Twenty one years, a generation, for that length of time the nations of the English speaking Caribbean have witnessed the slow decline of our cricket. Sixteen years since that magical afternoon when Courtney Walsh took the record for the most test wickets, we have been witness to what looked like an irreparable and terminal slump in our cricket, most whispered that it may die off soon and that the regional team would be replaced by the individual national teams.
Then came the brilliant victories in both the T20 World Cup, the U19 World Cup and the Women’s World Cup. From bums to triple champions in a year, an amazing feat indeed. Some may snipe that it’s just T20, or that they only perform when money is on the line and while those arguments hold some merit we fail to notice that they won, especially the senior mens team, with the WICB allegedly undermining them. The West Indies of the past twenty years would have thrown in the towel, especially the senior stars as witnessed in the abandoned Indian tour. This team instead did the opposite, they held there nerve and apart from some comments by Sammy focused on the cricket and pulled off what many supporters knew to be possible, a brilliant win after which they revisited the issue of the contract dispute with the WICB. That I think is a real glimmer of hope.
Then came the ‘meat’ the ‘real cricket’ and the Indians came to tour. The first test brought us back to a reality of sorts and we were handily beaten, embarrassed even and people were back to saying here is the real West Indies, ill prepared and hindered by a serious lack of talent. The second test however showed us that there is more to this current test side than meets the eye, that there is more than hope for this test team but also potential.
After a dire start with India dominating the first innings and the West Indies staring down the barrel of yet another embarrassing defeat something happened. The bowlers clicked and played it very well and the batsmen showed a maturity and intelligence that they rarely show. In dramatic fashion the team earned a more than respectable and impressive draw. The second test showed that the West Indies are back, maybe not to the heights of the 70’s-80’s vintages, rather they are a team filled with talent and potential rather than a team of journey men with a few stars thrown in, yet another glimmer.
Things are starting to look good for the West Indies, but we need to tread carefully. The senior stars who mainly make up the stellar T20 team need to understand that while the WICB has been wrong on many occasions, that other players in the region need to be able to make a living from cricket. The senior players must bear in mind that once upon a time they were unknowns and try and settle the contract dispute amicably. To the talented youth that make up the test side, they need to apply themselves. They have talent and they have skill as was seen in the second test, they must now master there skill and fulfill there potential in each game because nothing less should be acceptable. Finally the WICB must stop acting like this is the 30’s where the regions cricket was administered by an old boys club, cloaked in mystery and dogged by controversy. The board must come off there high horse, they must adapt to the times and they must reach out to the senior stars while showing faith in the talented youngsters.
It is tricky and I don’t expect to see the fruits overnight. But if the board and the players get it right then the West Indies could be about to see a purple patch within the next few years. The fans are watching, the sacking of Sammy the T20 winning capitan may cost the board some brownie points because it stinks of politics and the collapse in the third test has again put a damper on the test side and shows that they need not only more experience but also better concentration. But the green shoots are there, the question is will they be watered and tended to so that they can flourish or will they be allowed to whither?