An eternity of blows By Orin Davidson In New York
Stabroek News
February 8, 2004

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Another overseas tour, another series-loss and more anguish for West Indies fans.

Many must be wondering when or if it will ever end.

Whether it is Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India, the results are always the same, for what seems an eternity now.

At home they are not much different either, the only difference being that the beatings are not thrashings of the type the team suffered at the hands of South Africa these past two months.

Anyone following West Indies cricket over the years, would not be surprised though, at this latest catastrophe.

For starters, almost half of the team showed up unfit and overweight for the pre-tour camp in Antigua. It resulted in a slew of injuries and depletion of three key players from the squad who were all forced to return home.

This state of affairs is nothing new for the majority of this generation of West Indies cricketers, who continue to neglect the basic tenets of professionalism and show little desire to up their pride and become better performers.

Work ethic, it seems is negligible where most of these players are concerned, as they seem content to exist at embarrassingly low standards without much desire to take West Indies from the bottom of the international rankings.

This however, is all because the West Indies Cricket Board, the region's ruling body, has allowed it all to happen.

It seems the WICB condones the waywardness of its players all the way because it has done little to arrest the despicable decline of the region's cricket. More than the players, the ruling body must take full blame for this sorry state of affairs.

Why? Because they are the decision makers who are responsible for almost everything which affects the regional game.

They are the ones who set policies, select the officials, appoint the selectors pick the captains and players and ultimately are responsible for generating the revenue to run the sport.

And because they have failed to act and made poor decisions, West Indies cricket finds itself in a mess which only those administrators can clean up.

For some time now the board has made itself impotent to properly handle the players they employ. Ever since the infamous player-revolt on the eve of the team's inaugural South African tour in 1998, and the dropping and reinstatement of captain Brian Lara and vice captain Carl Hooper, players feel they have the upper hand on the board and can do as they please.

This is not to say those players did not have a sound basis for their actions in 1998, but it does not mean the board must now put up with gross unbecoming conduct which clearly is not in the interest of West Indies cricket.

It's been years now selected Test players project an aversion to training and hard work to improve their fitness and technique.

Yet they continue to be picked without the board making any attempt to put its foot down. Never has the WICB mandated its selectors to punish players who show up for tours or home series unfit, by dropping them.

It has reached a stage where players are satisfied to make a few runs and take some wickets at regional level, because it keeps and gets them in the Test team.

It is that easy.

And it matters not that they are shamed whenever they play at the highest level, because at the end of the day, they are all off laughing to the bank.

In contrast, it is significant to observe the emotion which gushed out of young fast bowler Ravi Rampaul after South Africa won the fifth game to clinch the one-day series on Wednesday.

He broke down in tears after Shaun Pollock hit the winning runs, such was his desire to see his team succeed. It turned out Rampaul, the youngest and least experienced team member at 19 years, on his first tour, was the best bowler on the day for West Indies and was by far the most improved on the tour.

More than anything else he displayed the type of pride, the majority of his teammates clearly lack. Were the WICB made of sterner stuff, the entire team would've been populated with players of that caliber by now.

A more competent WICB, would've had better coaches with requisite authority in handling the team. Likewise capable captains would've been at the helm to execute the correct strategies on the field.

These shortcomings have hurt West Indies cricket for a long time over the years, beginning with the board's inability to extract heavy revenue from the team's exploits when it ruled the world for 15 years in the 1970s and 80s.

On top of everything else, the board blundered its way through 2003 like never before and seems set to do likewise in 2004.

So far, nothing has been done or promised about the obvious breakdown in communication between captain Brian Lara and coach Gus Logie in Africa.

It was so glaring, South African journalist Neil Manthorp was obliged to report that Logie is the most anonymous coach ever to set foot there.

How could one explain Logie's well-publicized disclosure of being ignorant about the weaknesses and strengths of the Zimbabwe and South African teams, because he never saw tapes of them in recent action? Subsequently, a report which the WICB did not refute, stated that captain Lara was furnished with all the relevant material, since during the Antigua camp.

After being routed 3-0 in the Test series, Lara made it a point to talk about the need for players to be contracted full time to help to make them better.

This lot though, has no excuse for not being prepared to be better. As Manthorp pointed out, they didn't seem to care less, as their training sessions on tour amounted to nothing more than an opportunity to show off fancy designer jewelry, without breaking a sweat.

This shameful attitude is harming West Indies cricket in more ways than one because it is also providing foreign journalists with nice fodder for juicy stories.

When it is not Trevor Marshallsea or Peter Roebuck in the Australian press, it is now Manthorp in South Africa.

It is left now to the WICB to put a stop to all this embarrassment. Only they have the power.