By Daniel Singh – January 05, 2007
Any discussion on the future of cricket must take into consideration, among other things, the origin and causes of its decline in the first place, as well as what are the present circumstances that are leading to continuing poor performances of the team.
There is no single cause for the continuing decline of West Indies cricket over the years and, similarly, there can be no universal panacea that will bring about a revival of the game in the region and, hence, the team’s performances.
There are many issues that have been raised from time to time, and which have been posited as reasons for causing the decline in West Indies cricket. These include leadership problems, lack of proper coaching programmes, declining regional and local cricket standards, and certainly not the least, inadequate finances.
Many have also attempted to pass the blame on the influence of North American sports, but while that may be a minimal contributing factor, it is only a superficial way of excusing those at the West Indies Cricket Board level who hold the keys to any turn around that could be possible.The players themselves have probably the most important role to play and, unless they can move forward into the future with a determined will to improve the level of their individual games, the output of the team will continue to slide backwards with only limited glimpses of the brilliance they are capable of more regularly.
Quite apart from these flashes of brilliance here and there, the consistency that would be required of any international cricket team, particularly knowing what West Indies teams of the glory days were capable of, has been lacking for too long.
The decline in West Indies cricket has not been a sudden plunge, even though some cricket analysts would have fans believe that. Rather it has been a slow descent that keeps finding new ways to tumble even lower just when one would have figured that the team has already reached its lowest.
The West Indies last won the World Cup in 1979 before losing to India in the finals in 1983. But despite that unfortunate performance they continued their dominance, although the one day side of the game was the first to start showing signs of decline.
When the West Indies were on the top of their game and were beating the world in the 1980s and 90s, no one saw it fitting to invest in cricket facilities and development programmes that could have ensured a successful future.
Now that the West Indies have been declining, and every apparent turnaround ends abruptly, the panic buttons are often set in motion. And blunder after blunder by the WICB has not helped the cause either.
Even in winning the ICC Champions Trophy under Brian Lara, perhaps the only real high point in West Indies cricket in recent years, the West Indies were not required to play all of the top-ranked teams.
It was no wonder therefore that they could not win against South Africa and Pakistan when those two teams toured the Caribbean after that Champions Trophy victory.
Ending up as runners-up last year in the DLF Cup and the Champions Trophy is nothing much to shout about in the overall scheme of things as regards international cricket.
At the WICB level, anyone who has followed West Indies cricket over the years would recognise that there has only been talk of a long term comprehensive strategic plan to engineer the sustained advancement of the game both on and off the field.
Whatever short term plans there have been may have either been aborted soon after they were implemented or were never made public so that West Indian fans and other stakeholders could be aware of what was the thinking of those who manage the game in the region.
And there continues to be glaring revelations concerning the poor administration of the WICB.
Not too long ago, WICB President Ken Gordon announced the appointment of a Win World Cup Committee, headed by coach Benneth King, with the aim of producing a victorious regional team for 2007. Unfortunately, very little has been heard of the work of this committee since its appointment.
And with the chopping and changing that has taken place with the West Indies one day team recently, it is difficult to understand what positive influence this committee has had, if any at all.
For cricket to improve in the West Indies, a strategic plan is needed. Such a plan must address cricket at all levels but special focus must be given to the youth level. The condition of pitches and other playing facilities must be measured against some reasonable criteria in keeping with international standards.
The region keeps producing the talent, but what is more urgently needed is a strategy and the means to transform that talent into ability that delivers the goods at the international level.
If the WICB will ever accomplish anything meaningful in 2007 and beyond, it will have to be the preparation and implementation of a strategic plan to improve West Indies cricket.
No quick fix method will ever work to uplift the team’s current low standings in international cricket.