WEST INDIES cricket is suffering from two major problems: one of them is the hostility between the board and the players association; another is the poor standard of West Indies cricket and thus the poor performance of the West Indies team. The new president of the West Indies board, Julian Hunte, has promised to do his best to solve them both.
Knowing the man, he definitely will, in his own style, try his best to turn things around.
The problem is that Hunte's style is one of holding out the olive branch - of meeting the other man halfway, and while that is good in many cases, that may not be the answer for West Indies cricket.
In an attempt to solve the problem with the players association, for example, the president has taken Dinanath Ramnarine on board, he has made him a director of the WICB, an Hunte probably believes that move will make Ramnarine feel more a part of things and therefore make him less combative, there are many who, with justification, believe that is something that cannot work, and for the simple reason that Ramnarine, the president of WIPA, will know every move the board makes.
There are those who know that it is difficult to serve two masters and believe they knowto which of his two masters Ramnarine will be faithful.
In an attempt to solve the problem of the poor standard of West Indies cricket, Hunte has decided to bring two teams, the Combined Campuses and Colleges team and the Under-19s, into the regional competitions, an Hunte probably went along with it for a quiet life, that will prove a waste of time and a waste of money.
According to the board, the Combined Campuses and Colleges team will play in both the four-day and one-day competitions, the Under-19 team will play only in the one-day competition, they are development teams, and players from those teams could or will develop and will serve West Indies cricket well in the future.
With a University of the West Indies team, a West Indies B team and a West Indies Under-19 team in action in the past, West Indies cricket, however, has been that way before, it was a waste of time and money then - so much so that they were all dumped after a few years and it will be a waste of time and money once again.
Junior Cup competition
Apart from the fact that, certainly in Jamaica, the UWI does not even play in the Junior Cup competition, apart from the difficulty that there will be in selecting the team from all the campuses and colleges in the region, apart from the question as to how that team will be selected, if the competitions are run properly. If proper importance and respect is paid to the national teams, if, as they should, the national teams are allowed to select their best teams to represent them in competitions formed and designed for national teams, then those who represent the so-called Combined Campuses and Colleges team will be second-raters who, generally, will perform like second-raters.
The Under-19 team in the regional one-day competition is also a waste of time.
Development should come through the schools and the clubs, the regional competitions should be for national teams and that means it should be, as it was designed to be, reserved for the best - including those university students, those college students and those Under-19 players who are good enough to get into their national teams.
Apart from the fact that there is nothing wrong, for example, with a player representing Kingston CC in the Super Cup, attending the university at Mona and representing Jamaica. Apart from the fact that there is nothing wrong with a teenager with special gifts representing Jamaica, the money used to fund the participation of the Combined Campuses and Colleges team and the Under-19 side would be better used to fund the game in the schools or in the clubs, to fund a longer season of return matches or a professional league.
According to the board, a committee has been formed to look into a professional league. The question, however, is this: for what purpose?
A professional league certainly will not serve any purpose if a Combined Campuses and Colleges team and an Under-19 team are allowed to play in it.
For those who do not know, West Indies cricket has been that way already and it did not help West Indies cricket. In fact, that way probably led to the decline of West Indies cricket.
In the four-day competition, West Indies cricket went from the six big teams playing against each other to the inclusion of a foreign A team and the West Indies A team before it went back three seasons ago to the original six - Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands. In the case of the one-day competition, it went from the big six to all sorts of things before, four years ago, going back to the big six.
Simple round robin
For those who do not know, between 1976, the start of the competition, and 1981, the one-day tournament comprised six teams playing in two zones followed by a final. In 1982, it was a simple round-robin competition between the six teams with the top two playing in the final.
Between 1983 and 1992, it was six teams playing in two zones with the top two playing in the final. Between 1993 and 1994, it was a round robin between the six with the top two playing the final.
In 1995, the first time it was played by itself, it was six teams in two zones playing each twice in two countries with the top two meeting in the final. In 1996, there were two competitions, one involving six teams in two zones followed by a semi-final and then a final and the other involving eight teams, including Bermuda and Canada, with the top two playing the final.
Between 1997 and 2000, it was the same eight, this time with two semi-finals. In 2000, it was 10 teams with Canada, the U.S., Bermuda and the Cayman Islands joining Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, the Leeward Islands, the Windward Islands and Guyana.
In 2001, it was back to eight teams in two zones with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Rest of the Leeward Islands and Northern Windward Islands in one zone and Guyana, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and Southern Windward Islands in the other. In 2002, it was back to 10 teams in two zones with Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Rest of the Leeward Islands and UWI in one, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Antigua and Barbuda and the Rest of the Windward Islands in the other.
In 2003, it was 10 teams again with the West Indies Under-19s replacing St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in 2004, it was back to the original six with the top four meeting in the semi-finals and the two winners in the final.
Half of those matches were one-sided affairs and embarrassingly so.
With a little luck, this farce may not last too long, however. In fact, based on the history of West Indies cricket and its ability to jump around the place, it should only be around for a year or two.
Somebody is living in the past, and that is not good for West Indies cricket. Nowhere in the world are university teams and youth teams involved in first-class cricket. Nowhere in the world are university teams or youth teams involved in professional sports and that - a professional league - is where West Indies cricket should be heading.