Fri | Aug 18, 2017

WICB not to blame for failure

Published:Friday | December 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Over the years, I have made the argument that the real reason the West Indies are struggling so badly in Test cricket is that the average West Indian boy is no longer as passionate about the game, as was the case in the 1970s and '80s.

Others have said my theory is too simplistic. It isn't. Every single thing that ails our cricket now can be traced back to that one thing: a loss of passion for the game. Why that passion has gone is a question that needs to be researched. I can't quite put my figure on the exact reason. The minute I say that, people feel my theory has holes, as if not being able to explain makes my theory any less credible. That's rubbish.

National passion isn't something that usually can be explained easily. Jamaicans, for example, have a passion for dominoes. There is a domino table at most country bars. Where that passion came from cannot be explained. It just happens to be.

When I was a child in primary school, we had a passion for marbles and gigs and kites. Nobody could rationally explain why these pastimes were such a part of our culture, especially as rural children. I know no Jamaican boy who went to primary school in my time who wasn't keen on at least one of these three things. Nobody can explain why, 30 years on, these things no longer exist.

The change didn't seem to be gradual either. Not so long ago in our history, every self-respecting little boy would come home with his pants dirty at the knees for kneeling in the dirt and playing marbles. Mothers would beat and berate. Didn't make a difference. He'd do the same thing tomorrow. Your marbles were treated like gold. Just the feel of some pretty glassy 'plebs' in your hand would make your day. Without warning, that habit disappeared.

The same thing is true of our cricket. We just don't love the game the same anymore. Like the lost passion for marbles, there is no rational explanation. Some theories make sense. Some don't. But we know fewer boys are playing the game.

Where there are shrinking numbers in a sport, the quality will suffer. Great national passion means big numbers participating. Great numbers participating means spaces for places become harder on any district or school team. Because it is harder, it forces one's level to rise. Because it forces one's level to rise, it means greater time and energy in developing one's skills.

The mushrooming effect is that standards become higher from the village green to the West Indies Test team. When we want to find out why we are struggling in Test cricket now, we need look no further than this simple explanation.

 

NOT WICB's fault

 

I have heard all the former greats saying all kinds of things. Blaming the board has become passé. To blame the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for the demise of cricket in the Caribbean is a mistake.

It's like blaming pastors for the fact that fewer and fewer youngsters are going to church. Youngsters don't go to church because of what pastors do. Thirty or 40 years ago, the churchgoing habit was ingrained in you as a child, either by force or persuasion. After a while, the thing became a habit that you stuck to as an adult.

Successive West Indies boards have struggled to come up with solutions. They struggle because, essentially, there is no solution. When we were ruling the roost, it had nothing to do with the board. How many of us knew who was the WICB president when we were little boys playing cricket all day 30 years ago? Cricket boards don't start passion and they don't end it. They merely preside over and capitalise and help to streamline what is already there.

We are asking successive boards to get us successful again when they had done nothing to make us become successful in the first place. Let's cut to the chase. Fancy rhetoric aside, we 'nuh good' in cricket because we no longer have the passion.

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