Several days ago, the West Indies cricket team (‘The Windies’) did something that it’s done regularly in recent years: it lost a match. However, this time, it lost to a team which supporters of ‘The Windies’ regarded as minnows, Ireland. That assessment was wrong, but people in this region are often not bothered to reference facts instead of going with gut impressions that are inconsistent with facts.
Countries like Ireland have been doing the best they can to develop into top-level teams. They have invested in developing players, organizational structures, and a clear vision of where they want to be and when. That’s commonly called planning and management.
As I write, the West Indies cricket establishment is going through yet another series of crises, reflecting lack of planning and poor management.
Without rehashing fully the recent history, we have a Test team that decided it would not complete a series in India, due to a dispute with its Board about pay and conditions. India suffered serious financial loss through this broken contract, that may yet end up in court.
Rather than coming up with my own less-knowledgeable analysis, let me borrow from those who cover the matter more thoroughly. Look at headlines and comments last year, after the India debacle. Headlines such as
‘West Indies cricket plunged into deepest crisis as India suspend all future bilateral series. BCCI will also launch legal proceedings to recover at least $65m in losses after West Indies pull out of its current tour to India ‘ are sensational, but so was the situation.
The Windies have put themselves into the position of pariahs in the sport. With US$5 million in debt hanging over its Board’s head, the conditions for success are not really present. Players at loggerheads with governing bodies and serious financial problems usually spells lots of disruption in a sport and hamper player development. Not good for the future. Sponsors and broadcasting rights, the life blood of the sport, tend to dwindle in the face of such situations. It’s economics, stupid.
Just yesterday, I read a piece that assesses the many reasons for the decline in West Indies cricket. From aspects regarding player selection, including choice of captain (a vitally important role in the sport), through financing, national representation, player and infrastructure development, the sport is in a mess.
The reasons are not just internal to the game, however, but reflect also changing views in areas like Britain regarding the inflow of foreign labour. The region cannot easily overcome the decline in the welcome of its one-time major partner in player development, as fewer players can hone their skills in English county cricket.
Further, to mix sporting metaphors, cricket in the region has been and still is a political football. Politics and sport are not happy bedfellows, as African football, to cite one example, has shown for decades.
So, the bottom line is that, however you want to slice it, West Indies cricket is not what it was, and so cannot be expected to pose threats to any opposition. Well, maybe Afghanistan could be regarded as a softer touch, but even there I would be cautious.
Ireland is accepted as the best country outside the elite 10 which currently play Test cricket. It has set the objective of making that an elite 11 by 2020. The team had already signalled its quality with wins over England and Pakistan during the 2007 World Cup, with other additional stellar individual performances during that tournament. The country wants to bring playing numbers up to 50,000 in 2015, and develop a solid domestic league.
Simply put, Ireland sees itself as a rising star, much as its economy was a decade ago, and it was pitted against a waning star. Think of a young Messi against an aging Rio Ferdinand. West Indies now are not the team of the 1970s-90s. No way! Get over the days of Lloyd, Richards, Holding, Kallicharan, Sobers, Greenidge, and even earlier, Hall, Griffiths and others. Those days are over. O.V.E.R., like when it’s time to give the ball to another bowler. No need to check the run-up. Get back into the pavilion and take off your pads.
West Indies rank 8th out of 10 in ICC Test cricket, and only stack up well in 20-20 cricket (if you can call that cricket, rather than a run-fest). If there were relegation and promotion, as in league football, we’d be in the drop zone, clearly. So, why the angst and surprises?
If you want to wallow in nostalgia, then fine, go ahead, but do not expect that to match up with reality. The headache you have after that little spell of dreaming is a migrane of devilish intensity. You sipped white rum instead of water. We like to hark back the ‘good old days’? Fine, but we have developed in bad, new ways. Deal with it!
I do not have a solution to offer clearly, but I can gladly say that the way that things are currently being handled is not the recipe for success. If that’s not clear, then it’s because we like to jump up and dance when we hear sweet music, and even when we have torn up clothes, we think think that winding up and clinking bottles will convince people that what we’re doing is something classy. Our juk-juk performances are as out-of-time as can be. We scrabble a win in some competition and all the core things that are wrong are forgotten–but the rottenness is still there. Like our music shows compared to something put on at Super Bowl–night and day. So, blow your whistles and wind up in bikinis, and try to sing “Rally round the flag” in tune. Like all things in life, success before work, is only in the dictionary.