Friday 1 January 2016

How to fix West Indies Cricket? End it; and start again with the island nations

From March 1976 to March 1995, the West Indies test cricket team won 71 Tests and lost 20. Since June 2000, they have won 14 and lost 81.

What can be done to make the West Indies a top cricket team again?

Nothing can be done. It is time to end "The West Indies" cricket team and management, and start again.

When the "West Indies" began as a cricket team it could function as a nation, because all the contributing island were part of the British Empire - but now 'the West Indies' exists only as a cricket team, and the islands are now collection of autonomous, rival nations.

Cricket requires team spirit, not just individual talent. West Indies cricket has never been short of talent but the team (and its selection, management, training, strategy) utterly lacks cohesion - and national cohesion is the main basis of successful national teams,

There was a honeymoon period for a few decades after the big Caribbean nations got their Independence in the 1960s, due to ingrained habits and the overlap of generations; but the separate nations inevitably grew apart and became rivals rather than allies with respect to the cricket team.

It is now time to disband the last residue of the West Indies and to see how individual nations - such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados - can function in cricket. The talent pool will be smaller (although the nations might recruit from each other, and especially the smaller islands - perhaps after a qualification period) but this will be compensated by cohesion.

I would not be surprised if one or more Caribbean nation took cricket seriously, and again produced a high quality test team within a decade or two. But (as nearly always) things will need to get worse before they can get better.

It is terribly sad to end the West Indies as a cricket team - with its truly glorious history. But it is even sadder to see what it has now become - and there is no realistic prospect of anything other than further decline.

It is time for a fresh start.


John Fitzgerald said...

I'm in Australia at the moment and watching the Melboutne Test was a dismal experience. I think you're rght in your assessment. Perhaps the greatest achievement of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards was to create a formidable esprit de corps among the different island nations. That, allied to some phenomenal talent, made the West Indies simply irresistable for 20 years. That unity's clearly dissolved now and it's time for something radical. There'll be a few vested interests who won't like it but, as you say, any thing's better than this and at least it would stop the patronising guff (in the Australalian media anyway) re 'what's gone wrong with West Indies? I've seen so many sepia-tinted clips of Michael Holding bowling at the speed of light that I'm bginning to think I'm still in my school uniform and the 1984 'black wash' tour is still going on! The only problem, I think, is that the proposed new island teams would have to pay some pretty big bucks, otherwise the top players will continue to swap playing for their national team for competing in the IPL and the Big Bash.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - The problem of salaries for national teams is not confined to the West Indies - New Zealand (which has recently had the best test team of its history, perhaps) have simply worked-around the major T20 tournaments in their scheduling.

The West Indies best players have always gone overseas to earn their living - since Learie Constantine played for Nelson (Lancashire) back in the 1930s.

Plus there is a lot of money still to be made from test cricket in the West Indies - not least from the many thousands of England supporters who will travel there.

But if change is delayed much longer, all the glamour and goodwill of WI cricket will be forgotten.

Jamaica's success in dominating international sprinting despite apprent disadvantages wrt training, salaries etc is perhaps a model of how the island nations might be able to function at a high level independently (although some cynics regard thisparticular success as substantially a product of, um, non-rigorous national scrutiny concerning... ahem... Intensive Coaching Using Modern Methods(cough-performanceenhancinghormones-cough)

Luqman said...

I am not certain that individual carribean nations would be able to field international test level teams for a long, long time (if ever, much smaller talent pool despite a robust street cricket culture) though this is just a gut feeling. I do however think that this would improve the tier of cricket just below that level; the individual teams likely occupying a place similar to Bangladesh before it achieved test status. There is a huge gap between the test playing nations and the next level of international cricket.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - I don't know. I theory, with such a small population of a few millio and intense competition from Rugby Union, New Zealand shouldn't be able to have a test team - yet they have. Bangladesh with their vast cricket mad population might be expected to have a test team but they haven't (so far - people say they are not even as good as a decent first class team) - despite that Pakistan (the other half of the original 'Pakistan') has produced at least as much raw talent as anywhere - especially in bowling, where they usually surpass India.

I think it possible that one or two of the islands might be of test class, if they wanted to be (culturally) and wit the help of a few individuals migrating from other islands (just as England/ MCC has been at its best when supplemneted by not-English-born/raised men - as far back as Prince Ranjitsinhje.

Ideally all great players should be playing test cricket somewhere or another, while keeping the basic underlying national structure - of course small nations may lose out (I bet New Zealand would like Ben Stokes!) the overall purpose is good cricket.

Unknown said...

The problem is not so much regional cohesion or anything like that. A quick trip to University of the West Indies at Mona will show how that the various English-speaking Caribbeans have no problem getting along. Instead , the problem is twofold. First is the cultural shift from Britain to America. Football is still in, but all the tall guys are going towards playing basketball. since the 90s, especially with the liberalization of television. Second, like football it is relatively cheaper than cricket (just shoes and net compared to bat , headgear, etc.), never mind all the open spaces in urban areas being turned over to garish housing developments.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SS - I'm sure there are various causes - but the existentce of a top inter-national team when there is no nation, was something ublikley to keep working for very long. "The West Indies" only exists as a cricket team.

Unknown said...

Well, yes. That is true. So the real problem is one of national and regional identity.