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Windies cricket could rise again

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EDITOR: Across the Caribbean region and the rest of the cricket world, the state of West Indies cricket is being passionately debated. All sorts of analysis have been provided about the causes and solutions to the crisis in West Indies cricket. These are indeed unhappy times for West Indies cricket.

But West Indies cricket could surely rise again. The beauty and strength of the legacy or heritage of West Indies cricket might be the saving grace of West Indies cricket.{{more}}

The Searchlight Editorial of May 20, 2005, expressed disgust with the performance of the West Indies team on and off the field. It went as far to say: “At a time when West Indies cricket is at its lowest ebb, its players continue to ignore the significance and importance of this wonderful game to the people of this region.”

In addition, Cecil “Blazer” Williams in his column May 20, puts it sharply when he says: “It is simply that we have been losing too easily and have virtually lost our sense of responsibility and commitment to the on going struggle of black people to be respected globally… the West Indies team of the 90s and now, in my opinion has lost its focus. It has no sense of history, no consciousness of its role beyond bat and ball and the pay packet.”

Dr. Ali Bacher, the former captain of South Africa and the former managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa was the guest speaker at the annual Sonny Ramadhin Lecture organized by the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies in Port of Spain on April 7, 2005. He told the audience this: “South Africans used your (WI cricket team) great example to rise above adversity, and poverty, and racial discrimination, and to believe in themselves and their ability to champion a cause… The excellence and success of your cricketers were an inspiration to the oppressed majority in South Africa during the apartheid years. Your cricketers demonstrated conclusively to all South Africans that black people have the potential, and ability, and desire to succeed at the highest levels in international sport.”

That was one of South Africa’s and world cricket representatives speaking.

But how many young West Indian cricketers are fully aware of what Dr. Ali Bacher was speaking about?

Those three quotes mentioned above seem to be saying one thing – that West Indies cricket means more than just the game of cricket. It means the fulfillment of intrinsic needs which are critical to human and social development.

Across the region, most young people are exposed to opportunities for physical fitness and to develop skills in cricket. However, opportunities are lacking for young cricketers to develop their knowledge and appreciation for the political, social, economic and historical significance of cricket to Caribbean people. The entire legacy of the West Indies team with all its intensity, complexities, achievements, and setbacks must be made available in a friendly and relevant way to all cricket players at the village, district, national, sub-regional and regional levels in the Caribbean. And this must be done with the same urgency and priority given to the physical and skill training activities.

In this case, “the stone that the builder refuse might end up being the head cornerstone.”

The West Indies cricket team could rise again in the near future, but lots of work must be done. Because of the importance of cricket to Caribbean societies, maybe we should give some consideration to making it compulsory for all West Indian cricketers to be fully oriented about the legacy of West Indies cricket. This kind of orientation programme should not be simply put together and delivered in a mechanistic way. It must be done in a way that will nurture a critical consciousness in the West Indies cricket players regarding their role as builders of a Caribbean civilization through cricket. This will surely compliment well their physical fitness and cricket skills training. Maybe this consciousness is what is needed to strengthen the will of the players to win or to lose while putting up firm resistance, and to improve their physical and skill levels.

I reiterate a call I made before, which is for the West Indies Cricket Board to do a comprehensive analysis of all the major social, political, economic, cultural and historical factors impacting on West Indies cricket, and then to forge a strategy based on the findings of this analysis. This analysis must not be seen as just another study to be shelved as soon as it is published. It must play the role of informing cricket decision-making at all levels in the Caribbean. Once this is genuinely done, the approach could help West Indies team to rise and shine again.

Maxwell Haywood