How often…the recurring Story
Seemingly consigned to an inferior league, West Indies has meandered sluggishly in its exploits with New Zealand and other cricketing countries of a less than fashionable rating in the International arena. Only just a year or two ago, we were jubilant in getting the better of New Zealand in a Test series, giving rise to a favorable pronouncement that the general health of a long comatose West Indies had shuddered into a resemblance of life, raising hopes of the light at the end of the tunnel had at long last come within reach. More recently a set of reverses in India, followed by even more despondent results in New Zealand have shown a tendency to suffer relapses typified by one step forward being followed by two backwards.
Right now the South Africans are in pole position followed by India, England and Australia. The rest can be labelled as also ran, and possibly irrelevant in public appeal as far as spectator attraction goes. Only the strong traditional Ashes encounter between England and Australia shines brightly at the moment. England were smothered 5-nil recently and this did not prevent attraction of full houses. This may be an awkward example since the oldest running international cricket saga remains ever likely to sustain its imperishable appeal.
Australians are an extended family of transported Englishmen eager to show the mother country the transcendent brilliance of its sons and daughters. Not so with the West Indies in their counterpart position on tour to England where repeated succession of false starts has left a very bad taste in the mouths of millions of West Indians who have migrated and their second generation progeny. Far from walking tall, West Indians are forced to hide apologetically under an inferiority complex! Black folks can't stand their representatives coming out a distant second best – all pride buried under the thought of the whip exercised by the white hand.
Shedding tears will not suffice. We have only to recognize that Australia found a way to emerge from under domination by England within the last decade, and both South Africa and India have come to grips with erasing their unhappy memories. Logic, then, would suggest similar revival on the part of a once buoyant West Indies.
Latest apparition on the Caribbean scene is a Director of Cricket Development with the long running task of resuscitating our cricket thrust squarely on his shoulders. Some view it as a continuation of much recycled but ineffectual effort.
Any such appointment, if it has to be successful, must apportion equal balance to the short term approach and the long term design. It is with the former that I find a deplorable vacuum which has shown itself for a good many years.
It is difficult to understand the patent failure to rehabilitate opening batsman Sherwyn Campbell from his weakness in playing slow bowling even after his amassing of a few Test centuries. By the same token we are mystified at the falling off of Campbell's compatriot Kirk Edwards in the same pitfall.
One would think the West Indies Cricket Board should have installed programs and procedures to deal with defects and deficiencies in their cricketers, particularly as it operates under a system of having its elite players on retainer contracts to remain in readiness for representation purposes.
The same could apply to spinner Davindra Bishoo who plummeted from the position of Best Young Cricketer at the international level to near oblivion. Shane Shillingford's case stands as a stumbling block arising from entrenched neglect of technical issues swept under the carpet.
These represent the tip of the iceberg and suggest more involved processes in the nurturing of youth players starting out in the schools. If the very young are for the most part left to their own devices, it is inevitable that they will suffer in comparison with counterparts from England, Australia, India, South Africa etc…
If we are serious we must pay adequate attention to the formative phases in the development of our cricketers - and that implies at the very beginning of the grassroots emergence.
This has to be exhaustive in approach and cannot disregard due shaping of the mentality. Adherence to insipidly silly weaknesses of mind that goes with half-baked amateurism– both on the part of players and those charged with their welfare – cannot be a suitable growth medium.
For very best effect there is optimum need to lay emphasis on paying heed to the sports teachers who demonstrate a tendency towards success by affording them prime incentives to further develop their quality output of talent without these elite motivators being allowed positive leeway in doing what they have done better than other persons, the prospect of escaping the recurring story of poverty on the international cricket scene will remain a fluttering mirage, all glitter but always likely to vanish as fast as it appears.
(Reginald St. H Shillingford is a Sports Analyst and Commentator)