Sat | Aug 18, 2018

What price, West Indies cricket?

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM


Once upon a time, West Indies cricket was the pride and joy of the West Indian people, far and wide. Today, it is almost the opposite: it is almost the embarrassment of the people, all of them, wherever they reside.

It has nothing to do with the fact that West Indies cricket no longer produces or possesses the great cricketers which it once did, it no longer wins more matches than it loses and that, obviously, it is no longer the best in the world as it was once.

It has nothing to do with the fact that once, on many occasions, the West Indies played in Test matches that went to the wire, that once, nay twice, they defeated a team like England 5-0, that for years Australia never knew what it was to win against them, and that once they were the biggest attraction in the game, from Lord's to Melbourne.

Those were the days when contests against England and Australia were the order of the day, when series against India came in quick succession and when to lose to anyone in two or three days was unthinkable.

Those were not the days when contests against the likes of Bangladesh were regular and victory for the West Indies came only after hard-fought battles.

West Indies cricket is now a disappointment to the West Indies people because of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), because of its failure to concentrate on the game, to find out what is wrong with West Indian players, how they can help them to develop and to deal with the situation.

The problem seems to be a leadership of West Indians who simply do not believe that West Indians are good enough to solve their own problems, that despite producing people like Norman Manley, Alexander Bustamante, Marcus Garvey, Eric Williams, Grantley Adams, Eugenia Charles, Shridath Ramphal, Rex Nettleford, 'Sparrow', V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, Bob Marley, etcetera, etcetera, West Indians are not capable, or are not good enough, to solve their own problems.

It was so, or it may have been so, back in the 19th century and also a part of the 20th century. But it is no longer so.

set the pace

These men of brilliance paved the way, and after that, Learie Constantine, a West Indies cricketer who later became 'Sir Learie' and after that 'Lord Constantine'.

The latter stood up at Lord's in 1950 when the West Indies won their first Test match to level the score in the series at 1-1 and said: "Before this, we came to learn; this time, we come to teach," as the West Indies went on to win the series 3-1.

The West Indies, riding on the shoulders of Jeffrey Stollmeyer and Allan Rae, Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott, Sony Ramadhin and Alfred Valentine and company, set the pace in 1950. Since then, there have been many, many West Indians in things like politics, arts, business, and law, including cricket and other sports, who have distinguished themselves in the world.

There is no doubt that in some areas, the West Indies need assistance from elsewhere, but definitely not in cricket, not when the West Indies have produced some of world's greatest cricketers, arguably the greatest cricketer ever, and when the West Indies boast arguably the greatest team of all time.

Instead of looking inwards for a West Indian to solve the problem of West Indies cricket, however, the powers that be, the Board members, except for giving a West Indian an occasional chance, always turn to a foreigner, to an Australian or an Englishman, to wield the magic wand.

The foreigners, apart from the early ones, have always failed, however, including those who have come with a new formula for change and leave without achieving anything.

Times have changed, and nothing is wrong with getting an advice or two, but maybe it is because "a prophet is not known in his own country" why the advice of a foreigner, even from a foreigner of whom one knows nothing about, or little or next to nothing, is always welcomed more than that of a West Indian.

Bennett King and John Dyson and their entourage of Australians came and left, and the WICB, after hiring Englishman Richard Pybus to manage West Indies cricket, to deal with the ills of West Indies cricket, seems set on hiring another foreigner, South African Mickey Arthur, to coach the team.

great players

It would be nice to hear what the board thinks of Arthur, former coach of South Africa and Australia and recently coach of the Jamaica Tallawahs, and if it honestly believes that he is better than West Indians like Roger Harper, Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose, Gus Logie, Phil Simmons, former captain Jimmy Adams, and other West Indians.

Although great players do not necessarily make great coaches, it would also be nice to know what the board would have done had the great Malcolm Marshall been alive.

Maybe it is all about being foreign and about being white. Maybe it is better than being homegrown and, therefore, more knowledgeable of things West Indian, including things cultural and how to play cricket West Indian style.

Maybe West Indies cricket is now for sale. Maybe that is why the Board went along with England, Australia and India in the restructuring of the International Cricket Council (ICC) recently, and why it agreed to playing the Test matches against England in Barbados, Antigua and Grenada next year, instead of in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago or Guyana.

Maybe their thousands of supporters prefer to visit places like Barbados, Antigua and Grenada.

Money is important, but in cricket, West Indies cricket, it is not more important.

West Indies cricket in foreign hands, in this day and age, is infra dig. It is like going back in time to those days best forgotten, to the days of Paul Bogle and to the days of C.L.R. James, who once asked, in his magnificent book Beyond the Boundary - a work on the impact of cricket on the West Indian people - penned these immortal words: "What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know".