CWC - a reporter's view
By Tony Fraser
Covering Cricket World Cup 2007
April 29, 2007
IT is frightening that there exist cricket scribes, amongst them former world famous players, who believe that the departure of Brian Lara is the partial or whole solution to the free-fall that West Indies cricket has been experiencing over the last 15 years.
As evidence of this shallow understanding of the problems of W.I. cricket are statements such as "it would be good to make a fresh start now that Lara has gone"; and, “his departure clears the way for the advance of the team.”
However, these expressions in the belief that Lara as captain was the problem are not surprising.
A couple years ago a notable West Indian scribe was saying that Lara should have gone then as his supreme capability with the bat was undermining the confidence of the other less-gifted and mentally deficient players in the team.
Such supposedly informed and intelligent scribes forget when they seek to lay complete blame at the feet of Lara, that he has not been the captain during the entire period of the 15-year decline of W.I. cricket.
They forget too that Richie Richardson was destroyed as a batsman when he took-up the captaincy
* that he all but got a physical and psychological breakdown during his term as captain
* that the great Courtney Walsh did little with the team
* that Jimmy Adams moved from a promising batsman with an appetite for big scores and high averages to a man who could barely hit the ball off the square having to retire prematurely
* that Carl Hooper's already mediocre performances as a batsman slid even further as captain
* that Chanderpaul saved himself from a fate like Richardson by quickly handing back the captaincy
* that Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Rohan Kanhai, Roger Harper, Jeffrey Dujon and Sir Viv Richards were frustrated out of the position of coach of the West Indies team
* that Gus Logie was dumped as supposedly unsuccessful
* that even the great Clive Lloyd and the incomparable Sir Garry Sobers had only marginal success in their various stints and roles with the West Indies cricket team of the last 15 years.
Has it not dawned on them that no single individual has or could be considered responsible for the generational decline in West Indian cricket?
Don't they understand that it is almost irrelevant when Brian left or was forced to leave; that the problems go much deeper than is being conceived of?
Do they not understand that there was only one time in the recent past of West Indies that the issue of who was captain was important, that time being when the WICBC refused to appoint Desmond Haynes as the captain to succeed Viv Richards and instead put Richardson into a role he was not ready for?
Yes, that was when the board failed to understand the importance of the influence of Haynes as a senior member of the Lloyd/Richards era being needed to make the transition, to bring the culture, the work ethic and the spirit of domination to another group of young men to allow the West Indian cultural supremacy, confidence in self, confidence in how we interact with the teams from the Developed World, to prevail?
Are they not able to understand that the problems of W.I. cricket are structural, not merely in the organization of the cricket but in the social problems of West Indian society?
Captain too early?
The disaster of the Richardson appointment as captain was compounded when Lara was handed the captaincy when he was even less equipped than Richardson was.
But the above only touches on the captaincy aspect of the failures of the board to critically understand what was happening with W.I. cricket and what was and continues to be needed.
Packed with businessmen and astute administrators, the boards of the 1970s and 1980s failed to perceive of the possibility of being able to capitalise on the commercial value of the great teams of the period.
They therefore fated their successor boards to eventually go cap-in-hand to the likes of Digicel to support W.I. cricket when hundreds of millions could have been earned during the period of dominance.
Indeed, instead of discerning the emerging times of sponsorship in cricket, the WICBC did everything within its power to hold back the advancing commercialisation by banning the players who chose to follow their fortunes with the Australian tycoon, Kerry Packer.
Where were these "far-sighted" scribes during that period? Why did they not suggest to the board what lay ahead and what had to be done to make commercial use of the Lloyd/Richards teams?
Why did the scribes not suggest to the board that there was need for a clinical assessment of the methods, planning and strategies of Lloyd to be able to encapsulate them and modernize to continue producing world champion teams?
Here in Kingston on the evening when Lara announced his retirement, social commentator/comedian, Oral Tracey, did this wonderful spoof in true, true calypsonic style suggesting that now that Lara is gone everything would be alright with W.I. team: "the untalented would become talented; the indisciplined would become disciplined ..."
This is not a defence of Lara, his unorthodox captaincy, his inability to convert a talented team into a world champion unit, or to hark back to his immature days and ways, not even an attempt to say that he should have been allowed to continue on for another series or until he reached 40.
What the column is saying is that Lara's departure will make no difference to the serious structural problems of West Indies cricket.
That the problems are far-reaching, that the problems are “beyond the boundaries” of cricket; that instead of attempting to borrow solutions from Australia we have to develop our own, and that the need is to transform the structures of W.I. cricket if we are to ever again become one of the leading teams in international cricket.
But I cannot end here without saying that the cricketing world will remain eternally joyous for the sublime skills of Brian Lara; his West Indian creativity, his sense of timing, above all, his ability to perceive shot-making possibilities that others could only dream about and his ability to sustain those gifts and insights to the end, never becoming a mere accumulator of runs.
For generations to come, the video of Lara dancing to the spinners, sweeping the deadly “Murali” will remain the standard for great batsmanship. (BBC Caribbean)