Once again the West Indies cricket team returns from a global tournament empty-handed, having failed to make it to the second stage of the competition. That others of higher ranking also failed to do so is of little consolation to a regional public that continues hopefully to wish for a return to those heady days when we were the Colossus of the cricketing world and conquered all before us with ruthless and surgical artistry.
It is different now and has been so for the past two decades or more. But we continue to believe in the magic of our misnomer for a name, conferred by a 15th century sailor who refused to admit that he was wrong that he had indeed reached the Indies, unfortunately not those of the East. But cricket is no respecter of names and neither the West Indies team of today nor its opponents are the same as yesterday.
Disappointed fans continue to rue the so-called “talent” of our players, wondering when it will finally blossom into superiority. In this context, we believe that two cardinal errors are being committed. The first is that we conflate talent with how fast our leading pacers can deliver the ball and the prettiness of the hitting power of our batsmen.
A brief objective examination will show however that there are others in world cricket that bowl much faster and better more consistently; and who hit harder, longer and just as pretty. Indeed, it should be acknowledged that at that level of the game, talent alone will not lead to superiority since it can justly be claimed that, with few exceptions if any, every international player is talented. This is the highest level of the game and any difference must lie in the application of the talent that brought the player to those heights.
In other words, games will be won and lost in the cerebration of planning and execution rather than trying to hit each ball for the maximum. A quick calculation will reveal that hitting a four every ball in ODIs will give a total of 1200, a score unheard of even in cricket games where batting is not so limited. On the other hand, a single per ball gives a comparatively respectable score of 300, a total that has proven to be match-winning on more occasions than one in the current tournament.
To us, the notion of the wholesale replacement of the coaching staff and selectors immediately on the election of a new dispensation to head Cricket West Indies and soon after a relatively successful outing against the number one ranked team in ODIs smacked of retribution and “our turn” rather than deep thought. The Honourable Prime Minister of Barbados was forced to comment on this phenomenon and in our view she was right. Why change horses in midstream?
It appears to have been thought that the West Indies team, as dangerously inconsistent as it is, had an outside chance of winning the competition despite its dismal record in this form of the game in past years, and that if so, the glory should be attributed to others of a more regional origin. Alas, this experiment proved a failure and we are left once again, as the game’s jargon goes, “to draw on the positives” from our loss. One of these, we submit, is the recognition that talent, even if correctly defined, is almost meaningless on the global stage.
Contrariwise, games are only partly won on the field these days.