West Indies Cricket has had some low points, losing to Bangladesh at home for the first time comes immediately to mind, but these past two years — from 2022 to 2023 — must surely be the lowest point that the regional team have reached.
Over those two years the team have been knocked out in embarrassing fashion at the T/20 World Cup, and then this year after an internal restructuring, and the removal of the head coach weeks before the tournament, the team went and got eliminated at the qualifying stage.
The West Indies, the team which have collectively won four world cups across two formats of the game, the team which were correctly viewed as innovators of these new formats, have been left so far behind our competitors that we now can’t even defend 370 against The Netherlands or defeat Zimbabwe, teams which are either not associate members of or are still going through a transition after a long disruption to their programmes.
That is embarrassing and should be the cause for alarm bells to be sounding not just in Cricket West Indies (CWI) headquarters but among all regional administrators and be the cause for deep introspection, but if history is anything to go by then this will be brushed off and the region’s pastime of passing the blame on will commence.
The team’s administrators need to take a hard look at themselves and ask if what they have been doing for the past 20 years has been working. We have had some success, sure, almost all in the shorter formats, but this has been accompanied by the rapid decline in the longer format — Test cricket — which maintains our associate status.
While a lot of blame must go to the CWI for their navel-gazing and indulging in regional rivalries, it must also be shared with the regional bodies such as the JCA, the GCB, TTCB, BCA and others.
These associations, the very lifeblood of the game in the region, rather than comprehensively address the issues they and, by extension, the region face, choose to bicker, look to one-up the other, build teams for immediate winning rather than teams brooding talent to benefit the region and we have all paid the price. There is no way Jamaica or Barbados can do individually what we have done as a collective. We don’t have the money or talent pool, so the idea of breaking up is a non-starter. How do we resolve this?
West Indies Cricket has been on its knees for some time, decades even if we are being honest. If we are honest, the team were not all that good between 2000 and 2010. They were more a cast of supremely talented individuals than a talented team. Moments of brilliance, sometimes lengthy ones, were often coupled with long periods of mediocrity, and that was not addressed then. We are reaping the fruit now.
Much of this is a result of how the domestic game is played. If we are honest it is stuck in a semi-pro format, especially for the format which matters when producing first-class cricket. We have produced a set of lazy, undisciplined players who not only shun the difficult questions but also buckle at the first sign of resistance. That cannot be addressed by a coach, certainly not a national coach, and must be the core work of the associations.
It is true there is a serious rot at the top, too many administrations of CWI have been useless, ignoring advice from various commissions and acting as old boys clubs and an avenue to benefit their respective associations. That is a tale as old as the West Indies Cricket team and while it must be addressed it does not excuse or diminish the damage done by regional associations which engage and egg on such behaviour (all CWI presidents and reps after all get the backing of the regional bodies which nominate them).
We cry that our Test status is under threat but where is the call from the regional associations to go back to 4-day cricket as opposed to the abomination which is 3-day cricket? How can we improve if local administrators make the call for and defend the move to this format? How do you explain the inability to think on one’s feet, improvise, concentrate, grind out results and all the other areas if we don’t implement training regimes which not only mimic but exceed the environments found in each format of the game? All of that is the remit of the local association and their acceptance of regional dominance comes with a cost, and we are seeing it.
Finally, there are the regional governments. They all must hold their heads in shame, for it is they more than anyone else who have let this happen. For too long the regional team has been underfunded and had to go begging bowl in hand in order to operate. And while it can be argued that we are not flush at the moment, that was not the case in the 90s and the 2000s.
Regional economies, while not booming, were rich enough to invest long-term in this institution but have failed. This trend seems to be continuing with Guyana now in an oil bonanza with more money than God but little investment in the regional game for the regional good.
To make matters worse, the governments have been silent, or not as mouthy as they are about lamenting the fall of the game regionally, when it comes to the increased greed shown by nations such as India, England and Australia who continue to dictate how the monies earned from the international game are allocated. The dominance of those three associations, in particular, has and continues to lead to the underfunding of the broader cricket family, especially in the West Indies, while those associations fill themselves at the trough.
The game is at a real low point. That the losses have not elicited the same level of outrage as before should be a worrying sign for those who love the game, and a serious root and branch inspection is needed. Yes, we have talent, and yes, we have ability and skill, but that alone means nothing, and we are missing the mental agility. That is an issue which must be addressed from both the grassroots as well as the upper echelons. Full implementation of the findings of the various reports, which only repeat themselves in issues raised, and proper funding could, over time, result in the team improving.
Will the masses be around when that change is made? That is another question which I don’t have the answer to.