The names of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd (centre) , Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Alvin Kallicharran in West Indies cricket are just a few that are immediately associated with greatness.Cricketing public at large feels cheated having heard stories regaled of this group of men who transformed the game, only to be replaced by an ever revolving door of players who simply fail to match in their desire © Getty Images

 

By Rohan Kallicharan

 

They say that he who laughs last laughs longest. In cricketing terms, it means that Bangladesh, despite losing the ODI Series to the West Indies, should go into Friday’s 1st Test Match brimming with the confidence generated from a thumping victory in the final match of the series in Chittagong.

 

For Stuart Law’s charges, it represents salvation and positive energy prior to a Test match at the same Chittagong venue, whilst Ottis Gibson’s West Indies are once again beset by the doubt that accompanies the inconsistency that has plagued West Indian cricket for seemingly an eternity.

 

In terms of the laughing analogy, the modern cricket calendar barely affords one the opportunity to smile before the next contest is under way. This, for different reasons, remains a crucial series for two sides marooned at the wrong end of the ICC rankings.

 

Many newer cricket fans will hardly know that the West Indies ruled the cricketing world for two decades at the end of the 20th century, a period during which they took the game to a new level, one during which their style and approach to cricket was lauded the world over. The names of Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Alvin Kallicharran are just a few that roll off the tongue, and are immediately associated with greatness.

 

Even before them, was a legendary generation which included the fabled 3 W’s, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, not to mention the small matter of Rohan Kanhai and Sir Garfield Sobers. Whilst they would not dominate the global game in the way that the teams of Lloyd and Richards did, they put Caribbean cricket on the map, and achieved every significant first that the people of this small group of nations craved; first win in Australia, first win in England – who could forget those little pals of mine, Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine, and a host of victories throughout the Commonwealth nations where cricket was played. They were the pioneers, they for whom the phrase ‘Calypso Cricket’ was coined.

 

If there was ever a perfect definition of Calypso Cricket, it came not from a cricketing scribe, but from an Englishman living in Canada, a gentleman by the name of Gary Steckles, a learned scholar of Caribbean culture and history and erstwhile biographer for Bob Marley, who so defined it:

 

“For decade after glorious decade, teams put together from a collection of tiny Caribbean nations – there’s no such country as theWest Indies – ruled the world. And they ruled imperiously, with style, with panache, with the sort of swagger that no other cricketers, no matter how talented they were, could hope to match. It was called Calypso Cricket … and it was a wondrous thing. Each victory was savoured and celebrated, and beating England, the former colonial masters of every cricket-playing Caribbeancountry, was the biggest source of joy.”

 

Unfortunately, in recent years, that Calypso has become a dirge. If Sir Frank Worrell’s side had the cricketing public a joy with flair, to which the Lloyd era added ruthless professionalism, the last 20 years has seen precious little of either.

 

It is not only those in the Caribbean that yearn a rejuvenated West Indian side, but the global cricketing public at large, a young audience that feels cheated having heard stories regaled of this group of men who transformed the game that we love, only to be replaced by an ever revolving door of players who simply fail to justice to their talent or even match in their desire that of those who support them.

 

We could of course discuss any number of reasons for the decline in standards in the Caribbean. The most simple answer would be that the modern crop are simply not good enough, but West Indian cricket has been in freefall for 15 years, a period during which Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Carl Hooper, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnaraine Chanderpaul have all played for the West Indies. How can so much talent have produced a side which continues to reach depths that West Indian cricket has never seen before?

 

Many will argue about socio-political influences in the Caribbean, the sway of American sports, and the often overlooked generation of West Indian youngsters who were born and brought up in England and the USA. Whilst Dean Headley represents the example of a West Indian son who would play for England, there is a long line of ‘West Indian children’ who were talented sportsmen brought up in the UK, Mali Richards, Jason Lloyd and Carl Greenidge just three of them, in addition to myself, who earned various sporting representative honours.

 

That said, talent has not been lacking in the West Indian side, but attitude, maturity and consistency have been glaringly absent. However, as bad as they have been, every recovery has to start somewhere. Many will have no idea that even during the golden era, or more accurately between the two golden eras, the West Indies went six years between 1967 and 1973 without winning a single series.

 

There is talent in this West Indian side, but Ottis Gibson and Darren Sammy have to find the ingredients that have been sadly amiss for many years; passion, resilience and pride. Players like Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, Kemar Roach and Andre Russell are highly talented individuals at the start of what could be very successful careers. It is imperative that they are not stained by the poisonous relationships between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and several of its senior players.

 

West Indian cricket has been doused and set alight on so many occasions, but out of those ashes there must eventually be a Phoenix. It is a process that will take time and will require patience, but defeat here in Bangladesh may extinguish the flame of the once great Calypso nations beyond any redemption.

 

(Rohan Kallicharan, son of the legendary batsman Alvin Kallicharan, is a West Indian cricket enthusiast based in the UK who played at under-19 level. He is now a Recruitment Professional who writes about the game in his free time. He is a columnist for All Out Cricket Magazine. He also has own sports bloghetoreahamstring.co.uk)