Cricket: anatomy of a crisis
Kenny Anthony, the prime minister of St Lucia, has, among the pontificators and analysts, come closest to diagnosing the crisis in West Indies cricket. It mirrors, he says, the crisis in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the region's economic integration grouping.
Our view, not far removed from Dr Anthony's, and as we have in the past shared in these columns, is that the region's cricket reflects a crisis deeper and wider than CARICOM's. It is a crisis of contemporary West Indian society - and its failure to transition from colonies to modern, decently managed and economically viable nation states. In that regard, West Indian cricket bears, in its broadest definition, the failure of leadership - not only in the politics and administration of the sport.
It is unlikely to be lost on serious students of the regional game that its periods of ascendancy have, broadly, been in tandem with important social movements. Constantine and, more so, Headley were contemporaries of the social ferment of the 1930s, the Frome and oil field labour riots and the Moyne commission. Worrell, Walcott, Weekes and their group were contemporaneous with, if not children of, that first flush of West Indianness and the possibilities of a West Indian federal identity, followed by the fracture of that ideal and of the team of the 1960s.
The great teams of the 1970s and '80s were concurrent with the rise of the Black Power liberation and new world/Left theology movements, out of which Dr Anthony and his Vincentian counterpart, Ralph Gonsalves, were spawned, and of which Jamaica's Michael Manley was a leader. It perhaps says something important that the greatest of that era, Richards, Lloyd, Holding, Roberts, and Garner, didn't succumb to the blandishments of apartheid South Africa to betray Mandela's movement.
The point is that something in these periods that was inspirational to people from whom the region's cricketers sprung and to whom they belonged: that they and their islands could be greater than their immediate circumstance; and, perhaps, that West Indian cricketers were more than itinerant troubadours.
Dr Anthony is right. Caribbean leadership lost the plot. But not in the sense of the trite analysis that places every disagreement into the realm of insularity and sees systemic problems through prisms of personality. Blame Dave Cameron, or Julian Hunte, or their predecessors.
CRISIS TO CRISIS
Faced with a changed world and new circumstances, public-private and institutional leadership has foundered, incapable, it seems, of designing governance arrangements that engender trust and public buy-in. In the circumstance, perception of corruption and abuse of power is pervasive, worsened by the failure of the West Indies, as collective or individual states, to achieve economic breakthroughs. They appear only to lurch from crisis to crisis.
In this culture of distrust, the default is to disbelieve the 'Establishment', to rally around and promote individual rather than community interests, even if it means abandoning a tour to India and the trade union sidelining the majority in favour of the elite few.
Ultimately, West Indies cricket won't be fixed with new presidents of the board, or implementing unwieldy management systems designed by former politicians and bureaucrats. It starts with open, frank leadership, at the level of the game and at the state. People must believe they have something to hold on to and in which they can believe.