Behold! Our pedigree is of the lower stable!
My mutterings of a year or two ago as to the possible threat of West Indies being relegated to a lower or Second Division level, as far as Test cricket goes, may have been without idle concern. It is gathered that the I.C.C may be standing by to declare a two tier status for the international game which would see Australia, England, South Africa and India, and possibly New Zealand playing against each other in an upper division, leaving Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe scrambling below. The West Indies, if this does take place, will be forced to digest the crude local parlance: "Donkeys have no right in horse race!" Do we really belong at last with Ireland and Afghanistan and others of that ilk?
The whole thing galls me to look back at a long line of West Indies batsmen of antiquity, or nearly so, whose efforts as a legacy have, so to speak, been wasted – on impudent mongrels! I'll place them in alphabetical order: Basil Butcher, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Roy Fredericks, Larry Gomes, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, George Headley, Karl Hooper, Conrad Hunte, Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Collis King, Brian Lara, Clive Lloyd, Seymour Nurse, Vivian Richards, Ritchie Richardson, Lawrence Rowe, Gary Sobers, Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, and Frank Worrell. This has been to avoid being too long on this illustrious list of our best Test match performers.
Prior to Worrell's captaincy one could count the stellar content of John Goddard's 1950's team in the persons of Worrell, Weekes, Wallcott and Gerry Gomez – along with Allan Rae and Jeffrey Stolmeyer as redoubtable openers. One should not exclude Robert Christiani either.
In due course, Gerry Alexander inherited a batting galaxy resplendent with Hunte, Kanhai, Sobers, Weekes, Walcott Collie Smith, John K. Holt Jr. etc., and Butcher.
The Worrell captaincy inheritance boasted Hunte, Kanhai, Sobers, Joe Solomon, and Alexander who relinquished the leadership to him.
Sobers in 1965 had at his disposal: Hunte, Charlie Davis, Kanhai, Butcher, Solomon, Joey Carew, Fredericks, Lloyd, Rowe and Greenidge eventually.
Kanhai's batting luggage in 1973 sparkled with Fredericks, Greenidge, Rowe, Kallicharran and Foster.
Alvin Kallicharran entrusted his batting to Basil Williams, Alvin Greenidge, Gomes, Irving Shillingford, David Murray and Norbert Phillip.
Richards enjoyed being entrusted in 1985 with Gordon Greenidge, Haynes, Gomes, Richardson, Logie and Dujon at the top of the order.
This was all sterling pedigree. To illustrate the extent of the bloodline; let's take two of the earlier players as a catalogue sample. John Goddard's first 26 innings in regional cricket starting in 1942 at the age of 23 read: 4 and 98 not out, 12 and 67 not out; 7 and 109; 29 and 25; 21; 62 and 101 not out, 21 and 43 not out, 218 not out; 179; 79 and 51; 19 and 6; 164, 28 & 5; 114 & 22; 28 and 48. The sequence includes six centuries, one of them a double and Goddard batted no higher than No. 6 to 8 for West Indies in Tests.
Hear of Worrell's start in regional cricket in 1942 at the age of 18 and batting initially at No. 11: 28 and 8; 34 and 1; 45; 9 and 7 not out; 64 and 2, 188 and 68; 2 and 37; 308; 41; 20 and 16, 14 and 61; 113 and 0; 16 and 255 not out. The Worrell signature stamped upon four centuries – one a double, one a triple – not too bad for one starting off at No. 11.
Vintage bowlers carrying the West Indies banner included, in alphabetical order: Curtley Ambrose, Ian Bishop, Colin Croft, Winston Davis, Lance Gibbs, Charlie Griffith, Joel Garner, Wesley Hall, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Sonny Ramadhin, Andy Roberts, Alfred Valentine and Courtney Walsh, with the list omitting some of very high rank.
We cannot expect to have an over abundance of great batsmen or bowlers at any given time. However, Butcher played in 44 Tests, Dujon 64, Fredericks 59, Garner 58, Gibbs 79, Gomes 60, Gordon Greenidge 96, Hall 48, Haynes 85, Holding 60, Hunte 44, Kallicharran 66, Kanahi 79, Lloyd 110, Marshall 66, Richards 108, Roberts 47, Sobers 93, Ramadin 43, Walcott 44, Weekes 48, Worrell 51. Therefore, this and some other facts listed here would lead us to think our cupboards ought never to go bare as to the basic requirements for fielding an excellent Caribbean team at any given period.
Our woes may not end merely in our relation to Division Two Test status. It may be compounded with a promotion and demotion process – having us to scuffle with Bangladesh, or Pakistan or Sri Lanka or Zimbabwe, like crabs in a barrel. Tests stand to be reduced to four days and possibly three, moreso for the lower tier nations.
Increasingly, we shall need to become far more acquainted with the odd sounding names of who will become our regular associates. Then, too, there will be other distinct implications like, for instance, the extent to which sponsors may further distance themselves from a less attractive clientele in the global public eye.
A spectre, unlikely as it may sound, coming to haunt the chauvinistic element among us would be a spiralling differential between our male and female cricketers. Bear in mind our girls have so far been doing extremely well on the international scene at all formats of the game – excelling at both limited overs and in Test match campaigns – unlike our men who drown, unable to swim in their Test match ocean. Could be both our would be sponsors and our cricket board might switch allegiances to women's cricket, rather than the latter being allowed to posture as the disinherited side to our cricket. Can the mares then pasture a more dominant stable – in guise of the modern men staying to mind the home while the wives go out to earn the salary? Look out! I've said we should pay our women cricketers more!