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Once a man, twice a child

Published:Sunday | November 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Ajantha Mendis
P.J. Patterson
Mahela Jayawardene - File photos

Tony Becca, Gleaner Writer

In 1979, the West Indies stopped off in Sri Lanka on their way home from India, and although it was their second eleven, or near to the third eleven, but for four or five players, they won two and lost one one-day match and drew the two three-day matches, with Larry Gomes hitting two fabulous centuries, 108 and 173 not out, to mark the occasion.

In those days, the West Indies were at the start of the 19-year reign as champions of the world and Sri Lanka, with men like Warnapura, Hettiaratchi, Dias, and Abeysekera, were just announcing themselves, long after a right-arm leg-spinner like Gamini Goonesena and before a batsman such as Aravinda de Silva.

Shoe on other foot

Today, the West Indies are there, and the shoe is on the other foot.

Sri Lanka are now number three in the world and climbing, the West Indies are now number seven and sliding, and while the West Indies have two batsmen good enough to line up with the best in the world, and not one bowler, with the exception of the promising Kemar Roach, capable of doing so, Sri Lanka possess a number of players ready to do so.

The question as the West Indies take on Sri Lanka on their own pitches is how will they contain batsmen like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, and Tilakaratne Dilshan; how they will negotiate bowlers, not like Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, but with skill Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis.

West Indies cricket has fallen since those days, and it has fallen because of one crisis after another which has affected the relationship of the board and the players, from the stand-off preceding the 1998 tour of South Africa through the many strikes which have weakened the team in many areas, including captaincy.

West Indies cricket is now in a serious state, and the question is now this: what can be done about it?

For some 10 years now, we have watched as cricket gets worse and worse, we have talked and talked, and yet we have done nothing.

We have even asked some distinguished men, including former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, to give of their time and pen their thoughts on what is wrong with the game and how it can be rectified.

To date, it is still on somebody's shelf taking up space.

What is wrong with cricket in this region include a governing West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) that is too big, whose members serve their own agenda, and which has a staff that, at best, is too large.

One wonders, with so little domestic cricket, what the staff finds to do for most of the year.

Fall of club cricket

If those responsible for West Indies cricket were really looking at West Indies cricket, they would see that of the things affecting West Indies cricket, the most crucial is the fall of club cricket.

Club cricket is the base of cricket, it is where people who love the game play the game, it is where the game is fostered, and it is where the game should be developed.

As big as it is, as important as it is, the West Indies board cannot develop the game. No amount of West Indies board coaches can develop the game, no amount of camps can develop the game, and no amount of board seminars and clinics can develop cricketers.

The board's responsibility, while the players are at the clubs, while they are under the guidance of the clubs, is to provide territorial competitions at youth levels and first-class level to further hone their skills to prepare them for Test cricket.

It is as simple as that.

Right now, the clubs, the real cricket clubs, especially in Jamaica, are dying, and they have been dying a long time ago.

Lucas is now a club of almost blessed memory, Kensington is near a club of blessed memory, Melbourne, a year ago, was almost a club of blessed memory, and Kingston, once the pride and joy of Jamaica's cricket, is fast becoming a club of blessed memory.

Disgraceful support

Two weeks ago, the regional 50-over tournament was played in Jamaica, and the support was disgraceful. There was hardly anyone at the grounds where cricket was once the king of sports, the lifeblood of the people.

Things are bad, very bad. In Jamaica, with no money to do anything, with money only coming from the rental of the boxes at Sabina Park and a little from the WICB, it's almost bankruptcy time.

Maybe, come next season, it's time to look at the game seriously and restructure it. Maybe, in an effort to keep the clubs, we should look at the system, and after looking at it, reorganise it to fit our budget.

Maybe, by reducing the number of its members, by reducing the number of competitions, the Jamaica Cricket Association and the WICB can become a responsible body who can look after what it controls, including the clubs, its members.

Maybe things will be better organised and West Indies cricket will be better off.

To some people, members of the board, and to some people, members of the staff, things are improving.

Not to me.

My memory goes back afar - to 1950, to the 1960s, and then to the 1970s and through to the 1980s. Indeed, it does not go back that far, only to 1995 when the West Indies suddenly lost their way, or maybe the will and the pride.