Laurie Foster | Captain Holder’s enforced absence
The West Indies have nailed the Test series against England by taking a convincing 2-0 lead at the Sir Vivian Richards cricket ground in Antigua and Barbuda, with the St Lucia encounter still to be played.
The previously cock-a-hoop Three Lions men with captain Joe Root now claiming that the team is “desperately frustrated”, can only hope for a face-saving win in the final encounter this weekend. It matters little what happens in the shorter versions to come; this should feel good to those victory-starved supporters who still cherish brilliance in what they claim as the purest format of the game.
Captain Courageous, Jason Holder, has led his troops in a statesmanlike manner and produced stunning results, giving the lie to those like former England batting icon Geoffrey Boycott, who saw the Windies team as “ordinary”. On the back of an eye-opening performance in the first Test, Holder has earned himself the ICC world governing body’s award as the ‘Number One Test All-rounder.’ Going forward, there is an area screaming out to be addressed if he is to maintain the elevated stature in world cricket which he now enjoys. He has been punished by the ICC and forced to serve a one-match suspension for the team’s slow over rate in the second Test. As a result of this, the team’s chances for the highly touted ‘blackwash’ is threatened by his enforced absence in St Lucia.
This makes the second occasion that the skipper and, by extension, the team, is being made to suffer for this infraction. It is a repeat of a similar sanction imposed for the second Test against New Zealand in December 2017. The West Indies can ill- afford to have such a blemish on what otherwise is a showing of remarkable quality. This is an area to be tackled by new coach Richard Pybus. It cannot be to his credit that there has been this recurrence so early in his tenure. This is especially so as he served as director of cricket for the then West Indies Cricket Board prior to his new appointment. If he can correct this shortcoming, he should have genuine cause to pat himself on the back.
As the chants of celebrations continue, it may be instructive to take a look at another area of the cricket culture which still has to be addressed. The positive and productive energy which drove West Indies’ advance to worldwide ascendancy in the days of glory, had a lot to do with the ease with which supporters were able to follow the progress of the players.
Whether cricket at the highest level was being played in England, way Down Under in Australia or at home in the islands, there were broadcasts available. This was the era of the transistor radio, the ever-present companion of cricket lovers keeping them abreast of the exploits of their favourite players. As technology was updated, there came television, which took the viewer front and central with the live action, first in black and white, with colour following shortly thereafter. Things have changed even with the introduction of satellite and more recently, cable. The electronic entrepreneurs, after affording some free access, have taken a different route more in line with their need to be compensated for what they call content. There is no longer free-to-air television. You either pay a subscription fee or you endure a radio broadcast frequently interrupted to accommodate other material.
This is not fair to the common man who cannot afford that extra expense. Bear in mind that the next great cricketer is most likely to come from that family and not that of the more privileged.
The call is for the custodians of West Indies cricket to carefully examine the expressed scenario. The interest in the game should be kept at a level which encourages and inspires those who wish to participate on the fields of play to do so. It will be a stiffer challenge if they are unable to see it and get the inspiration from the airwaves.
Foster’s Fairplay cannot say how it can be done, but there has to be a way, once the gains are considered.
Come on, Mr Windies Cricket President, this is your charge to bring cricket back to where it belongs in the West Indies.
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