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Drastic action needed now to save West Indies cricket

Guyana Government must act to end local impasse

THE West Indies have just completed yet another disappointing overseas tour—this time the team failed to win a single game across the three formats they played in New Zealand. This must surely go down as one of the most depressing campaigns by a West Indies team, even in an era of sub-standard performances. Many would indeed argue that the recent display in New Zealand was a case of “more of the same.”

It is difficult to refute that assessment, given the fact that the team has repeatedly let the Region down since 1995.
The rapid fall of the team’s fortunes from a position of dominance to one of permanent mediocrity is almost beyond comprehension. And because cricket is the one area in which our Caribbean has been able to compete globally, the blow to the Region’s pride is incalculable. This point is central to any analysis of our cricket– then and now.

We have had the recent embarrassment of being unable to field our best team largely because most of our better players prefer to ply their trade in the various T20 tournaments around the world, rather than play for the West Indies. We are the only cricketing nation where our players have not been able to balance commitment to representing the nation and taking advantage of the lucrative deals available in the T20 leagues. This is an indictment of both the players and the administrators.

But, even when the star players are available, the losing streak has continued. Cricket is a team sport that thrives on team effort rather than isolated individual accomplishments. One cannot help but notice the lack of team chemistry and coordination when the so-called stars play for the West Indies. Sadly, our cricket has been reduced to individualism. Now, we have players pulling out of the team on the eve of a series for “personal reasons.” How low have we sunk?

When this is coupled with the fact that younger players do not benefit from playing with and against the more experienced players, the disastrous outcomes are inevitable. Our young talent is thrown into the fray of international cricket without much guidance and they often do not possess the temperament and technical skills needed to succeed at that level. They play first-class cricket on sub-standard pitches and in empty grounds.

Then there is the very serious problem of foreign coaches. This development represents an affront to West Indian identity and dignity. With all due respect to these coaches, there is no way a Stuart Law can coach a Shimron Hetmeyer or Shai Hope to be a Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai or Viv Richards. We have equally qualified West Indian coaches who played the game at the highest level—why are they being bypassed? We have sunk to a new level of madness—a crisis of the imagination and a lack of understanding of what cricket means for our people. We must call a spade a spade.

It is little wonder that our selection policy lacks direction—I often wonder whether the selectors have a clue about what they are doing. Carlos Brathwaite becomes captain after hitting four sixes. We are now sliding down the ranks of the T20 format which we dominated not so long ago. Jason Holder, a decent cricketer but a woeful captain, is burdened with the captaincy of the other two formats. We continue to lose badly, but he appears to be guaranteed permanent leadership of the team.

When there is a Barbadian chairman of the selectors and more than half the teams are Barbadians, then one must ask the inevitable question—is this a case of undisguised insularity? Some of those players merit their places in the team, but some do not—plain and simple. Why, for example have two wicket-keepers in the test team?

What does Dowrich do behind or in front of the stumps that Hope cannot do? If Hope is in the team, then let him keep wicket and free up that other spot to a bowler or batsman. Why pick Bishoo and not play him while you select less penetrative bowlers? Why is Beaton playing for the West Indies and not Guyana? And why is he good enough for the shorter versions and not the longer one? Why are some players given extended runs, despite repeated failures and others are not afforded similar treatment?

We have the folly of a T20 league that is dominated by foreign players. How on earth can we have a Guyana team with only three or four Guyanese and where the captain is a foreign player? Aren’t West Indian tournaments meant to be nurseries for West Indian talent? West Indian cricket stakeholders have lost it.

There is clearly a systemic problem with West Indies cricket—from management to coaching to the attitudes of the players. Further, as we have argued before, the state of our cricket reflects the state of the society itself. After all, the administrators and players are recruited from our communities. The problem is both particular to cricket and grounded in larger social dynamics. As such, it must be tackled both within and beyond the boundary.

Any attempts to turn the situation around must take those factors into consideration. But we are afraid, that insofar as there have been serious attempts in this direction, they have been more geared at minor reforms rather than radical transformation. There have been quite a few recommendations from reputable individuals and groups, all of which have been ignored by the authorities. In this regard, the Patterson Report and the more recent Barriteau Report come to mind.

It is time for something drastic—very drastic. First, the cricket administrators from Cricket West Indies to the local boards should be forced to relinquish their positions. The corporate mentality which is dominant in our politics has also taken hold of our cricket administration. From all indications, these administrators are more concerned with the prestige and privilege which come with the positions at the expense of the well-being of the game. This has now become a cancer that must be stopped. The governments of the Region must act to save the game for the Region. This is no longer a private matter—the very Caribbean soul is at stake.

Here in Guyana, we have a situation where one faction has literally hijacked the management of the game for almost a decade. There have not been any proper elections during this period. Some clubs and players are sidelined because they are deemed to be dissidents. They have used the courts and their connections to stay in power. All this with the collusion of the West Indies Board and the inaction of the government. Both the PPP and the present government have allowed this travesty to continue.

They appointed an ambassador, but never allowed him to do his work. We have a new Sports Minister; I hope he appreciates the urgency of this situation and acts. It is the duty of the government to protect our cricket asset from predatory behaviour. The ball is in your court, Dr. Norton.

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