How much lower can West Indies sink?
by Everard Gordon
Every time a particularly inept performance was put out by the West Indies since 1995, the entire region has bewailed it and talked of the lowest depth to which the team has sunk. Unbelievably, an even lower depth has been found on numerable occasions.
This latest, watching Bangladesh score 406 for nine wickets on the first day of the opening Test in the series at St Lucia, was the most unkindest cut of all. Not merely had Bangladesh scored their highest in Tests but, when their seventh wicket had fallen at 250, Mohammad Rafique, previous highest score 12, came to the wicket and 150 runs later he is still there, with 103 to his name. Rafique’s century came off 138 balls, breakneck speed in Test cricket even for a Brian Lara.
That says volumes about the systems in West Indies cricket - in the various territories that produce the players from which the West Indies team is selected and the process those players undergo when they are selected.
How does a player go through the various schools, age group and club tournaments to be called to trials, then get selected on his national team before being chosen to play for the West Indies and be unable to field? Fidel Edwards’ display on the first day of this match is merely the latest in the recent examples that disgrace West Indies cricket.
How does a player come through all the stages and be selected to represent the West Indies and be unable to bowl a good length and line? This in a region that so recently had the likes of Roberts, Holding, Marshall, Garner, Ambrose and Walsh - all renowned for their miserly concession of runs.
The one common denominator is the effort of the various cricket boards to promote and encourage the sport in the region.
When last has any of us seen regional cricket on local television or even heard it on radio? The various boards say they can not afford the radio fees, let alone the television fees.
If the WICB or any of its affiliates, the TTCBC, or the Barbadian, Jamaican or other territories were really interested in the development of West Indies cricket, they would have made the necessary attempts to acquire sponsorship for the broadcast of cricket, West Indian cricket in the region.
The desire of West Indies boys to be like Michael Jordan far outweighs his desire to be like Brian Lara, though Lara plays a game for which the region is famous, that provides the best opportunity to earn a decent income for any of the West Indies young men. But our sons see the broadcast and glamorizing of American sports (and other things too) on television rather than our own.
When the English counties cut the influx of foreign players to their championship, it was obvious that a substitute had to be found for the West Indies cricketers to have more cricket, more meaningful, testing cricket.
The call was for a professional league, an idea that was proposed by the late Jeff Stollmeyer more than 25 years ago but which never was taken up, is the only possible solution.
That calls for massive sponsorship and professional management of resources and logistics, as play would be moved around the Caribbean depending on the weather patterns of the region. But it must be done if the second rank of players who may soon be representing West Indies are to be up to the standard that give a coach something to work with if the region’s teams are to challenge for the supremacy that all West Indians seem to think is ours by divine right.
The professional teams that ruled the world during the late 1970’s to 1995, came out of the Packer World Series Cricket. They played hard cricket against some very professional teams and were playing for big money, if they won.
They had a performance enhancer, Dr Rudi Webster, who assisted in identifying the areas of concern and of remedying the faults, especially those that arose from psychological factors.
There was a trainer, Dennis Waight who made West Indies the fittest team ever seen in cricket and there were players whose pride in self, in representing the region demanded of themselves nothing but their best effort.
The world has learnt from their observation of the West Indies revolution and made the necessary adjustments to narrow the gap. They have gone ahead now while the West Indies has remained static, even deteriorated.
There must be a shake up in the systems in place in the Caribbean to ensure that players come through to Test level securely grounded in the basics of the game and that must be enhanced by early training by the psychological staff.
[Edited on 31-5-2004 by reverse_swing]