West Indies Cricket – a pathetic pathway
Some time in the recent past a friend was explaining how he remembers the time when he stayed up for the better part of the night listening to the fortunes of the West Indies Cricket team playing in test series in Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan. He remembered what a joy it was to try to catch some of the commentary on series played in England.
As he sat there reminiscing he reflected on the eagerness with which he and his peers would discuss the pros and cons of West Indies Cricket and the heroes he had come to know.
Then my friend started on the current state of West Indies Cricket and it was indeed most lamentable.
The fact is that many people in the Caribbean are like my friend mentioned here. Caribbean people love sport and for many West Indies Cricket meant everything. It was not that our athletes in other sports were not doing well but rather that Cricket meant so much to all of us growing up in the latter part of the colonial era and then the post Independence period in the region.
It was the renowned CLR James who reminded us of the importance of the game of Cricket to the peoples of the Caribbean. He saw Caribbean involvement in the sport of the colonisers as at once the embodiment of the aspirations of us as a people engaged in the struggle to liberate ourselves from the mental bondage inherent in colonialism.
Interestingly, Cricketers like Learie Constantine and Frank Worrell had come to understand that the game was a means of showcasing our capacities as a people and that our competence in it was a means of standing alongside the rest of the world with appropriate pride.
Wes Hall loves to tell the story of how Frank Worrell, then captain of the West Indies Cricket team, spoke to his players as a father and friend would, explaining the importance of making something of themselves while playing Country Cricket in England. He encouraged them to educate themselves outside of the game. He wanted them to see themselves as a proud people from the Caribbean and as he developed himself he took the players along with him.
Today, much has changed.
The recently concluded Caribbean Cricket Tournament which ended with Barbados taking top honours in the final against host, Trinidad and Tobago, is reflective of the very sad state to which the game of Cricket has sunk in this region.
The Leeward Islands Cricket team ended the competition without a single victory. The players performed poorly throughout. They looked a hapless lot all along the way with every other team seeing them as more or less worthless.
When Jamaica were bungled out for a paltry 49 runs and lost by seven wickets with 221 balls left in the semi final encounter against Trinidad and Tobago, the entire Caribbean must have come to a recognition that the sport is perhaps at its lowest ebb since the days of Learie Constantine and Sonny Ramadin.
On reflection, the entire competition was something of a blight on the sport in the Caribbean. There was not a single bright spark in the competition leaving the sporting enthusiasts in the region embarrassed that this is what has happened to us.
Many must also be wondering where have our Cricketing heroes gone? What has happened to the rich legacy we once had?
If there is one thing that can be said of the West Indies Cricket team over the past decade it is that we are consistently inconsistent.
There is a strong sense around the region that the significant increase in income earned by some of our better prospects has been the undoing of the game in the region.
Caribbean nations are uncertain that their best players would be available to them for any particular tournament played in the region. This is the reality that obtains today.
The WICB has as yet been unable to exercise some sense of control over the development of the game in the region with decidedly poor administration and the left hand seemingly not knowing what the right is doing.
Caribbean players, already woefully deficient in their understanding of the history and historical significance of the game to the peoples of the region simply do not care about the patrons, supporters and well-wishers.
Patrons to the recently concluded competition in the Caribbean are still in something of a daze. They cannot believe that we had professionals playing in the encounters given the particularly poor performances displayed.
In many respects there is a growing disconnect between the players on the West Indies Cricket team and the peoples of the Caribbean.
Caribbean Cricket enthusiasts, like so many elsewhere, listened with great interest and some measure of awe at the recent announcement by the International Cricket Council of the decision to have three countries – England, Australia and India, become the major decision-makers in the sport in the future. This is exactly what flows from what was stated in the announcement. The aforementioned three Cricketing nations would have permanent seats on the ICC’s key decision-making body.
According to one media source, The proposals included setting up a powerful, five-member executive committee with seats reserved for India, England and Australia, the sport’s most influential boards.
The big three would also control distribution of a Test cricket fund to other members, while the future tours program, designed to give all teams a chance to tour other countries, will be scrapped.
Rather interestingly, while many in the Caribbean were eagerly slamming the announcement and its implications the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was said to be in agreement with the content.
Many are still pondering what has happened to the WICB to allow it to agree to the proposed new measures undertaken by the ICC even at a time when South Africa, much better ranked than ourselves in international Cricket, lamented the decision and labelled it woefully unsatisfactory.
The same source stated, Pakistan great Imran Khan described it as colonial.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said it was not in line with the principle of equity, nor in the interest of the game of cricket.
And British peer Lord Harry Woolf, whose review of the ICC’s governance recommended a watering down of the big countries’ powers, called it ”a really alarming position for the future of cricket”.
”I don’t see how if we had this to consider, we could see it as anything but a retrograde step,” the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales told Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
The big three had insisted their scheme would benefit other leading nations, with England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke saying: ”All countries earn more through this proposal. How can that be bad for cricket?”
It is extremely difficult to understand the rationale for the WICB’s agreeing to the proposed new structure of the ICC unless we are told that we have somehow been guaranteed fixed incomes each year regardless of how we perform against opposing teams.
The crux of the matter is exactly that – increased revenues.
The media source noted, New Zealand board member Martin Snedden described the restructure as good for New Zealand Cricket, saying the body stood to receive a significant boost to its finances.
WICB President, Dave Cameron, was quoted in the Observer of Jamaica, from a CMC document, explained that the new financing proposals will allow the WICB to negotiate, on a bilateral basis, tours to other countries from which it will earn direct revenue.
The interest is in the money.
However, Cameron seemingly sought to impress the media by stating, The amended key principles that cover governance, financing and structure will allow the game to grow and develop the game in the Caribbean and in the Americas far more robustly and vigorously.
We can inform you as well that the WICB have already secured commitments from the major countries to play an increased number of matches and series over the next eight years.
It should be noted that the WICB boss was unable to speak to anything specific in respect of the tours that should prove to be lucrative in the future.
One is not at all certain that the way West Indies is currently playing that touring our part of the world would likely prove economically viable in the context of the thinking behind the new ICC structure.
It seems more likely that the West Indies may end up playing more international matches abroad than at home in the Caribbean and to poorer Cricketing nations than is currently the case.
Of course the way the WICB does business it is difficult to know the extent to which the decision to agree the new ICC structure would have been thoroughly ventilated amongst its membership.
The region has not been doing good in the sport and this must affect its revenues.
I tis easy to assume that access to increased revenues would save the day but there is little reason to believe this when one examines the performance record of the administration of the WICB.
Pursuit of the almighty dollar may seem a good idea to Cameron and his crew at present. Cricket enthusiasts may readily reflect on the paucity of the recently concluded regional competition and shudder at the future prospects of the game for the Caribbean.
West Indies Cricket remains in dire straights.
There is little evidence that things have changed enough to allow us to be optimistic about the future.
The WICB was represented on the ICC when that body short0changed us by insisting on limiting fast bowlers to two bouncers per over.
We were involved in the recent decision to effect change to allow India, England and Australia to rule the game over the next several years, all because some seem to suggest greater revenues will accrue to everyone.
Time will tell.
Do not hold your breath.