Fri | May 14, 2021

Emulate West Indies cricket model in sports

Published:Monday | May 3, 2021 | 12:09 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

It has become rather perplexing that, in spite of the gelling of the West Indies cricket team, the nations of the Caribbean are not using this model for all sports. This issue has been mooted from time to time, starting almost two decades ago, but has never been addressed by Caribbean governments, sporting bodies and CARICOM. In the 2016 Olympics, the English speaking Caribbean tallied 17 medals. In 2012, that number was 43.

A West Indies football team stands a chance of competing internationally and possibly winning medals in a way that none of the territorial teams do. Ditto for any other team sports. In athletics, a West Indies team can bring home a significant amount of medals, especially given that powerhouse Jamaica will be supplemented by the best of the Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago and the other nations.

There are also other reasons for West Indian participation as a single entity in the international sports arena. For one, it’s much more cost-effective since, instead of large numbers of officials that accompany the various teams, there will be one set of officials at any given time, and trips for the boys or girls would have been eliminated. As well, we have seen how cricket brings us together, even as we debate, argue and ‘diss’ at the national level in seeking to claim the superiority of our countries’ teams. This level of coming together on the one hand, and bantering on the other, across the Caribbean, would become multiplied with each new West Indian birthed, and this can only be healthy for Caribbeanness. As well, besides expanding that glue keeping us together, other West Indian teams can also ensure that the cream rises to the top and become internationally sought after, while those just below strive to get to the top a la in cricket.

As former West Indies Davis Cup player Ian MacDonald pointed out almost two decades ago: “For 30 years, from 1953 to 1983, there was one other united West Indian sports team: the West Indies Davis Cup tennis team. I think it was a tragedy that the West Indian Tennis Association meekly accepted a sudden ruling by the International Lawn Tennis Federation in 1983 that the West Indies, not constituting a country by their rules, could no longer play in the Davis Cup as a united team. Since 1983, there have been a number of years when a West Indian team drawing on the tennis talents of all the region’s countries would have done extremely well in the Davis Cup.”

Like cricket, other sports can bring international tournaments to the Caribbean and overall economic benefits. Consequently, there will also be more funds to develop sports, including building needed infrastructure and maximising the use of currently available ones.

MacDonald said: “I cannot understand why more thought has not been given to organising sports other than cricket on a pan-West Indian basis. Nor can I understand why there has not been more debate on this issue in the Caribbean media. A West Indian presence as one nation in the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games, the Davis Cup (again), the World Cups in soccer and rugby, and other world and regional events, is infinitely worth pursuing. As West Indians draw closer together, we cannot afford to neglect the tremendous emotional charge that can be derived from grassroots identification, with sporting teams embracing all of us as one.”

While some international sports bodies, as pointed out above, will claim that the West Indies cannot participate as one team since it’s a conglomeration of nations, unified West Indian sports teams can fight this, and, more likely than not, win out, especially given that CARICOM does reflect a ‘one team’ concept in many ways.

ANNAN BOODRAM