When does this era of our cricket end?
Every new dynasty of Caribbean cricket leadership avows to alter our downward spiral of performance in international circles but the trend of failure has persisted over the last twenty or more years. The current World Cup Tournament in Australia–New Zealand has highlighted a disenchanting poverty with the West Indies team. There is no discernible movement forward and for the most part we paint an inferior picture to most participating teams. Given the status and limited scope for progress with the associate nations like Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Scotland, the real black mark of the world event appears to rest squarely with us – having become a well defined failure of integrity. More than likely, our players are allowed to languish in the residues of the early World Cup history which saw Clive Lloyd winning the first two staging of the event and reaching the final of the third.
New Zealand dramatises a stark contrast with West Indies. Only two years ago the two were bracketed seventh and eighth in the world rankings. However, the Kiwis have made a concerted effort and lifted themselves, by dint of exceptional good sense to the point where they have not only reached the World Cup final for the very first time but pose creditably as potential favourites. New Zealand have strength of batting, strength of bowling, tremendous fielding and above all, excellent vibrancy of desirable spirit of self-elevation.
When we staged the World Cup four years ago there was absolutely a dismal absence of positive upliftment that could suggest any serious prescription with a real mission geared towards success. The mission seemed sufficient in itself to be the hosts and nothing more. Above all, there was no discernible plan hinting at a gut feeling passion for success. New Zealand has avoided such a deplorable malaise and South Africa, though vanquished in the final over of their semi-final last Tuesday, A.B. De Villiers was able to affirm his men had given their all and vouched there could be no complaint that his team had not given a most honourable performance. Can we say the same for West Indies? Has the patriotic ideal surfaced in our players or has it lodged in their breasts? Pertinently, is there a disabling disparity in the educational accoutrement supportive of our players as against that displayed by their opponents?
New Zealand won the toss at Wellington and batted against West Indies. Horror of horrors! A somewhat laid back looking Marlon Samuels committed the unforgiveable error of putting down the highly takable catch offered by Martin Guptill right at the beginning of his innings. The fielder did not have to move an inch in any direction except to accept a gift void of disconcerting power at short leg. The batsman went on to bat right through the New Zealand innings making use of Samuels' belated Christmas gift. He posted a new world record of 237 not out erasing Gayle's recently compiled 215 against Zimbabwe.
Upshot of all this was New Zealand reaching 393 for 6 in their 50 overs, taking extreme advantage of West Indies' insipidly inexpert bowling – a sad case of miserably poor effort in keeping down runs. This was grossly inferior but New Zealand had showed the wisdom of pacing their effort. Not so West Indies! They addressed each over as if it was the final over of their assignment, and even though they were miles ahead of equivalent run positions by their opponents there was a displayed mentality of what in children's games used to be "six and out"! Discretion never held any meaning, and the sanctity of keeping wickets in hand was accursedly despised.
Professionalism was so inanely frowned upon, there ought to be no leniency in imposing the stiffest fine of taking away – not the match fees but the entire tour earnings of most of our batsmen! They were glaringly disgraceful to the point of losing all their wickets for 250 runs in 30 overs and three balls (183 deliveries). Maybe they had been deluded by a false weather report, hoping for a curtailment of proceedings to translate in their favour. We succumbed to New Zealand by 143 runs and covered ourselves with disgrace and in the process made all thinking people wonder where our brains are. We had squandered just short of 20 overs – a span in which decent sides have repeatedly shown the capacity to get as many as 200 runs, provided the benefit of wickets in hand at the climax to an innings.
Everyone I encountered put forward the view West Indies should almost entirely discard the present team. If the ambition is to build for the next World Cup Tournament the man in the street is right. Still the method of approach to dealing with shortcomings in our cricket can take a tortuous process It is one laden with snags and pitfalls, not the least of which is the troubling occurrence of one or two of our young players like Darren Bravo and Keiron Powell, two who have assumed the semblance of potential match winners, have stagnated in their development as batsmen and have seemingly lost appetite for the workload demanded by greatness. Whatever this means the matter of the younger element taking leave of absence or otherwise poses a departure from established norms consistent with proper player development. Another consideration is the question of player contracts to remain in readiness to represent the region, a feature of doubtful usefulness considering all that we have seen as to our actual standard of on-field performance.
More than all this, there is the monstrously destabilising debt owed to India in respect of an aborted tour. Where can any of this money be raised in light of incumbent players being in demand for potential tours or home engagements? Few countries would willingly accept West Indies teams at home or overseas as viable without inclusion of certain known quantities. Such an outlook does little to break the cycle of an ingrained player tendency towards a dislike for training meaningfully assembled to elevate individual and team standards of performance.
Icing on our cricketing discontent is centred on longstanding mistrust and misdealings between players and the cricket board. If we are to make much sense of all this, the time to begin operations to put West Indies cricket on an even keel for the next World Cup Tournament in 2019 is right now. The more familiar player personalities need to vacate the scene so that appropriately moulded material can mature in the ensuing four years. The logistics are yet another matter. However, it is not rash to presume the new house might need a new foundation.