Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Cricket conundrum

Published:Friday | January 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Orville Higgins

I have come to feel sorry for those who have been assigned the task of running the contemporary West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). They have a job for which they will forever be criticised.

They can't win. Everybody over, say, 40 years old in the West Indies remembers when we were kings of the sport, and feels that, with the right administrative steps, we can get back. It's not going to happen.

The administrators are handicapped by something they can't control. They have been assigned an impossible task of turning around our cricketing fortunes when passion for the sport in the region is at an all-time low.

The social forces that made us cricket champions of the world had precious little to do with cricket administrators. We were the best team in the world not because we had the best cricket administrators. The main reason we became the best team in the world is that the Caribbean people had an unrivalled passion for the game that is just not there anymore.

Cricket wasn't a mere game; it was a social pastime. It was not something that Caribbean boys did out of CHOICE. It was what they did out of EXPECTATION. Administrators can try to get that passion back, but administrators, by and large, can only CAPITALISE on national passion, they can hardly be expected to create and maintain it.

That sentiment has sparked an ongoing debate on my radio show, with some feeling that I'm downplaying the role of administrators and giving too much credence to this intangible thing called passion. I'm doing no such thing. I'm simply stating a fact.

Those who doubt my theory about passion superseding administrators in developing quality national teams need to go back to look at the history of organised sports. One place I would recommend them to start is the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games came about because the Greek people were passionate about their gods, chief of whom was Zeus. The Olympics, we are told, was their way of paying homage to him. The Olympics, in its earliest days, then, was a religious festival.

The winners of Olympic events in those days were immortalised in poems. Statues were made of them. None of this was because there was any central driving force that dictated it. It was simply what the Greeks wanted to do. It was their way of showing gratitude and praise to those sports icons that entertained them.

In a way, they worshipped these early sports stars. The significance of that should not be lost on you. Religion, by its very nature, is something people adhere to because they are passionate about it. The very same argument could be proffered for people's sporting choices. Most religions don't follow a 'logical' or 'rational' path.

People believe in a religion because, essentially, those around them believe in the same thing. In the same way, people take on sports. Religion, like sports, is really a cultural and geographical thing. It doesn't happen because of 'administrators'. No matter how great religious administrators are in the Caribbean, they won't be able to make, say, Hinduism, the major religion in the West Indies in our lifetime. Sure, there will be great religious leaders, but they can't operate in an environment that is not ready for them.

BEYOND THE GAME

Sports is not much different. People will take to a sport that best defines them as a people or that symbolises their dreams and beliefs. In the USA, for instance, they celebrate size and speed and strength. The NBA embodies that, hence it's popularity.

The Jamaican people are not so much into track and field as they are into sprinting. That is what we are passionate about. That's what all our young boys and girls dream to be good at. No surprise then that we can't get anybody at decent international standards for anything beyond 400m. Those in charge of athletics in Jamaica can do very little to make us good long-distance runners until the psyche of the nation has shifted and we start having an interest in those events. It's as simple as that.

Those running cricket in the region are operating with their hands tied. They can do only so much. Modern-day social forces are against them. We could do all the things we want. They won't hurt, but they won't help. Not in any meaningful way.

Until the Caribbean boy becomes passionate again about cricket, we will forever be engaged in weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Orville Higgins is a sport journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.