Monday, October 18, 2010
Future tense for West Indies
Yesterday was a red letter day for Bangladesh's cricket as they Banglawashed the Kiwis four nil. Bangladesh have made a giant leap in cricket world as with yesterday's victory, they have snatched the number eighth spot in the rankings from the once great Caribbean side. In the euphoria of Bangladesh thrashing the Black caps four nil, lest we forget the sorry state of affairs the side that Bangladesh replaced as the number eighth ranked team in the world find themselves in. Yes, I am thinking about the once great Caribbean side which ruled the cricketing world, but now have the ignominy of seeing Bangladesh leapfrog ahead of them in the rankings. Cricket in the Caribbean has been on a slow decline for more than 15 years now, but the sad fact is, it is getting worse and probably it has reached its nadir.
So, in this article let us focus on the sad decline of West Indies cricket and the future of cricket in West Indies
The seeds of decline
It was in the early 90's when it looked like everything wasn't hunky-dory in the West Indies camp. Yes, they still had players like Ambrose,Walsh, Richardson, Bichop and a player called Lara showing a lot of promise. The fact though is, few of the great players like Malcolm Marshall, Richards and co. who were about to retire seemed to be a bit pessimistic about the future of West Indies cricket. Actually, I do remember senior players like Marshall and Dujon at the time of their retirement in 91/92 saying that everything isn’t rosy as far as cricket in the Caribbean is concerned.
It was in 95, when the Aussies finally tamed the lion in its own den by defeating West Indies 2-1 and with that the reign of West Indies as the undisputed champions of test cricket was over. It seemed like the king of the jungle had suddenly lost all its long canine teeth and the jaws had become weak yet even in 95, not many envisaged that one-day even a newbie like Bangladesh would be ranked ahead of the Calypso kings.
Infighting in the West Indies team
As far as I can remember, it was back in 1995 when for the first time, one could see that there was a lack of unity in the team. The then captain Richie Richardson had problems with their star batsman Lara and Lara didn’t even tour Australia in 95/96. Finally, Richardson retired after the 96 world cup as Walsh became the captain. I have heard that disunity in the team existed even during the time of Walsh captaining the side.
Lara becomes the captain
One always felt that Lara had the ambition of captaining the team and after a string of poor results during Walsh's time including a whitewash by Pakistan meant that Lara was finally given the chance to captain the side in 98. The tragedy though is, even under the captaincy of Lara, there were more than a few problems. For instance in 98, there were problems between the board and the players association before a tour to SA, though it was resolved just in time, but it did affect the performance of the side as they lost 5-0 in SA.
Yes, the very next year Lara played couple of magical knocks to almost single-handedly help the Caribbean side to draw a series against the formidable Aussies, but trouble was brewing underneath as after that encouraging show against the Aussies, West Indies didn't taste much success during that year. In-fact, after yet another whitewash and this time around by the lightweights of test cricket the Kiwis meant that for a brief period Lara got disillusioned with cricket and took a break from cricket. So, Adams took over the mantle of captaining the side, but the Caribbean team lost most of their matches which included a five zero thumping by the all conquering side from down under. Finally, Adams too resigned from the job of captaining the side. I was never a fan of Adams as a batsman, but that was the time as a fan of West Indies cricket, I had a sinking feeling that West Indies can go just one way and that is down. The reason behind that was, if a cricketer like Adams, who seemed to come across as a lovable guy and with good leadership qualities couldn't turn the fortunes of West Indies's cricket around, then who could do it?
Anyway, Hooper, who had retired from the game came-back to take up the mantle of captaining the side. He and the coach Logie did a decent job, but the stop-gap arrangement didn’t last long and it ended after a disappointing world cup campaign in 03.
Players strike rock West Indies cricket
In 2005, just before the Windies were about to embark on a tough tour to the Emerald isle, players strike haunted West Indies cricket. So, Chanders took up the mantle of captaining a second string side. After negotiations between players and the board, the striking players returned back to play cricket, though in-spite of senior players coming back into the side, Chanders continued to be the captain of the team. The team under Chanders though, lost match after match as he also resigned from the job of captaining the side with Lara again becoming the captain.
The players also didn't seem to get along well with the coach of the side King and he was heavily criticised for his methods. The coach King eventually resigned from his job after a disappointing 2007 world cup. It was also the last time we saw the great man Lara playing international cricket as he announced his retirement from the game at the end of the 2007 WC. Yes, he was a great batsman, but was embroiled in lots of controversies which in turn didn't help West Indies's cricket.
Temporary coaches like Moore came and went as finally Dyson took over the role of coaching the side. It looked like Gayle and Dyson were doing a decent job as the team defeated England at home in a test series which was a good achievement, though it can be said that after Moores KP fiasco, England seemed to be a disjointed side during that series.
A case of Siamese twins
I have a feeling that West Indies's cricket and controversies are like Siamese twins which can never be separated as last year, they again got embroiled in controversies. The board and the players association again were at loggerheads over the issue of contracts as the players for the umpteenth time went on a strike. As a result, the board fielded a second string side against Bangladesh and that side promptly got Banglawashed. The board had to find some scape-goat and it was of course the coach Dyson, who was sacked. On the other hand, the association led by Ramnaraine and the board were still at each other’s throats with the board again selecting a second string side for the champions trophy. The man who was mainly responsible for the disarray, Hunte is still the president of the board. It can be better said as Hunte hunted Westindies cricket. The striking players made a comeback, but West Indies cricket went from bad to worse as they lost most of their matches down under and results weren't any better against the Saffers at home. In between, they even lost a match or two to Zimbabwe!
So, who is to be blamed for the mess???
The Caribbean team haven’t utilised whatever talent that was available as most of the players, who looked like have the talent either were dropped too soon, or have stagnated. The selectors surely have to take some of the blame for it, as they rarely ever gave anyone a decent run in the side. I don't have a count of every player, who has played for the West Indies team in the last ten years, but can anyone remember names like Stuart, Maclean, Rose, Washington, Samuels, Marshall and Nurse? All of them were talented, but were rarely given a decent run in the side. It doesn't mean that the board and the selectors have to take the entire blame for the mess, as even the youngsters perhaps haven't been focused enough. For instance, Taylor has had disciplinary issues and Samuels has been involved in match-fixing. In a way, the failure of the board has manifested itself not just in the palpable decline of West Indies cricket, but the overall discipline and development of West Indies cricket.
Future of cricket in West Indies
Today, I saw that Sammy has been appointed as the new captain of the side with Nash as the vice captain. Actually, I am happy with those appointments as Sammy is a hardworking cricketer and has a never say die attitude and Nash seems to have a calming influence in the field which would help Sammy. The big worry is, this can be yet another stop-gap arrangement and the brainless selectors may again revert back to Gayle. West Indies also face problems of players opting for lucrative T/20 contracts in IPL instead of playing for West Indies. We have already seen Gayle, Bravo and Pollard refusing contracts. So what is the future for players like Darren Bravo, Barath, Roach, Rusell and others? Can they make a living out of a sport which is in such a mess?
I have also seen a few former cricketers saying that to ameliorate the standard of Westindies's cricket, domestic cricket has to improve. Yes, it is a factor to consider, but at present, the main problem is the never ending fights between the board and the players.
Players disunity, strikes, bad selection, the seeming veracity of rampant corruption by board and many more factors have rocked cricket in West Indies during the last fifteen years. The situation for a team which produced some of the greatest cricketers like Ambrose, Walsh, Lara, Marshall, Hall, Richards, Lloyd, 3 W’S, Headley, Holding and many more can’t get worse. One has to wait and see whether there would be any light at the end of the tunnel or just like titanic, the great ship of West Indies would sink.