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 TT captain, after two consecutive losses in five matches, reportedly said his team is tired. This after the team had been in camp for more than a month. The manager reportedly said the team needs to become involved in non-cricket activities and played basketball the next day. The CEO stated that the team is more concerned about clothing, going home and financial remuneration, with little focus on cricket.
In summary, therefore, none of the TT 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 they are more interested in being selected for the West Indies A side. It is expected that Cricket West Indies (CWI) will inform the three misguided youths that they are banned from all future selection. And one hopes that the CWI does possess that fortitude to make such a decision.
Before every tour, there is a two-week training camp. Yet many players are leaving the team with injuries. Performance is below par, except for the first match. After that, it is all downhill.
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 23 four-day matches, with one-day matches in-between. It is thus quite apparent that our cricketers are lacking match practice 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 (UWI) has allowed an American-run university to establish the first cricket academy in the West Indies. In fact, the UWI has not established any sporting facility or programme to promote sport academics in the West Indies in its 50 years of existence. It is now safe to say that the US, 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 its own cook. Substitute players for the Waugh twins, Warne and Gillespie, were instant successes at World Cup 2003. Even the substitute for another 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 11-12-week tournament.
2. Caricom and the respective regional governments should sponsor their individual teams so as to create a professional-type league that may result in a level of professionalism. Cricket and the UWI are the only unifying aspects of life in the West Indies.
3. 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.
4. While the participation of a youth team is commendable, it only serves to decrease the standard of play and should be ceased.
5. UWI should create an academy/faculty of sports. Through this 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 14-week regional tournament.
But it seems that the Shell Academy of St George's University is the preferred and accepted system of the CWI. Hence the participants at this academy should form the basis of a youth team, thereby showing if they did in fact learn anything.
6. Each regional side should be allowed to select one or two non-West Indian players for each match and for the entire season.
7. The CWI and the regional affiliates should become more business oriented and should market the West Indies to the max.
8. 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.
9. Age-group programmes should be developed in all countries. Tournaments will only be successful if the programmes have developed quality players.
10. Coaches and other team officials should resign or vacate their positions after failure to produce results. Having three-year contracts do not mean that the sport must tolerate three years of failure.
It is important that all sport administrators, be they involved in cricket, soccer, athletics, etc, become serious and professional in the development of the sport they control. They must not assume positions for want of power, for a free airfare, 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, while 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 CWI 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 2022-2023 Australian series were an embarrassment to regional cricket.
During the next five years, the respective governments should invest in 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 2027 will be a financial venture and not a sporting venture.