Tue | Oct 24, 2017

Why we suck at cricket

Published:Friday | June 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Another Test match is under way at Sabina Park. It's a good bet that Australia will beat us well before Monday's final session. By then, there may only be a few spectators on hand to witness the final rites.

I can't think of any other team in global sports that would have moved from being strutting, rampaging champions, to being everybody's beating stick, in so short a time. I have heard a whole host of people giving their reasons for our decline.

I have read (and heard) everybody who has something worthwhile to say about West Indies cricket, many of them well-respected figures around the region. The reasons vary. People blame administration; they blame infrastructure; they blame our economic condition relative to the other Test countries. They blame coaches and captains and players who lack motivation and are just in cricket to fatten their pockets. They blame poor pitches in the region. For the most part, these well-respected cricket figures are all wrong. Dead wrong!

All of those play their part, of course, but none of those capture the real reason. I have been at pains to tell anyone who will listen that the West Indies decline is caused by one reason. Everything else is mere fluff. The simple reason why we are not as dominant is that cricket is no longer as popular with the West Indies boy as it used to be.

 

no difference

 

No measure that is put in place now will make any real difference. It doesn't matter if you build new grounds or change presidents or coaches. It doesn't matter if you have academies or have our learned intellectuals writing reports. These won't hurt, but they won't really help. Those are stopgap measures that will show temporary improvement but can't be sustained. Our cricket problem can only be solved this way.

If you get the West Indies youngster to be fully passionate about cricket again, we will become competitive again. The greater the passion, the greater the level of competitiveness. It's as simple as that.

Cricket is not the only passion we have lost. Thirty years ago, the Caribbean boy also had a passion for marbles and kites and making gigs. If there were worldwide competitions for marbles and making kites, we would have been a dominant force in those, too. Those passions are all gone, for social reasons that may be too long-winded to go into now.

 

the real reason

 

When we were the best cricket team in the world, it was for this reason. As little boys, we loved cricket, for whatever reason. We played it everywhere, with everything. We fought over it; we laughed and cried about it. We got beaten for it, but we played every chance we got.

By the time the 1970s boy became a Test cricketer, he didn't have much to learn. Now, you have limited passion, which means limited participants, which usually means limited talent.

The countries that dominate team sports do it because there is serious passion among the grass roots. Brazil and Germany are great in football, and the Americans great in basketball, and Jamaicans great in sprinting for the same reason. The youngsters in those countries turn naturally to the sports they like as children and with time will master as adults. Let us not fool ourselves. Without passion at the base, our cricket is going absolutely nowhere.

- Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.