Regaining our past cricket glory

The West Indian diaspora demands answers from Cricket West Indies or West Indies Cricket Board, or “whatever you’ll call yourselves,” to borrow former West Indies captain Ramnaresh Sarwan’s recent quote, as to why and how we are still struggling amongst cricket’s minions to find a place on cricket’s biggest stage-the World Cup. This is a debacle in itself, because not only is it unprecedented, but it would have been risible to even think that before.

This prestigious tournament is held every four years, and is cricket’s Olympics. We have won the first two editions of the tournament, thanks to the leadership of Clive Lloyd and his team. Hence, our struggle to make the qualifiers is very depressing, indeed.

While other teams such as Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka have already secured a place in the tournament, West Indies is still fighting hard to qualify in Zimbabwe, where the home team almost knocked us out of the tournament, after Afghanistan humiliated us. Even Bangladesh, an emerging cricketing nation, has made the World Cup qualifiers before us.

Most West Indians treasure our conquests in this tournament, from its inception. Will that brilliant, match winning 102 by Clive Lloyd in the final against Australia in the inaugural World Cup in 1975, Rohan Kanhai’s wonderful supporting knock of 55 with Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran’s onslaught on Lillee in his spellbinding 10 ball sequence of 4,4,4,4,4,1,4,6,0,4 (35 runs), Viv Richards spectacular 3 run-outs in the same final, his majestic 138 from 157 balls, consisting of 11 fours, 3 sixes and Collis King’s mercurial 86 from 66 balls, 10 fours, 3 sixes in the 1979 final, this time against England, for example, ever be bestowed again to a proud Caribbean nation?

Caribbean nations yearn for such glory, again. After all, although the West Indies “are Third World countries, we belong and are in the first World of Cricket.” (Former Jamaican PM, Michael Manley). Cricket is not only a religion in the Caribbean, but it best defines the region in the highest context. Indeed, regional political integration has its genesis in cricket as a unifying and defining force.

We just cannot ignore, nor relinquish that supremacy. In a larger world where we are often treated as underdogs and second class citizens in a global context, allow us to find comfort and solace in our regional strength.

Intrinsic in this endeavor, is our demand that Cricket West Indies President, Dave Cameron, explain his logic and methodology that “the Caribbean side are using the ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe to plot their capture of the showpiece in England next year… In going to the tournament, we’ve been planning on how to win the World Cup, not just qualify…That’s the reason we took certain players to ensure that we have the quality and we’re [giving] some players experience to be able to win the World Cup,” he has told reporters.

Every school child in the Caribbean is smart enough to denounce such an unwise approach and utterances as “counting your chickens before they are hatched.” They will tell you that you will achieve nothing when you implement such an egotistical and reckless approach. Some will, understandably, use more colorful language to describe it, which I cannot publish here.

Indeed, the basic defects of Cameron’s so called master plan is reflected in the omission of players like Kieron Pollard, Darren and Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell. He may argue that they “opted out,” or that amnesty will solve the problem and we will field our strongest team, but his critics will counter that he kept them out, without exploring any avenues to include them at all. After all, in Cameron’s world, an Emperor does not have to accommodate lesser mortals. “These players would have had to bow down and ask for an apology, I am the king of the West Indies. The West Indies is me, myself and I,” Cameron would have explained.

To their credit, veterans Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels sucked up their pride and were included, but were under great pressure to perform. These players will tell you how WPA’s criticisms can devastate a player. Ask Ronnie Sarwan, a class batsman we loved to see bat. Ronnie said he did not know his front foot from his back foot, and will never play for the West Indies again.

Understandably, when great players and captains such as Worrell, Sobers, Kanhai, Lloyd, Richards and Lara scold players, they respect that, but when a dictatorial official who hardly knows how to hold a bat or grip a ball attempts to do the same, he disparages a player.

Cameron’s also claims that, “CWI had made player performance the key requirement going forward…I think we need to be very clear about what we are doing… We are about performance and we want to make that very clear across everything that we do, that if we don’t perform they are consequences. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they will be changes because I know we will qualify.”

We cannot forget that Cameron presided over the defeat of the once mighty West Indies that were forced into the qualifiers for the first time in our history after we were ranked ninth in the One-Day International rankings at the Sept. 30 cut-off date last year, while 8 other teams-who will readily admit that they cannot boast of the great players and history the West Indies once ruled the cricketing world-gained automatic qualification. Neither should we compete in the World Cup if we are going to be content with qualifying. Where is your plan to win, and regain our cricket superiority, Mr. Cameron?

Cameron’s attempts to preempt the arguments that he is the cause of West Indies demise, when he claims, “the lack of financial support from both government and the corporate sector, had contributed to the decline of West Indies cricket… You just look at the top of the cricket rankings, the globalized nations, and that tells you everything,” he contended. “There’s financial support, there’s corporate support — government and corporate — and that’s the reason Cricket West Indies cricket is where it’s at today. We were supported by sugar cane, bananas, bauxite and where are those industries today?”

Well, what has changed, Mr. Cameron, when we had those same humble or even less support, and proudly ruled the cricket world? Your argument is fallacious. America, a corporate behemoth, is not the greatest cricket nation, in spite of your theory. Neither is the UAE, Netherlands or Hong Kong. Indeed, we were almost sent packing by Zimbabwe, humiliated by Afghanistan, while countries like Nepal have claimed One-Day Internationalstatus for the first time, surely not corporate, financial or global titans by any stretch of the imagination!

Indeed, you are the common and supervening factor in our cricket’s deterioration. Take a leave of absence, let CARICOM grant and implement unconditional amnesty to all players, implement professional responsibility for players, and let’s see how our fortunes soar once again.

Note: Albert Baldeo is a civil rights activist and community advocate. After years of advocacy, he got the MTA to install a subway elevator at the Lefferts station in Richmond Hill/Ozone Park. As the president of the Baldeo Foundation and Liberty Justice Center, he has continued the fight for justice, equal rights, dignity and inclusion for all. He can be contacted at the Baldeo Foundation: AlBal[email protected] or (718) 529-2300.

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