Professor Beckles' book on cricket hailed as `the most important cricket book ever written"

Guyana Chronicle
November 7, 1999

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CANA) - As the Centre for Cricket Research (CCR) at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus prepares to host a major international conference on the future of West Indies Cricket early next year, a leading journal dedicated to the game is hailing a publication coming out of the Centre as "the most important cricket book ever written".

The detailed review of the two-volume publication "The Development of West Indies Cricket", written by Head of the CCR, Professor Hilary Beckles, appears as the Scyld Berry Essay in the August edition of the Wisden Cricket Monthly coming out of England.

In the column, Scyld Berry discusses Beckles' view that global capitalism, more than anything else, is to blame for the crisis in West Indies Cricket.

The first volume of the book traces the history of West Indies cricket while the second deals with its present and its future and, according to Berry, do so, "with such perspicacity that the author's analysis has relevance to all other Test countries entering the post-nationalist era, notably England".

The columnist credits Beckles with articulating a vision for the future of West Indies cricket that is "clear, balanced and wise." "The motivation of cricketers in the 21st century is not a question which as yet greatly concerns Australia, as their players were keen enough to win the World Cup; or South Africa or Pakistan, whatever their inquiry might think.

But it is one which now concerns England and even further down the line, the West Indies, and one to which Professor Beckles has addressed all his knowledge of cricket, and of history...," Berry writes.

He shares highlights of Beckles' account of the development of West Indies cricket in the early 1900s, focusing in particular on its role in empowering and instilling self-respect in black West Indians.

Beckles termed this phase the first paradigm of West Indies Cricket.

The second paradigm, he said, coincided with the era of unparalleled success of the West Indies Test Team under successive black captains, beginning with Frank Worrell, and the impact of this phase on the social and political development of the region.

"For West Indians to play and become world champions under a black captain ... was to demonstrate that the West Indian territories were mature enough to stand on their own feet and be decolonised ...."

The third paradigm, Beckles suggests, is the Brian Lara era, and it is this phase, Berry argues, that has particular relevance for England as it too battles problems of apparent lack of motivation among players. Almost gone are the last vertiges of the West Indian cricketer of the second paradigm, the era of nationalisation, who played for love of the game and the pride in the people he represented.

Beckles suggests that the cricketers of the future, beginning with those of the Brian Lara era, are set in a context of global capitalism, where maximum market returns and not love of the game is the prime motivator for success and the pursuit of excellence.

"The liberation of the individual from the dictates of cricket boards and other non-playing officials is the objective of this process of change. Players will require their own agents to represent their financial interests in all negotiations with officials, and the team, as a collective, will be more clearly seen and understood as an aggregate in pursuit of maximum market returns ...," Beckles writes.

Against this background, he also issues a warning against the imposition of societal moral values. "The new paradigm - cricket in the age of globalisation in which cricketers see themselves more as entrepreneurs than as professionals - should not be moralised in terms established during the age of nationalism."

He also outlines a key role for the University of the West Indies "The only Caribbean organisation of much practical effect apart from the cricket team," in developing special programmes aimed at equipping young cricketers with the knowledge and social skills "necessary for engagement in the era of globalisation".

The two-volume publication "The Development of West Indies Cricket" comes as highly recommended reading, not only for cricket lovers, but for everyone with an interest in the development of Caribbean society and the interplay of social, political and economic forces which shape it.

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