Whither West IndiesGaneshbabu Venkat |
There are not many West Indians who are happy with the showing of their cricket team in the ICC Champions trophy and many are boiling with rage that the best team was not selected even after the Bangladesh whitewash. Predictably, the third string team caved in so pathetically that they were bowled out well before completing their 50 overs in each match they played.After the disastrous Bangladesh series, when the senior players announced that they were available for selection for the Champions Trophy, one would have thought that if those who matter in West Indies cricket really had West Indian cricket in their heart, they would have at least announced a compromise working solution to the never-ending players’s dispute which would have ensured we would have seen the best available West Indies team in South Africa. However, commonsense did not prevail and what was on display was a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
What followed was even worse; we witnessed a mud-slinging war amongst all who matter in West Indies cricket. (1) West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)accused former Commonwealth secretary general Sir Sridath Ramphal, who served as the mediator between WIPA and WICB of breaching one of the conditions of the mediation process by speaking to the media. (2) Ernest Hilaire, the West Indies Cricket Board’s chief executive goes on record saying that Chris Gayle’s captaincy is not guaranteed for the near future. (3) An obligatory rebuttal from the West Indies players association (WIPA) stating whether Hillarie’s views are personal or those of the board because he doesn’t officially take office until October 1. (4) To add some comic relief West Indies Captain Floyd Reifer after their third and final match of the champions trophy against India said “we have played pretty well,” this after they failed to bat their full quota of 50 overs once during the three matches of the champions trophy and failed to reach even 150 against India and Pakistan. Everyone had conveniently forgotten the burning issue at hand and no one uttered a single word about solving it.
It is very clear from these statements that West Indians have not learnt anything from their past history nor do they care about the future. Their past disputes with players and their shabby administration of the World Cup 2007 are all glaring examples of how not to do things and they should have learnt from those misadventures. Nevertheless they are happy to keep shooting themselves in the foot again and again. The player-board disputes are not new in West Indian cricket, which started in 1998-99 during their maiden historical tour to South Africa when West Indian cricket was held at ransom by the players at the Heathrow Hotel, London. The dispute again reared its ugly head during 2004-05 season when Shiv Chanderpaul led a severely depleted side to Sri Lanka. Ever since the issue has precipitated in to a chronic disease before every series and the latest Bangladesh series was the last straw where the players took industrial action and the board did not budge to the player’s demands. Not once have the concerned parties tried to address the disease, but have always treated the symptom, akin to plastering a bullet wound with a band-aid.
For a long time the West Indians have lived in their past glory that it was inconceivable for them to think that a time would come where they would be dethroned from their number one position. Perhaps they thought they would be able to produce the likes of Sir Gary Sobers, Sir Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall and a Brian Lara by default and the wheel would not come a full circle. In all this time they were oblivious to the fact that West Indies cricket was falling behind compared to other cricketing nations and had failed to identify the fundamental problem, which was to fix the obsolete way the cricket was being managed in these islands and still is. Otherwise how can we explain their president penning letters to ICC and its players in this electronic age and how can we explain a domestic season that does not have a sponsor and as a result is shortened, thereby not giving budding players an opportunity to have an extended first-class season?
WICB failed to realize that they cannot exist as a genuine body to protect the interests of cricket and cricketers in the region without presenting the best available product to the public, but still they went on with their merry ways fighting against their own valuable assets, their best players. The players, knowing that the board is the ultimate authority, went on with their juvenile ways, like boycotting a board function or putting duct tape over the sponsor’s logo. There was some renewed hope when Dr. Julian Hunte assumed office as the president of WICB and Inducted Dinanath Ramnarine, the fire-brand WIPA president as a board of director. However nothing changed and everyone was happy putting their incompetence and stupidity on display whenever an opportunity presented itself.
The state of affairs has not changed an iota for however long cricket has been run in these islands. They are still fighting amongst themselves. WICB fights against WIPA. The territorial boards fight against WICB. Not to mention the inter-island and the territorial rivalries among selectors, players and administrators. Even a section of the West Indian media is fighting against their fellow journalists taking sides for WICB and WIPA. In all this West Indians have failed to realize that the enemy lies within.The time has come for West Indians who matter in West Indian cricket to accept that the situation is dire that it’s now or never. The region which once produced the likes of Sobers, Lloyd, Richards, Marshall and Lara, is on its last legs. The Caribbean youth of today could be left without any heroes from their own society to identify with. They are already on the brink, however the masters who matter in West Indies cricket are hell bent on carrying on with their squabbling and bickering without the realization of the danger that looms large for their cricket and their society.
I’m not placing the blame squarely on one party for all these mishaps. It has been a collective misdoing of WICB, WIPA, the players, CARICOM, the territorial boards, the West Indian media, the West Indian governments, the sponsors and everyone else involved with running the game over the years. What West Indies cricket needs is not bitter squabbling and bickering, instead someone to take the bull by its horns, what it needs is some fresh blood and new energy. What it needs is more honesty and dedication. What it needs is someone to run the game who loves it passionately and is willing to take responsibility and be accountable. On top of all these what it needs is trust and transparency. Sadly these terms are Greek and Latin to the people who run West Indies cricket, or else we would not have witnessed the sand pit farce in Antigua when no one was held accountable for the ignominy.
As a West Indian fan I tremble at the thought of what’s next for West Indies cricket. What was once a great legacy and a source of pride and inspiration, for not only West Indians, but people all around the world who appreciated supremely gifted and athletic cricketers, now lies in shambles. If we are going to be presented with this sub-standard team with a captain who cannot average 15 in any international form of the game, I’m sure the supporters would shy away from cricket and cling on to other forms of entertainment. If anyone had a semblance of sense they should realize now and act accordingly. Nevertheless everyone involved in running cricket in the region have the habit of keeping their eyes and ears firmly shut and are living in denial.
The West Indian media has failed their people here. They needed to play a much stronger role which they had not done all along. They have shirked away from their responsibility, remained a mute witness and have not been critical of the things that are slowly eating away a great legacy. If the media loves and cares for West Indies cricket they must express their voice in such a way that it is heard at least now. West Indian cricket is at the cross roads and at a breaking point. However if people who matter don’t realize that we would have to face a day where West Indies cricket as an entity would cease to exist and the cricket world could be deprived of a future generation that wants to emulate a George Headley or a Gary Sobers.If that unfortunate day were to befall us that will indeed be a sad day in the history of cricket and I for one do not want to see that day dawn on us.