Fixing West Indies Cricket!

Guyana Chronicle: June 26, 2017

It’s now been almost 22 years since the West Indies were dethroned as the champions of world cricket. An entire generation has grown up knowing and
thinking of the West Indies as world beaters in a sport that holds pride of place in the cultural psyche of our society.

This is in stark contrast to the previous generation, which was socialised in a Caribbean which dominated the sport for almost two decades — the longest
any team has dominated a team sport. Here was the Caribbean, the smallest region in terms of land-space and the poorest in terms of economic indicators,
beating the world and controlling the content of a game which was originally intended to subjugate its peoples. The West Indies cricket team of that time
showed the world that when the playing field is even, our people could compete and win, despite our structural socio-economic challenges.

But this very society that produced cricketers who were able to combine physical skills with nationalist consciousness has for the last two decades
failed to reproduce that brilliance. Our team has fallen from grace so badly, that we now languish at the bottom of the heap in the longer formats of the
game and “blow hot and cold” in the shortest version. This past year we began with a rare triple-triumph—our male Under-19 team won the World One-Day
championship; our male senior team won the World T20 Championship; and our female team matched their male counterparts by winning their own world
title. The Caribbean society was on a high – justifiably so.

But in a matter of weeks, it all came tumbling down. The T20 captain was fired for using his victory speech to draw attention to the dire state of West
Indies cricket. He has since been banished from the team. The coach was also summarily fired. Many fans agreed with the skipper’s stance, but the rulers of
the game in the region thought that he had embarrassed the region.

In the end, it is they who have the final say, while the rest of the society helplessly look on. The lesson here is that despite our climb to the top of
the cricketing world, that success was not translated into a change in the authoritarian structures and relations which govern our cricket and other
institutions.

Here in Guyana, we have a board which is unrepresentative of the country, nor is it accountable to anybody outside of itself. We have the tragedy of a
small clique of governors which have been entrenched in power because there have not been any proper elections since 2009. Neither the West Indies Cricket
Board nor successive Guyanese governments have mustered the courage to settle the impasse. In the meantime, Guyana’s cricket, as is the case with West
Indies cricket as whole, continues to decline. Not even charges of financial improprieties during the 2007 World Cup have caused any shift in the statusquo.

The crisis in the governance of cricket in the region has been a major factor in the decline in the fortunes of our team. Relations between the board and
the players on the one hand and between the board and the support staff on the other hand, have deteriorated to the point where the public is frequently
treated to public quarrels among the various sides. Clearly, the present leadership has failed the region and should be removed. But as we have seen in
the past, a mere change of personnel has done nothing to stop the rot.

But the crisis has also been exacerbated by the attitude of the top players who often place money before service to the region. In an era of boundless
individualism, our cricketers have not been shy of openly showing preference for playing in the financially lucrative private leagues, rather than for the West
Indies. Often, the unreasonable demand for more money coupled with the desire to play for the region only when they are off-duty from the private
tournaments have been the major reasons for the clash with the board.

So, we have to agree with Professor Hilary Beckles, that responsibility for our cricket problems lies with both players and administrators. The inability
of both sides to acknowledge that truth is a major stumbling block. We are never going to improve if our senior players do not participate in the local and
regional competitions—such participation is critical to lifting the standard of our domestic cricket. Similarly, if we do not make our boards more accountable
to the people of the region by democratising their structures and practices, there will always be tension, which in turn impedes progress.