We must act now to protect West Indies cricket

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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The recent defeat of the West Indies by England in the 'pink' Test is yet another example of the long-running travails of the once all-conquering team from the Caribbean.

It was not simply that the West Indies lost by a humiliating innings and 209 runs or that the maroon flag bearers lost 19 wickets in under a day, but also that there was a seeming lack of belief and commitment among the players, which was particularly disheartening.

The pride and passion built up in West Indies cricket over so many years of grit and struggle were replaced by an embarrassing surrender.

We make it very clear that it is not about just losing a Test match; that is understandable in the world of any sport. It is not about being beaten or being put to the sword by a better equipped and gifted team. It is about the visible absence of the will to fight and the dogged determination necessary to at least lose with some amount of dignity.

At Edgbaston, the West Indies bowlers, with the exception of Mr Kemar Roach, appeared to lack focus, especially on the first day, and the ground fielding was slack. The batting was much worse. Among the specialist batsmen, only Mr Jermaine Blackwood in the first innings, and to a lesser extent Mr Kraigg Brathwaite in the second, appeared mentally ready to deal with the bitterly cold and damp conditions on a pitch which showed inconsistent bounce on the third day.

A new mindset has to be developed among firstly the administrators of the game, led by the newly minted Cricket West Indies in conjunction with all the cricket boards in the various islands, based on the understanding that West Indies cricket is in serious trouble and that there is critical need to rethink and rehabilitate.

For this to happen, petty squabbles which have dogged West Indies cricket over so many years must be replaced by rational thinking and the acceptance that there is no way out of the quagmire but to consolidate and robustly plan for the future with youth development as priority. Harsh decisions need to be taken without fear or favour in the interest of West Indies cricket and not for individuals.

An understanding must be reached involving all stakeholders, including Caribbean governments and private corporations, to lift a game which remains important to the psyche of West Indian people.

We are suggesting that from early, young and talented players, ages 12 to 14, be identified and nurtured in a specialist programme, which includes time at an academy under proper supervision. More importantly, the region's young cricketers should be travelling overseas regularly to see and feel for themselves different cricketing and social conditions. This, we believe, will forge a better understanding not only of the game but also the responsibility the youngsters bear as Caribbean flag bearers.

We are aware of ongoing Under-15 and Under-19 programmes, and we recall that West Indies are actually world Under-19 champions, but we see the need for greater focus at an earlier age than is now the case. Also, we see the need to build the skills of cricketers between the ages of 19 and 23, perhaps through a regional second-eleven tournament to help cricketers make a more smooth transition to the higher level.

Whatever the solutions are, we have to act now in order to ensure the very survival and integrity of West Indies cricket.




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