara was exposed to all of the bad habits of the leaders of the game on and off the field of play before joining their ranks in the middle. One wonders whether the same fate awaits Bharat.
The WICB has been rather adept at keeping the behaviour of some of our players away from the mainstream media but many are aware of it nonetheless.
While there is talk about the Academy it is being touted as something new without paying due tribute to the initial efforts undertaken by the St George’s University in Grenada and the Barbadian Sports Psychologist, the gaping hole that exists in the finances of the WICB leaves one pondering just how the plans will be paid for.
This young Barbadian paceman has already shown signs that he can become one of the best we have seen in this part of the world for some time. He is not of the bad behaved crowd of pacers of the recent past. His approach to the game seems far more sturdy and studied.
During the recently concluded test series Roach impressed with his pace. He certainly made a name for himself with his attention to Ricky Pointing, the Australian captain who was left very uncomfortable against the Barbadian.
Roach seems to have the potential to go on to great things if he receives appropriate attention in respect of his growth and development as a pace bowler. He loves the game and enjoys beating the batsmen and taking wickets, all important ingredients for a genuine pacer.
Dwayne Bravo again showed that he is easily the most accomplished all-rounder in West Indies cricket for some time. He is a tremendous fielder, an accomplished batsman and at times the most dangerous of our bowlers.
Bravo has show tremendous grit and competence in every version of the game and has become one of the most important players on the West Indies team.
Bravo as been able to consistently break important bating partnerships in any form of the game. He has the capacity to transform a game at any stage. He can be relied upon to create vital opportunities for his team.
There is a sense that once Bravo has the bal in hand he can bring about radical change in the nature of any match being played.
The West Indies Players Association (WIPA) has emerged as one of the most maligned institution by cricket supporters in the region who have not taken the time to understand the organisation and its role in the development of the sport in the Caribbean.
It is unfortunate that too many of the fans look only at the success rate of the team and on this basis arrive at the conclusion of the players being greedy. They do not examine the terms and conditions of their employment with the WIUCB and make appropriate comparisons with teams across the globe.
Throughout the world cricketers have moved from amateur status to professionals. This has many implications.
While some seem to think that the players are greedy this is very far from the truth. They are amongst the lowest paid amongst test playing nations.
Bravo has chronicled in an interview the horrors of being injured only to be saddled with all of the expenses for his treatment and recovery. The contractual arrangements did not appear to cover this for him and the other players.
Closer examination of the contracts that players of several of the other test playing nations have with their players would reveal the shameful lack of respect that the WICB has for our players.
For whatever reason the WICB continues to see itself as custodians of the game who must not be challenged. Nothing has changed in terms of the way the WICB operates. It is the ‘same khaki pants’. Modernisation has not yet made it to the WICB.
The game in the region has regressed if only because the leadership are all fossilised to the extreme.
There are times when it appears that the WICB is itself a massive Mack truck that stands in the way of the progressive development of the sport in the region and of the team itself.
For West Indies cricket the recently concluded tour of Australia revealed more of the same. The team has some very good individual players yet to be moulded into a fighting machine good enough to match strides with the best and earn the respect of the international community instead of the inconsistent ‘rag-tag’ band that now exists.
The WICB needs to be rid of its fossilised status and get with the times and the new thinking. This is one institution for whom R & D are yet to mean something.