After being blanked out 2-0 in the Tests against Bangladesh, West Indies have lost the ODI series as well. With these defeats Windies cricket has hit its lowest ebb. Even if they may be fielding a second-string team with the major players backing out due to a dispute with the cricket board, the losses are still earth-shattering. There was a time when even a Windies ‘A’ team was highly formidable against strong international teams but the latest defeat has proved once again that cricket in West Indies has plummeted to such a depth that there seems no way back. While one feels happy for Bangladesh, for whom it is ‘their biggest triumph till date’, the pathetic prospects that West Indies cricket is facing is indeed very sad for any admirer of the game, leave alone the Windies fans.
Just a peek into history and we know that, for generations, West Indies cricket has produced great entertainers, whose flair and flamboyance has dazzled one and all and continues to do so even today thanks to numerous re-runs of their enchanting knocks. Worrell, Weekes, Walcott, Sobers, Greenidge, Haynes, Lloyd, Kanhai, Kalicharan, Richards, Lara… hardly any other country can boast of having possessed such a plethora of raw talent that got translated into greatness. Unfortunately, the list hasn’t grown in the last decade. A lot was expected of the likes of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Carl Hooper and Wavell Hinds. But while the first two mentioned have maintained an impressive record in international cricket, their consistency and passion for the game hasn’t been the same as it was with Lloyd, Richards and the rest. Only the tenacious Shivnarine Chanderpaul has made a genuine impression on the team’s fortunes. As for the rest, the less said the better.
If the batting reserves have dried up, the bowling cupboard is also completely barren. Ever since the stalwarts Garner, Holding, Roberts and Marshall quit the scene, the team has struggled miserably. Though Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh kept their country’s flag flying high till the dawn of the new millennium, they had zilch in the form of support. Thus, the results were embarrassing more often than not despite the presence of the two giants. One felt for the duo as the amount of work they put into their bowling till the last days of their career was laudable and could put many of our modern young speedsters to shame. The likes of Dillon, Collymore and even the current crop like Taylor and Edwards have been more erratic than effective during their international stint, though it has to be said at least the latter duo is improving with time.
The results may force us to arrive at a simple, logical conclusion but it would still be wrong to say that there is a dearth of talent in cricket in the island nation. The promise is still very much evident but it is not being channeled. A Dwayne Smith comes in and tries to whack every ball for a six. And while it comes off occasionally and spectacularly, most other times he looks like a fish taken out of water, dying to get wet again. It is of little help that the cricket administration in the country is run pathetically, to put it mildly. How can one expect the players to give their 100% when their minds are often preoccupied with monetary misdemeanors taking place off the field? The amount of fervour, which was a hallmark of West Indies during their heydays in 70s and 80s, has perceptibly vanished. No wonder, then, that the 2007 World Cup was so horrendously mismanaged and the fun element was totally missing.
Above all, one feels for the Caribbean cricket fans for whom a game of cricket means a glass of beer, calypso music, dancing and basically lots of enjoyment. They deserve much better for the amount of loyal support they provide their faltering team with. To their credit, their zeal for the game hasn’t died completely and probably never will. But the crowds are certainly receding with each new blockade the team hits. And the way things stand there is only one way West Indies cricket is heading. The coffins are already out – R.I.P.