COMMENTARY: Save West Indies Cricket


Philip Ayoung-Chee

Over the last five years and more, West Indies cricket has been in a slump. Small flickers of hope present themselves with many fanfares, only to be followed by dismal failure. It is quite apparent that the present administrators seem to have no solution to the problem.

The Trinidad and Tobago captain after two consecutive losses in five matches reportedly said that his team is tired. This after the team has been in camp for more than a month. The manager reportedly said that the team needs to become involved in non-cricket activities and played basketball the next day. The CEO stated that the team is more involved in clothing, going home and financial remuneration with little focus on cricket. In summary, therefore, none of the Trinidad and Tobago cricketers are ready for West Indies Test cricket.

An American run university in Grenada has now established a cricket academy for West Indies cricket. Three of the selectees declined to join the Academy for the current session. It is rumoured that they are more interested in being selected for the West Indies ‘A’ side. It is expected that the WICB will inform the three misguided youths that they are banned from all future selections. And one hopes that the WICB does possess that fortitude to make such a decision.

Before every tour, there is a two-week training camp. Yet still, many players are leaving the team with injuries. Performance is below par, except for the first match. After the first match, it is all downhill thereafter.

After a season of mediocre performances in five regional matches, test cricketers are born. The regional season consists of a maximum of seven matches now, if one reaches the final. History will reveal that all of our past cricketers played in the English county league that consisted of over twenty three/four-day matches, with one-day matches in-between. It is thus quite apparent that our cricketers are lacking match practise and are also unfit.

Caricom, at the Head of State level, has recognised the problem and has even formed a special committee on West Indies cricket. The University of the West Indies has allowed an American-run university to establish the first cricket academy in the West Indies. In fact, the University of the West Indies has not established any sporting facility or sport programme to promote sport academics in the West Indies in its fifty years of existence. It is now safe to say that the United States, as in other spheres of our life, control our sports. DISGUSTING!!

Sport today is no longer confined to “raw” talent. There are many aspects to being successful. There are physical, social, psychological, economic, nutritional and other aspects that have to be dealt with. The Australian cricket team underscores this point, sometimes travelling with it’s own cook. Substitute players, for the Waugh twins, Warne and Gillespie, were instant successes at World Cup 2003. Even the substitute for substitute Symmonds was a success.

So what are some of the solutions:

  1. The regional season has to be longer than six or seven weeks. Home and away matches among the six traditional teams will result in a ten-week tournament. Add one or two invitational sides, if such teams are really needed, and we now have an eleven/ twelve-week tournament.
  • Caricom and their respective regional governments should sponsor their individual teams so as to create a professional type league that may create a level of professionalism. Cricket and the University of the West Indies are the only unifying aspects of life in the West Indies.
  • Only players who participate and are outstanding in the regional tournament will be eligible for West Indies selection. Hence the dates for the regional tournament must be planned two years in advance so that ignorance is not an excuse.
  • Whilst the participation of a youth team is commendable, it only serves to decrease the standard of play and should be ceased.
  • The University of the West Indies should create an Academy/Faculty of Sports. Through this Sport Faculty, the University should be encouraged to participate in the regional tournament. This is preferred to the youth team. Thus, we may now have a fourteen-week regional tournament. But it seems that the Shell Academy of St. Georges University is the preferred and accepted system of the West Indies Cricket Board. Hence, the participants at the Shell Academy should form the basis of a youth team, thereby showing if they did in fact learn anything.
  • Each regional side should be allowed to select, one or two, non-West Indian players for each match and for the entire season.
  • The West Indies Cricket Board and the regional affiliates should become more business oriented and should market the West Indies to the maximum.
  • Training camps should be organised throughout the year, in addition to just before a tour. Players should be subjected to routine fitness and training programmes.
  • Age-group programmes should be developed in all countries. Tournaments will only be successful if the programmes have developed quality players.
  1. Coaches and other team officials should resign or vacate their positions after failure to produce results. Having three year contracts does not mean that the sport must tolerate three years of failure.

It is important that all sport administrators, be it cricket, soccer, athletics, etc., become serious and professional in the development of the respective sport for which they control. They must not assume positions for want of power, for a free air-fare, for a free ticket to competitions and tournaments and more importantly, for self-gain.

The present “Mafia-type” attitude to hold on to the mantle of sport administration, whilst the sport continues to deteriorate to extinction must be stopped now rather than later. Sport in the West Indies today needs innovators and thinkers, developers rather than linger-ons. There are many young aspiring athletes who will require guidance and support for continued success, both of which are presently lacking.

One must not expect overnight successes. The WICB should project a turnaround in five years time, allowing the present young players to be fine tuned and to develop maturity and experience. Youth programmes should be developed, with the primary aim of ensuring a basic standard of performance. Errors displayed at an international level during the 2003 Australian series were an embarrassment to regional cricket. During these five years, the respective Governments should invest into their respective teams. As the regional cricket becomes a success, sponsorship will return, eventually relieving the Governments of this burden.

But, assistance, financial and otherwise, is needed from the governments in the next five years. Otherwise, World Cup 2007 will be a financial venture and not a sporting venture.

Philip Ayoung-Chee

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