‘We lack good coaching’

NAGARA GOPAL

Even though cricket has hit a low in the Caribbean, Jeff Dujon is pretty optimistic. “The passion for the sport keeps people like me still connected with cricket,” says the former West Indian wicketkeeper-batsman in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

There is a distinct similarity between the state of hockey in India and cricket in the Caribbean Islands. Like Indian hockey, West Indian cricket at one time provided the fans across the world immense joy and a romantic feeling that is hard to beat even now. Though the game has hit a low in the Caribbean, memories of those glorious days still linger.

Jeff Dujon, who provided a touch of elegance in that mighty West Indian batting line-up which comprised some of the all-time greats of cricket such as Sir Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, is one of the wonderful characters of the sport.

For someone who started off purely as a batsman and donned the stumpers’ gloves as a second choice, Dujon lived up to expectations by carving a niche for himself. The 51-year-old former West Indian wicketkeeper-batsman (Tests: 81; runs: 3322; average: 31.94; centuries: 5; half-centuries: 16; catches: 267; stumpings: 5) is now ranked along with George Headley, Lawrence Rowe, Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh as the five all-time greats of Jamaica.

Speaking of the current state of West Indian cricket, Dujon put across his point in a simple and emphatic manner. “You cannot have hospitals without doctors. Similarly, unless you have a development programme at the grass-root level, you cannot build a great team even though you might have constructed world class stadia (for the recent World Cup in the Caribbean),” he said in an interview to Sportstar.

“Definitely, it is frustrating and disappointing to see the sorry state of affairs back home. It is really disturbing that nothing is being done at the ground level,” Dujon observed. “We do not have good coaching programmes across the West Indies to groom the talent which is there.

“Honestly, if we were to start a serious development programme for cricket even now, it will take another 14 years to build a really competitive West Indian team at the highest level. But unfortunately, there is a lot of rhetoric and unhealthy politics,” said Dujon, who is now on the Indian Cricket League’s panel of commentators.

Does the money invested by organisations like Stanford filter down to the players?

“I doubt it does. Till now I have not seen any signs of that,” Dujon replied.

Is it true that most of the former players have started distancing themselves from the West Indian Cricket Board ever since the 1992 World Cup when the Board seemed to show signs of not respecting them and their contribution to the game?

“I will put it the other way. It is the Board which is distancing itself from the former players. Some of the past cricketers are still involved in the sport, but unless you have a programme in place no one can do anything,” Dujon said.

He disagrees with the line that cricket is not an attractive sport anymore amongst the youth. “There is plenty of talent in the West Indies, but how to groom them is the key,” he said.

What is the reason for the slump in the standard of West Indian cricket?

“Perhaps, it began with the spate of retirements of the greats. And the problem was compounded by lack of planning in grooming the young talent during that crucial transition phase. I think we are paying heavily for that,” said Dujon, who retired from cricket along with Viv Richards after the 1991 series in England.

This is the silver jubilee year of India’s historic World Cup victory — India defeated West Indies in the final on June 25, 1983. Did the decline of West Indian cricket begin then?

“I don’t think so. Whenever we play the next match, we don’t look at what happened in the past. If you remember, we had a fantastic series immediately in 1983 in India after the World Cup debacle,” said Dujon, who also played 169 ODIs (183 catches and 21 stumpings).

Is Dujon optimistic about West Indian cricket?

“Why not? It is the passion for the sport that keeps people like me still connected with cricket. No doubt, it is sad that the International Cricket Council has not recognised the Indian Cricket League. But whenever the Board needs our services, we are there to help West Indian cricket back to the top,” said Dujon as he signed off.