The Wright View | Stop overlooking our best cricketers
When the West Indies cricket team left for a tour of England, cricket legend Sir Curtly Ambrose predicted that the team could not, and would not ,be able to beat a rampant England coming off an impressive defeat of South Africa prior to our tour. Not so, promised the captain and others connected in a real and economic way to the squad.
"We will be competitive," said the captain. Some who claim to know and love cricket supported this unrealistic 'wish'. Some fans actually began to hope for a "competitive series" due to some reasonable scores and bowling performances in warm-up games against English teams woefully and (some say deliberately) undermanned. Then, reality; The headline in The Gleaner: 'England humble WI'. The English press reported the results as thus: "A historic Test match was dealt a humiliating conclusion under the Edgbaston floodlights, as West Indies crumbled to one of the most spineless defeats in their long and once-proud history. By losing 19 wickets for 261 runs in the face of 76.4 overs, they were shot out twice in the day for scores of 168 and 137, the margin of their innings defeat, 209, still greater than either of their efforts with the bat."
Sir Curtly was not alone in his assessment of the results that we were to expect. The continuation of a now-proven idiotic policy of excluding our most experienced and best cricketers mandated such a result. As the team in England crumbled to one of the most spineless defeats in their long and once proud history, West Indian fans watched and winced as our best cricketers displayed their nous and skill in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). Faced with the very realistic prospect of qualifying for lucrative and prestigious international cricket tournaments, the recently renamed Cricket West Indies promised a sort of "amnesty", whereby our brightest and best could now be selected to represent us "if" the selectors deem them capable.
The decline of WI cricket
How did we get here? The decline of West Indies cricket began many years ago under the leadership of different presidents. I remember a 5-0 thrashing by South Africa after a hasty meeting in London with a disgruntled team led by Brian Lara. We suffered under Ken Gordon, Julian Hunte, et cetera, when word came that a one-time manager of a famed local tourist attraction, who held degrees in finance, was interested in leading the board. Anxious for change and wooed by promises of: 'elect me and put an end to endless worries with WIPA and the players', a new president took over the reins of West Indies cricket.
There was a sharp and noticeable decline in "disputes" with the players' union, and we were winning tournaments. However (and this is the crux of the matter), the relationship between individual players and the president went decidedly sour, after a chance encounter in an overseas tour where millionaire and world-leading cricketers apparently ignored a president with a fragile ego, and an overblown concept of his role as 'Prezzi'. The aftermath - a well-documented trail of tiffs and quarrels with our best athletes, causing their withdrawal and alienation until they bow to the king.
The infighting continued and when the people cried out for a change, the hierarchy adroitly commissioned experts to look and recommend change, only to pooh-pooh any recommendation that pointed out exactly where the problem was ... at the helm! So suggestions of reform after reform were shelved and a special Caricom Committee on cricket was formed and recommended change at the helm. "Not on my watch," said the president and the board. Calls by Island leaders to disband the group was met with downright derision and disrespect, and so the team soldiers on, the laughing stock of world cricket.
How will it end? Only by us. We the people of the Caribbean refusing to support with our hard-earned cash, what is now known as Cricket West Indies. The possible inclusion of our best cricketers in future international games only came about when it became patently obvious that our future lay in defeating Afghanistan, Ireland, and Zimbabwe in order to qualify to play with teams we once defeated without working up a sweat. The Cameron-Brown amalgamation now representing us in England needs help from experienced and proven fighters. We have no choice but to support our elected island nation leaders who have consistently called for the removal of the president. The present Cricket West Indies policy of alienating and disrespecting our own players must be shelved and teams selected on merit, not on who smiles and calls the president "sir".