By Venkatraman Ganesan
The passionate Colin Croft’s lament regarding the current precipitous state of West Indian cricket, as expressed in a cricket weekly – ‘The Cricket Paper’, while eliciting dollops of sympathy, does not go a long way in assuaging the reader dreaming about a change in fortunes for the men from the Caribbean. In fact, if the talented Lord Relator were to pen a calypso to symbolise the shambles that is West Indian cricket of late, it would read much like an improvised ode than a groovy tune! To take an uninitiated but nonetheless bold stab at imitation, Relator’s song might have an opening on the following lines:
“Our bowlers have no rhythm and the batsmen forget their feet; The Board is in a stupor and Caribbean cricket is dead meat”
Casting completely aside the element of humour, it is indeed an extremely agonising sight to see the once kings of cricket being completely transformed into a bewildered bunch of hapless paupers. But for a few sparse moments of magic, there is nothing in West Indian cricket that would warm the cockles of the collective hearts of the fans. The assemblage comprising a playing eleven is a motley crew of the predominantly uninitiated young and a few experienced and dour old. While to the credit of the Caribbeans, it ought to be conceded that they are not shorn of either pluck or panache, it is the lack of performance that has been responsible in bringing them down on their knees with frequent regularity. Mere grit, guts and gumption will not serve to win a game of cricket. Whilst one can go on and on ranting and raving about the calamity that is West Indian cricket, it would also be not out of place to examine, the primary reasons contributing to the downfall.
The nasty tentacles of politics seem to have gripped West Indian cricket in a vice-like clutch. The relationship between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and a few of the senior players seems to be tumultuous, to put matters in a very mild perspective. After an emotional interview by Ramnaresh Sarwan during the course of the recently- concluded second Test match between England and the West Indies, it is clear that there are internecine feuds amongst the players and the team management as well.
This explains in a sorry fashion the travesty which is; while the West Indies are struggling to string up a few quality batsmen to support the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels, a discarded and supposedly disregarded Sarwan is notching up consistently high scores in the English domestic circuit. While there might be more than just meets the eye, as only Sarwan’s perspective has been brought to the notice of viewers and listeners, it is very clear that feuds of this nature are extremely undesirable.
Talented players turn out in various tournaments, whilst the national squad is struggling elsewhere is also a deep concern. West Indian cricket, at present, to put it very mildly, is in the doldrums. Hampered by the paucity of quality cricketers, and absolute game changers, Caribbean cricket is but a pale shadow of its erstwhile brilliant and glorious self. Giants of the game such as Sir Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and the famous fast bowling quarter et al are now mere archival wonders and current evidence clearly suggests that there are no replacements looming around in the West Indian horizon. That being the case, with such a depleted and bare cupboard, West Indian cricket needs to draw upon every source of experience and available talent to turn things around and reignite the lost flame. Ironically a few talents possessing the possible wherewithal to provide the requisite boost and also encouragement in this endeavor seem to be plying their wares in the Indian Premier League (IPL) rather than rolling their arms over or swinging willows for their country.
While the mutual acrimony between Chris Gayle and his Board has been thankfully resolved, it is hard to fathom the absence of the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard in the squad that is touring England. While it would be ridiculous to emphasise that the presence of these cricketers would have worked the Midas touch for the tourists, there is no denying that the strength of the squad would have been undoubtedly bolstered.
None of the aforementioned aspects are issues that are of recent origin or occurrence. The Committee on Governance of West Indies cricket in a report titled “Final Report” had identified various ailments of West Indian cricket way back in October 2007 following their World Cup debacle. In two Chapters having the menacing and ominous headings “Crisis in the Caribbean” and “Crisis in West Indies Cricket”, the Committee had identified 10 major threats impacting the game in the Caribbean.
Clashes between the cricketing fraternity and the Board were recognised as having the potential to dent the morale of the players and hence impact their performance. The Committee also aimed at securing the future of the game in the Caribbean and to resurrect the halcyon days with a slew of measures, including a restructuring of the Board and introducing strong Governance measures. It would be enlightening to see the extent of implementation of the said proposals.
Where the cause is systemic, the consequence would be systematic. Both the West Indian players and the cricketers ought to assimilate this fact and work towards evolving an assiduous, and amicable solution to further prevent the erosion that has eaten into the bowels of this game in their land. Since there are no quick-fixes to a chronic ailment, the recovery is bound to be gradual. While the West Indian Board ought to recognise the fact that only the players with the best talent can churn out results, and hence ought to be selected, personal grudges notwithstanding, the players also ought to exorcise a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude, desist from washing dirty linen in public and adopt a patient but persuasive approach with the Board to make their voice heard.
While it may be impossible to recreate the past glory that heralded West Indian cricket, there is no reason as to why the Caribbean team ought not to be a competitive unit, giving the best of their opponents a honest run for all money. All that it takes for a revival and resurgence of West Indian cricket is a complete, concrete and comprehensive sorting of all the controversies that are simmering and lurking ‘Beyond the Boundary’. If that can be done, even the immortal CLR James would heave a sigh of relief. Till such time we have to grit our teeth and bear the sight of Jimmy Anderson steaming into bowl……
(Venkataraman Ganesan is a Chartered Accountant by intent and a lawyer by accident. He has a maniacal penchant for books, more books, still more books and lot more books, when he is not watching cricket that is! He loves his Scotch and scribbles for fun. He blogs at www.the-venkyloquist.com)