Wed | Nov 21, 2018

Tony Becca | Time is running out on West Indies

Published:Sunday | August 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Members of the Bangladesh team celebrate victory over the Windies in the third One-day International at Warner Park in St Kitts on July 28.

Time does not stand still. It waits on nothing or on no one, regardless of what it is, or who he is. It is as simple as that.

Time, however, does not move backwards. Time always moves forward, as it did in 1950, according to the outstanding West Indian writer, C.L.R. James, author of Beyond the Boundary.

Talking to an Englishman at Lord's minutes after the West Indies had defeated England by 326 runs at Lord's to level the series at 1-1 on their way to winning their first Test series in England, and after the Englishman had enquired if that West Indies were not the same West Indies that England had defeated so easily in their three previous home series, James replied, "Yes, but this time we come to teach."

That victory was considered the watershed in West Indies cricket.

Before that 3-1 triumph over England, the West Indies had never won an overseas series apart from the 1-0 win over India in 1948-49, and that proved to be the start of a brilliant run that saw the West Indies sitting on top of the world while producing some of the world's greatest players 30 years later.

While they have continued to produce a few great players since, the West Indies have been falling for the last 25 years in what some may call a free-fall and others, simply, a dive.

Let's face it: West Indies cricket is no way near to what it was 30 years, or even 50 years ago. In fact, for the past 25 years, or so, it has gone from the very top to almost the very bottom, and in every form of the game.

From being number one for years, the West Indies are now number eight in the Test ranking of 12, one above Bangladesh, after just making it out of the number nine position and in the company of Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan.

And despite the occasional brilliance of a few players, and with all the advertising gimmick around West Indies cricket, in spite of all the pleading for time to develop, all the talk of moving up the ladder, all the talk of the many promising young players around the islands, and the talk of turning the corner, that is the reality of the situation in which West Indies cricket finds itself.

In One-day ranking, the West Indies are number nine and Bangladesh number seven, and in T20 ranking, the West Indies are number seven and Bangladesh number 10.

One should not reasonably expect the West Indies, or any other team, to be at or near the top forever. Once one has experienced it, however, it is difficult to forget it.

On top of that, and regardless of the reasons, regardless of where the blame lies, be it with the board, the selection process which seems in a mess at this time, the players, the system, or the technical people, possibly because of the missing players due to the T20 game and the search for more money, 25 years in the wilderness is a long, long time, and especially when one has enjoyed being number one, and for so long.

For some of us who have experienced the good days, and especially at first hand, while it is good to win, it is not easy to find anything to cheer, to jump and dance for, when a victory over the number ninth team comes along.

 

SATISFYING VICTORIES

 

Maybe people like us are indeed old-timers, but at least people like us, even in the present situation, realise the difference, if the West Indies are lucky, between beating the present Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan and even sometimes winning against Australia, England, India, South Africa, and New Zealand.

Victories over the best are always more satisfying, and more enjoyable, than victories over those of little achievement, and those ranked below the West Indies, and regularly, at that.

Times are different, things have changed, but regardless of everything, time is running out on the West Indies: they are nearer to Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan than they are to Australia, England, or India.

The fans of West Indies cricket are tired or hearing, from the top, "Give us time", and "West Indies cricket is moving up the ladder", and from the coaches and captains, after every loss, "we just did not bat well, or smart enough", or something like that, "our fielding let us down", or something near to that, "the bowling was too inconsistent", or something like that, and, as Carlos Brathwaite after the last defeat, "I think we are getting closer and closer to finding that proper plan."

Maybe the problem is the lack of money. Maybe it is the board's policy of depending on foreigners to solve the problem, which is at the root of the problem. Maybe it is knowing who to select in which format of the game, and maybe the problem really rests with the players.

The players of today, most of them, are really not as good as the players of yesterday, and that has nothing to do with the possession of, or lack of, what is generally called talent.

With each generation boasting "talent", and when one sees the "talent" displayed by some players of the later generation, it cannot be the lack of "talent".

It is more than that: probably it is nothing more than the changing times.

It is, however, nothing that the players cannot change, and regardless of what else is happening around them.

All the players need to do is to focus, not only to hope and to dream of achieving great things, but to practise and practise, to train and train, in order to accomplish great things.