Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh are surely among the greatest fast bowlers in the history of the game. Unsurprisingly enough both have been interviewed on the thorny subject of the decline of the West Indies as cricket team. Here's Holding—he of that over fame—from an interview a year ago on American sports, economic decline, and a mal-functioning Cricket Board:
The increasing popularity in the Caribbean of American sport is
often blamed for the dearth of top-class youngsters, but Holding thinks
this is exaggerated.
"I don't see any kids in the Caribbean
playing baseball, or American football," he says. "It's only
basketball, and the reason for that is that politicians are building
basketball courts everywhere to get the kids off the streets. So we
have to make cricket as accessible as basketball. Another factor is
that the Caribbean economies are changing. When I was a young man, a
lot of companies in Jamaica would hire sportsmen and give them time off
to play or practise. They hardly worked at all. But that doesn't happen
any more. And the other big factor, of course, is that the team is not
doing well. Kids don't see anything they want to be a part of. But for
the team to achieve success on the pitch, the West Indies Cricket Board
has to sort itself out. For the last umpteen years it has been
dysfunctional, to put it mildly."
And Courtney Walsh talking 5 years ago about coming out of retirement:
The decline of quality fast bowling in the Caribbean has hurt not
only the fans, who still believe the fast bowler is king, but also
those who proudly made the West Indies into the best side in the world.
"It has been a real disappointment to watch the way our guys have
been performing," Courtney Walsh said when I caught up with him in
Jamaica. "Our bowling is a real concern. We are not bowling anywhere
near as well as we can. The potential is there but there has been a
real lack of consistency. The word on the street is that Curtly
[Ambrose] and myself should come out of retirement."
We laughed at the prospect. Walsh is enjoying retirement. The body
is no longer the lean, mean bowling machine that claimed a record-
breaking 519 Test scalps. The hips are wider and the hair around his
temples now has a distinguished grey tinge to it. Our chuckling ended
when he raised his head and looked me in the eye. "No they're serious,"
I have no wise words to say about the dearth of fast bowling in Jamaica and the West Indies generally. But surely the joy that watching this represents has something to do with it.