Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Orville Higgins | How the mighty have fallen!

Published:Friday | May 26, 2017 | 5:00 AM

West Indies cricket fans may well suffer more emotional hardship than other fans in any other sport anywhere in the world. How many other fans can say that they grew up watching an all-conquering team that ruled the world and now have to suffer the ignominy of watching them become beating sticks?

Who could have believed that the team that won the first two 50-over Cricket World Cup titles (and were surprisingly beaten finalists in the third) would now be unable to find a place in a Champions Trophy global one-day tournament because we are not among the top eight teams? Has there ever been any team that has fallen from such glory to such depths? I doubt it, and we fans know better than anybody else what it means to feel the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

One of the effects of the West Indies' prolonged stint as a 'bramble' team is the inevitable blame game. We, as West Indians, can't accept that the social forces that made us such a great cricket team are no longer at work.

I have written about this before. The reason why the West Indies did so well in cricket three or so decades ago is that cricket was more like a social pastime than it was a game then for boys in the Caribbean. They honed their skills simply by the hours and hours they played from a formative age. Our success in Test cricket in the 1980s had NOTHING to do with the West Indies administrators.

As I have written and said before, our passion for the game was the single biggest reason for the West Indies cricket dominance. We kid ourselves when we find any other reason to account for our cricket success in the '80s. The reality is that no one planned our path to the top of world cricket back in the day. Administrators did not get us to the top in the '80s, and they won't be able to get us to the top now.

Now that we are losing, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), especially the West Indies board president, is coming in for unwarranted criticism. I have heard Dave Cameron being blamed for everything, from pitches that didn't play the way we liked, to team selection, to players opting to play in the T20 franchises around the world rather than in, and for, the West Indies.

None of this makes any sense. The WICB is just as able to produce a high-quality cricket team in the short run as I am able to levitate! Dave Cameron has been given a basket to carry water and continues to be walloped in the media.

 

FEW INTERESTED IN CRICKET

 

We have to face the fact that fewer youngsters are interested in Test cricket. Don't be fooled by the fact that youngsters are still playing some cricket at the high-school level. That is not the real yardstick to measure true passion. True passion is demonstrated not only by what we do, but by what we watch. The way to assess this is to see how few youngsters are at Sabina Park for a regional game. The park is usually empty when there is a regional four-day game. That is an indication that there is no real interest for the game at the base.

We could blame Dave Cameron until we are blue in the face. The truth is, there is precious little that the board can do that can transform West Indies' fortunes overnight. Dave Cameron and his board cannot rub a lamp like Aladdin and make some wishes that will come true. The simple truth is that the quality and standard of cricket have been dropping because the quality of interest is falling, especially for the longer formats. Our most high-profile cricketers are now hired guns for T20 cricket. The board can't compete with the money they make elsewhere, so invariably, we don't have our best cricketers here as often as we would like.

Cameron is on the right track when he is offering increased revenue to regional cricketers. He is doing the right thing by ensuring that an extended season is now the norm. The problem is not Dave Cameron or the board. They are doing the best they can.

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.