Hard work! That’s all it will take to get the West Indies team back to the top of world cricket.
At least that’s the view of the man who took them there – Clive Hubert Lloyd – in his recent autobiography `Supercat’.
Lloyd, in an extract from the book, says the territories that comprise the West Indies have paid a high price by failing to plan for the future.
Lloyd who played 110 Test matches for the West Indies scoring 7,515 runs at an average of 46.67 led the West Indies on either side of the Kerry Packer World series event.
After Kerry Packer, Lloyd returned to captain the West Indies in 1979 and from that time until his retirement, the team was beaten in only three of the 47 Test matches in which they played, a loss rate of 6.4 per cent.
In the next six years, when Vivian Richards was captain, that figure rose to 18.9 per cent, and under successive captains it has continued to rise.
Great players have
to be shaped
“The greatest reason for the decline of West Indian cricket is that we became thoughtless,” says Lloyd.
“Too many people assumed that we had a right to go on being great for ever. It was as if they believed that West Indians would always produce great cricket in the way that France is famed for its fine wine – a never-ending national institution.
“But life has changed for people in the West Indies, cricket has changed in the rest of the world, and we failed to appreciate those changes,” Lloyd stated in the autobiography.
“To put it simply, the West Indies have lost for so long because there are not enough great players. That’s obvious. But great players don’t just turn up, they have to be shaped. What very few people seem to realise is that the Test team I had in 1975-76 was really no different from the one that there is today in terms of its potential. Fidel Edwards and Daren Powell can both bowl at 90 miles per hour. [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul and [Ramnaresh] Sarwan are both world-class batsmen.
“Our cricketers are free-flowing men. Early on, Viv Richards was a free-flowing guy, he got forties and never made big scores. But you knew once he had harnessed his talent and got the mental side of his game right, then he was going to be a class player. Gordon Greenidge took some time to get going, same with Michael Holding. All those guys came in and worked at their game.
“The great West Indies sides were shaped, just as this one could be. The problems we are having now are the consequence of a decade of letting the fruit wither on the vine. There have been big cultural changes in the West Indies. The regional cricket competition is not what it was. Our cricketers no longer play county cricket. The board has not used its authority wisely. The players’ expectations, what they want from the game, what they want from life, have changed.
“Above all, we neglected to plan for the future.”
Football main distraction
“When people speak about the demise of West Indian cricket, the influence of America is never very far from their lips. I disagree. I think the real sporting distraction has not come from basketball or the other American sports, but from football. It’s true that in some of the islands, the first thing that a politician does is put up a basketball court; it’s much smaller and cheaper than a cricket ground, but I don’t believe that a lot of kids go on to play professionally.”
In the summer of 2007, Garry Sobers was in England and told an audience about the problems facing cricket in the Caribbean: “If someone said to me that soccer is the reason for West Indian cricket falling so low, I might think about it. But the real problem, and it is a problem for sport around the world, is television.”
Sir Garry mentioned his own boys, both fine sports players, whom he believed had suffered because of the distractions of modern life. “When they got home from school they would not go outside and play, they would sit in front of a video. That’s your real culprit. Kids do not organise games of cricket by themselves, playing outside morning, noon and night. Today, if it is not organised, nobody leaves home. They wait for you to pick them up, take them to the ground, give them the best cricket attire. The natural flow of the game has gone.”
“It’s true that kids have many more things to do with their time,” says Lloyd.
“If you want to improve at your sport, you have to be dedicated, do little else, train hard and that’s less likely to happen when there are so many distractions. And if they have a job that pays a decent wage, they’ll be saying, ‘Why the hell should I go through all this?’ In my time there wasn’t much to do. Now you can fill your day doing all sorts. You can watch DVDs all day long if you want. That is why it is so important to catch them early. We must inculcate the right things in these children before they go down the wrong lane. We must get the structure to life there early enough.
“The main thing is to get the talent, get the people who can impart the knowledge and bring the players to fruition. I know it is an uphill task, but cricket is so important to people in the West Indies; it’s one of the main ingredients of the glue that keeps us together.”
He pauses for a moment. “I think about today’s players and my overwhelming emotion towards them is not anger that they have been unsuccessful but concern,” he says. “We did so well that everybody expects the West Indies teams to be like those of the 1970s and 1980s, but it cannot happen without hard work, attention to detail and respect for the game.
“These players have been burdened with what the West Indies have done in the past and I think that’s probably wrong. This is a new era, it’s their time and it’s up to them to go out and show people what they’re capable of. A lot of people are backing them to do well, including myself.”
– Extracted from Supercat: The authorised biography of Clive Lloyd. Published on October 29 by Fairfield Books. Available from The Times Books First, offer price