Seeking to halt a decline
May 1, 2007
Cricket World Cup is over. As most expected Australia walked away with the trophy and did so in emphatic fashion. They did not lose a single match and won just about all of the matches without a challenge.
But Australia were not always as dominant. In the days when cricket was still a segregated sport played main between Australia, England and South Africa, the Australians did only fairly well and up until the world said that it had had enough of apartheid, South Africa were beating Australia. In fact, they left the scene as the leading team in the world.
By then West Indies had emerged and after struggling in the early days when the British press lampooned them as little ‘nigger boys' who had come to England to learn the game and after suffering defeat at the hands of the three white cricketing countries in the world they came into their own.
They won the first two World Cup tournaments staged in England but between those two triumphs they suffered a terrible beating at the hands of the Australians. They had done reasonably well during the 1960-61 tour, losing to the Australians 1-2 with one Test tied - the first time that had happened in the cricketing world.
But we need to look at how untoward incidents could change a team. West Indies were cock-a-hoop after winning the World Cup by beating Australia in 1975. Their steps were high and when one fan asked Clive Lloyd and his team who at the time were taking the trophy around the country whether they thought that Australia would pose any trouble, they all laughed.
They came back soundly whipped. They won a solitary Test match and lost five. That was the end of an era. Clive Lloyd lost a Test match to India after setting them a whopping 400-plus for victory (the first time that was ever done in Test cricket) and vowed that he would never again rely on spin hence the four-pronged pace attack was born.
And indeed, as if what Australia did to the West Indies was a wake-up call, West Indies adopted a character that would see them beating everyone against whom they came. They had become dominant.
That is not the case today and for its dominance today, Australia say that they have to thank the West Indies. When the cricketers from the Caribbean were beating them soundly they became so angry that they took steps to reverse that trend. They set up an academy that is now churning out cricketers by the score.
One Australian now working in Guyana said that Australia had vowed, “Never again” and from all appearances this seems to be the case.
People always seek corrective measures but West Indies cricket has not seen that movement toward development. It is as if the administrators decided to sit back and hope.
In this world nothing comes without work and planning.
Nearly two decades later, West Indies cricket administrators appear to be making moves to do what others had done a long time ago. Like Rip Van Winkle they have come to recognize that talent alone would not put the team on top.
But there is something else. The members of our business community need to contribute to the further development of the sport. In Guyana, whatever sponsorship comes from the business community is nowhere near enough to encourage players. It is the same in the other parts of the Caribbean. We cannot argue that there is simply not enough money. We have access to all the major investors who come to make further gains on their capital. They must be made to do much more.
We are now going to set up a proper academy but we must wonder at the level of players we are going to wend to the academy. Will they have the mental capability to cope with the rigours of the modern game? Must the academy concentrate on academics? Will there be keen attention to discipline?
These questions rear their heads because a new captain is at the helm, but he has the same team that has been beaten so much that losing has become a way of life. If he manages to turn the fortunes of the team around then something was wrong with his predecessor.
If he fails then the administration must take serious stock of the nature of the game and move mountains to change the losing trend that is now a part of the life of the team, much to the frustration of the fans.