What’s wrong with West Indies? Veterans spell out

As the Caribbeans start their tour of New Zealand, Bishan Singh Bedi and Sir Andy Roberts — who saw the Windies in its prime — ask the ICC to intervene and streamline administration in the island that made cricket popular.

West Indies — a brutal force of yesteryear with pace batteries and classy batsmen — started losing its grip in the 90s. Statistics say that it won 71 Tests and lost only 20 Test matches between March 1976 to March 1995.   -  Getty Images

Most cricket teams use their national flag and the cricket board logo as an insignia on their gear and jersey. West Indies stands out in this regard; its badge carries three stumps and a palm tree on a sunny day. Well, that’s how the Caribbeans embraced cricket — with love, peace, rum, reggae and calypso.

But as Bob Marley, the singer-songwriter from Jamaica and a popular figure among West Indies cricketers said: “The good times of today, are the sad thoughts of tomorrow.”

West Indies — a brutal force of yesteryear with pace batteries and classy batsmen — started losing its grip in the 90s. Statistics say that it won 71 Tests and lost only 20 Test matches between March 1976 to March 1995.

From June 2000 to 2015 — the numbers drastically changed to 14 wins and 78 losses. In fact, it could manage only four wins out of the 16 Tests it played in the last two years. There have been financial issues and the cricketers have got into trouble with the board too. But is that all?

Ahead of its tour of New Zealand this week, two former cricketers who experienced West Indies’ prime in the seventies, gave Sportstar a piece of their mind.

Read: WI aims to end 22-year Kiwi drought

Commitment issues

“The problem isn’t new. It existed 20 years ago as well. Most of the cricketers aren’t committed to the sport. They don’t want hard work. It takes a lot of commitment and dedication (to play the game). If the players aren’t ready for it, it will lead to the situation where we are now,” said pace great Sir Andy Roberts (1974-1983).

Roberts, who made his debut under Rohan Kanhai, formed a deadly pace quartet with Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Michael Holding in his heydays.   -  Getty Images

 

Roberts, who made his debut under Rohan Kanhai, formed a deadly pace quartet with Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Michael Holding in his heydays.

The 66-year-old believes the current crop do not have the passion, like his colleagues had, for West Indies. “When I see the rest of the world, call it Australia, South Africa or New Zealand — I see the cricketers having their country on their heart. A lot of our players don’t have that,” he added.

Read: Wavell Hinds: 'We must keep faith in West Indies players'

To an extent, it is true, for T20 leagues across the world have lured West Indies cricketers like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard.

Roberts feels that it’s time for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to step in and help the Caribbean nation regain its lost glory. “If India had a problem with players, the ICC would have done something. They would have done it for Australia too. But you can’t do much if the players aren’t committed. I don’t think a lot of them know the word ‘personal development,’" he pointed out.

T20, the villain

Former India spinner Bishan Singh Bedi (1967-1969) is of the opinion that T20 cricket damaged the flair of the Caribbeans. Though West Indies has won the ICC World Twenty20 competition twice, in 2012 and 2016, the bikini format of the sport isn’t cricket to the purists.

Former India spinner Bishan Singh Bedi (1967-1969) is of the opinion that T20 cricket damaged the flair of the Caribbeans.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

 

“The T20 format has done maximum damage to West Indian cricket. You can visualise it in a sympathetic way. These cricketers also need some financial support to sustain, and that is something the West Indies Cricket Board has been unable to provide. There has been a fair amount of clash, which has pulled down the qualitative aspect of their cricket,” said Bedi, who coincidentally made his debut against West Indies at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 1967.

Bedi feels the decline of West Indies cricket is also a concern for world cricket. “The Caribbean way of cricket was unique in its own right. They were the original entertainers of the game. They really didn’t need the superficial thing called T20. They used to play Test cricket like that and that’s why they were popular and always in demand. Wherever they played, they automatically pulled the crowd,” he added.

Like his friend, Roberts, he too called for ICC intervention. “I still feel there is no dearth of talent in the Caribbean island but the talent has to be harnessed. The ICC should step in without throwing any weight around, to streamline administration. The world needs the West Indian flavour, the calypso quality of cricket is missing. They had something very natural. They never needed to train hard.”

Even in ODI cricket, after 1983, West Indies never reached any World Cup final. It did raise hopes with the Champions Trophy win in 2004 but the consistency faded.  Who knew that the same team would lose out on Champions Trophy participation 13 years later by not being among the top eight teams?

The present team will be keen to take heart from its Leeds victory in England two months ago — which came after 17 years — once it kickstarts its New Zealand tour from December 1 at Wellington.

A good show may reunite Marley’s reggae and the old school cricket, or else, who would sing, “I say, I don't like cricket, oh no, I love it. I don't like cricket, oh no, I love it. And I say, I don't like reggae, oh no, I love it.”