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ANOTHER RISE AND FALL IN WI CRICKET
Another rise and fall in West Indies cricket is sweeping by us with the West Indies Cricket Board completely bereft and uncaring of an understanding of what is taking place and its implications.
The rise was created by a team of young, very talented and professional cricketers inured in the game by professional jaunts around the world of T20 cricket leagues.
The fall resulted from a hopelessly incompetent, allegedly corrupt and vindictive group of non-achievers who make up the West Indies Cricket Board.
In the previous rise period when Clive Lloyd and his team grasped the opportunity to join the Kerry Packer league—which was responsible for the modern innovations in cricket—having professionalised themselves in the Australian and English domestic leagues, the recalcitrant WICBC sought to punish them for their enterprise and foresight.
Today, the mindless Dave Cameron board, its overreaching colonial attitudes, equipped only with the capacity to dispense patronage to national boards, has castrated West Indies cricket by eliminating the same professionals who were responsible for the rise of the team to two T20 World Championships.
West Indian cricket is now devoid of pride; an amateur team struggled against Afghanistan (a team outside of the Test-playing countries) with the batsmen tied into knots by an 18-year-old legspinner, in the process being shamed by the drawn ODI series.
In technique, temperament and the mental approach to the game, especially at the crease, the West Indians looked hopeless when compared to England, India, Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh, whose bowling coach is the great WI fast bowler, Courtney Walsh, while we struggle with Australian Stuart Law, Cameron having fired the relatively successful Phil Simmons.
Like our colonial governors, Dave Cameron and Cricket West Indies (they have even fudged an identity) could not tolerate backchat from a local and preferred to have a foreigner in the job who would not talk back.
Unfortunately, Simmons’ dismissal is not an isolated case. The brightest batting prospect on the West Indian horizon, Darren Bravo, has been relegated to the sidelines by non-achiever Cameron.
Bravo had the temerity to say that the president of the board was lying when he told the world that he, Bravo, had not performed to justify the “A” contracts he had enjoyed.
In language to match Cameron’s offensive untruths, Bravo made it known that the master of the manor was not only a teller of tales, but an “idiot”.
The rise of WI in T20 and to a lesser extent in the ODI, the most popular formats of the present, was a result of the players being nurtured at the club and national levels.
The likes of DJ Bravo, Pollard, Russell, Gayle (who would have had an extended run at the international level and made himself into the ideal T20 batsman) Narine, Samuels, Smith and a few others, had their start with the Adam Stanford T20 venture, which not too incidentally was a start that the WICB failed to build upon.
Of great significance was the contribution of skipper Darren Sammy, in the mould of Worrell and Lloyd, in fashioning a world class from individual talents.
The board of Julian Hunte must take credit for discerning the leadership qualities in Sammy; a very modest all-rounder but a motivating leader of men.
We did not fully appreciate it then, but Sammy’s telling off of Cameron at the end of the T20 Championships in India (2016) signalled the fall of the West Indian dominance in the T20 format and the crash in the ODI game.
Sammy and the “ringleaders” in protest were ostracised. The WI could not make it into the eight teams of the ICC ODI Championships and already the word is that the team is not likely to be amongst those in the 2019 World Cup. The fall could not be more precipitous.
The pattern repeats itself: Like with the golden Lloyd/Richards era, which the board played little part in creating, West Indies cricket is now in a free fall to the bottom which the board has central responsibility for.
Instead of advancing WI cricket, the Cameron board was responsible for the debacle of the 2014 tour of India and the inuring of a US$45 million debt for defaulting on the series.
And as in the previous rise era, succeeding boards did little to take commercial and financial advantage of the vital West Indian contributions to the T20 format.
The vibrancy, the innovative approach to batting, the towering 6s of Gayle, Pollard, Russell, the dancing of Gayle and Bravo, the free spirit of the crowds at these games, they have literally been invented by our players and our crowds at West Indian grounds. We know not the value of what we have—what Prof Rex Nettleford called “the creative imagination” of the West Indian.
Bravo, Pollard and Russell were the early exponents of the fielder, catching the ball across the boundary while being airborne and tossing it back into play for a teammate, or the original catcher himself, to return inside the boundary to take the catch.
The technique has now become commonplace without it being fully recognised as a West Indian enterprise.
As the Gayle/Bravo group begins to feel the effects of exhaustion and injury, there are but a few West Indian players who in the immediate future are likely to win contracts from the large T20 franchise holders. The fall is spreading across the face of WI cricket.