Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Hubert Lawrence: Rally around the West Indies

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2016 | 2:00 AMHubert Lawrence
West Indies Under-19 player Shamar Springer (second left) celebrates with teammates after helping his team to win the semi-final against Bangladesh in the ICC Under-19 World Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur.

The victory by the young West Indians in last week's Under-19 World Cup is brilliant news. It offers hope that the West Indies has the gumption to organise to win important tournaments in world cricket. It could be a launching pad to a new era of success.

However you view the stumping controversy that arose early in the tournament, it must have loaded pressure on the West Indies team and its management. It's even more reason to tap them all on the back.

With Shivnarine Chanderpaul gone and the likelihood of other veterans going in the next few years, the young West Indies could be playing senior international cricket in the near future. Their watchwords must be patience and practise. Both will be needed to hurdle the challenges ahead.

The sobering truth is that some young prospects never blossom. In 1995, Obea Moore ran 45.14 seconds for 400 metres to win the Pan-Am Junior title. His form then, at age 16, boosted his Muir High School team to a Penn Relays 4x400m record and vaulted him into the imagination of American track fans.

A decade earlier, Richard Bucknor of Calabar held off another US sensation, William Reed of Central High, to secure 4x400m honours at the 1986 Penn Relays. Reed had already run the 400 metres in 45.17 seconds though just 15.

Bucknor went on to a noteworthy career as a 110-metre hurdler for Texas A&M University and reached the semi-finals at the 1988 Olympics. By contrast, Reed and Moore faded as they grew older. Neither ever qualified for the US Olympic team.

The young West Indians need to work diligently to avoid a similar fate. More than that, those who helped to mastermind their wonderful victory must keep working to groom them.

With the cricket classroom of English county cricket long gone, the development of alternative methods of nurturing the region's young crickets must continue. In this age when the Internet has brought copious knowledge to our fingertips, while also shortening attention spans, this effort must be extended.

With a smaller talent pool than Australia, England, India and South Africa, success depends on keeping the champion team and other young West Indies prospects in the game. Late bloomers can jump into the pool of possible selection when the time is right.

When the celebrations end, and no one should begrudge the team if it carries them on a bit, we can look to the future with optimism.

All stakeholders will have to rally around the West Indies with the needed goodwill, ingenuity, and resources to make Test cricket success a reality again.

If the story of these world champion West Indians is to have a happy ending, it's the only way.

- Hubert Lawrence has watched Champs, international cricket, and schoolboy football at Sabina Park.