Tony Becca, Contributor
The West Indies' days of happiness in recent years, from 1995 to now, have been few and far between. In fact, they have not been even enough to keep alive the hopes, the fading hopes, of those who remember their many years of dominance.
Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams against Australia at Sabina Park and Lara at Kensington Oval in 1999; Wavell Hinds and Shivnarine Chanderpaul against South Africa at Bourda in 2005; Jerome Taylor versus England at Sabina Park in 2009; Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy against England at Trent Bridge in 2012; and the fighting spirit of Darren Bravo, Narsingh Deonarine, and Sammy against New Zealand in Dunedin last week are among the few worth remembering.
The reason for the present state of West Indies cricket is the lack of quality players, most of the players, now representing the West Indies, and the lack of quality in the players now coming through from the regional tournaments - both the senior and junior tournaments.
The problem, however, is more than that: the problem starts from those who provide the system to get the players ready, from the early preparation through to manhood, good coaching, good and regular competitions, good conditions, proper pitches, good umpires, ambition and the desire never to be satisfied, the need to understand what it means to represent one's country, and to give one's best all the time.
There is more to performance at the highest level than that. There is, for example, the need to play cricket as often as possible and not to become a prima donna, someone who is too 'big' to regularly play the game he professes to love, the game that takes him round the world, and the game that feeds him.
And again, it is not the players' fault. It is the fault of the club administrations, of the territorial administrations, and of the West Indies board members. Most of them are too lenient with the players, too soft with the players, and do not like to hear the truth about the players.
Sometimes it's a case of where the players come from, and sometimes it is a situation where the players seem to call the shots, a case of the players doing whatever they want to do, and whenever they wish to do it.
Ready to play
And this is why the words of Richie Richardson, the former West Indies captain and now manager of the West Indies team, in Wellington last week, deserve to be read and digested by all those interested in West Indies cricket, and to be acted upon urgently by all those involved in West Indies cricket.
Talking about the need to be ready to play, and to put on one's game face when you are ready for action, ready to play, and ready for war, Richardson said, "I think we've lost a little of that in our cricket and we need to get that back."
Remembering what happened to other team managers and team coaches before him, men who spoke about the quality of the team and the behaviour of some members of the team in such manner, Richardson, a man who scored 5,949 runs in 86 Test matches and averaged 44.79 per innings during his career, is a brave man.
"It's very easy to blame the players, but I don't blame them for everything. You have to blame the system," he said.
"If people are allowed to do certain things and get away with it, then you can't blame them. It's tough for me. That's not what I'm accustomed to."
Richardson may only have read about the exploits of players like Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes, and Clyde Walcott. Sonny Ramadhin and Alfred Valentine, but he knew about the perfor-mances of players like Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Conrad Hunte, Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, and Lance Gibbs; and certainly about those of the latest stars, of the likes of Deryck Murray, Viv Richards, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall, Jeffrey Dujon, Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh, and Curtly Ambrose.
He also knows about the wonderful performance of Chanderpaul, a man who trains and trains, and plays and plays, anywhere and everywhere and at any time.
Richardson also went further: "It's at all levels. We really need to a proper study to look at what we need to do. We are not going to get any quick fixes. There are a lot of experts and people who know exactly what to do, but nothing is being done."
There are a lot of experts, says Richardson, but the question is this: who are the experts, is the West Indies using the services of the right ones, the ones who are West Indians, the one who knows about the environment, about the psyche of the young ones, and the ones most suitable to do the job?
Do the experts include Richard Pybus, who, for example, is a foreigner employed by the West Indies Cricket Board as the director of cricket and a man whose job includes development from grassroots level to Test level, from school level to Test level, and to develop talent, generally, from the ground up to the West Indies level?
If that is so, then that's a waste of money, money which the West Indies board has said it does not have, and money which could be given to the territories and the clubs for real cricket development.
Who to tell, maybe if someone is brave enough to suggest it, one day the West Indies board president, or CEO, or even the West Indies captain may very well be an Englishman, an Australian, or whoever.