A GUY'S VIEW - West Indies cricket, Caribbean status

“My perspective is that West Indies cricket is in dire trouble, in crisis, and if we are not careful, something is likely to happen in the not too distant future even though it is not being spoken about now … What I am frighten of is that somewhere in the not too distant future common sense will prevail at the ICC and they will create some kind of a premier league and a second division and West Indies cricket will end up in the second division because of the standard we are displaying, and we will end up playing cricket against Ireland, Scotland, Kenya and Afghanistan and that is where we’re headed.”
Keith Rowley – Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Caribbean is a region on the periphery of world affairs. This region is blessed to be the most beautiful place on earth and this has made it attractive to persons who live in other environments, especially during their winters. For the most part, therefore, the region survives on tourism. This apart, we are of no significance in the eyes of the world.

The way the tourism industry is built across the world, visitors have their every need catered to. In a less than perfect world, it is easy for service providers to adopt a subservient mindset and for the pampered to assume an attitude of superiority. The relationship of served and server is not confined to vacationing tourists. Very often when the served do not bring it with them, they take the attitude of privilege back home with them.

It usually takes a while for some of us to recognise that we are the inferior of no one. However, some repeat that mantra without believing it. When they have to relate to those they really see as superior, they give away the shop. It seems that those who presided over the affairs of West Indies cricket behaved in this manner when they had an opportunity to contribute to the structure of world cricket. Now, in the doldrums, they have no voice and no influence.

As I write, West Indies cricket is the biggest embarrassment that can be faced by any people on earth. The team has found itself having to qualify to participate in first level cricket from among the non-cricketing nations of the world. There is no team in the second tier of cricket that has a history of cricketing excellence. For the West Indies, the once proud champions, to be part of this second class club is unacceptable and no person who has had a hand in presiding over this debacle should still have a place in cricket’s administration.

For good reason, great lengths have been gone to in order to separate politics from sport, but this is all well and good when exceptional circumstances do not exist. We live in exceptional times where our cricket is concerned.

Regional administrators have created an entity which is supposed to be independent of all powers, except itself. Those administrators and the entity they created have been the greatest source discomfort that the region has known. The Caribbean has experienced some devastating hurricanes. None of them has been as destructive to the region and the confidence of its people as the West Indies cricket team.
This freefall did not begin last week. Cricket enthusiasts point to the transition in leadership after the service of Sir Vivian Richards as the beginning of the end of West Indies cricket. One suspects that the demise started before that fateful transition, but whatever the point of departure from good management and good cricket, it is indisputable that our team is at an all-time low.

The game’s administrators have insulated themselves from outside intervention. Since they are doing the same things in the same way and expecting a different result, are we to conclude that we must stand idly by and watch the continuation of the demise of the most outstanding product this region has produced? And if this is too bitter a pill to swallow, what can be done?

Caribbean leaders have felt our pain and must move to bring an end to this fiasco, for they are the only ones that can help us now. I have read that an audience is being sought with the International Cricket Council to ask permission to intervene to save West Indies cricket. Imagine a Caribbean Prime Minister appealing for help from the very people who have worked overtime to bring our cricket to the level at which it now stands. To be effective, as a united force, all Caribbean Governments must immediately make their facilities unavailable for Cricket West Indies organised matches.

Further, prohibitive taxes should be imposed on all things associated with Cricket West Indies. I have seen how sabotage works in Barbados. I am not advocating sabotage. I speak of open efforts to deliver us from this hell in which our cricket has found itself.

What has happened to our cricket is equivalent to fail state status. In our lifetime, we have witnessed the most devastating fall from grace that any organisation, people, country or region has faced since World War 2. West Indies cricket is like Iraq. The only difference is that Iraq was destroyed by America and our cricket has been destroyed by our own efforts, or lack thereof. Enough is enough.

The main reason for the strident calls for the dismantlement of Cricket West Indies’ administrative structure is simply that there is no visible effort to reverse the morass in which our cricket has found itself. If there were reasonable efforts being made to turn things around, one could be patient, but there seems to be a question of waiting for a stroke of luck. “Who will God send to save us?” seems to be the thinking.

The quality of cricket in Barbados is not great, but no one can deny that there are efforts to improve our cricketing stock.

The Barbados Cricket Association has not yet figured out how to make cricket the king of sports in Barbados again, but this deficit has been partially compensated for by improved organisation at the junior levels of the game. This has not yet been terribly successful because of the reduced number of youngsters who take the game seriously, but there is hope. Fear of criticism should never retard innovation and
genuine effort.

I cannot speak with authority about the grass-roots programmes in the other territories. What is patently clear, however, is the lack of quality players coming through. As bad as the administration may be, the players are the ones who go out on the pitch and play, and if Afghanistan is beating them, they simply are not good enough to wear the uniform of the West Indies team.

Sadly, there is no better eleven that we can place on the field. This means that our cricket is poor at every level. We have a few non-shining stars that play in professional T20 leagues, but they would not do much to change our fortunes in any format above twenty overs.

West Indies cricket needs a change in direction. Our political authorities are our last hope. It may come down to individual countries acting out of principle since the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda apparently fears that any change in administration could mean that his country may suffer some loss. Leave him and move on to save the game, please.

Barbados Advocate

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