(Jamaica Gleaner) FLORIDA, United States: The Jamaican whose job for more than two decades was to watch – up close – the world’s best cricketers at work has painted a damning picture of the recent crop of West Indies players and administrators.
Retired international umpire Steve Bucknor is also doubtful the region’s once formidable team, which he says is now littered with money-hungry, prideless players, can return among cricket’s elite soon.
“There is no problem as far as they (the players) are concerned,” said Bucknor, who stood in 128 Test matches between 1989 and 2009, including 26 in the West Indies. “I can see it. Once they are making money, (they) will play.”
Bucknor suggested a change in the system of compensation.
“When they play, there should be an incentive base,” he explained while here to receive an award for his contribution to sports on December 4.
“When you do well, you get paid. When you don’t do well, you can’t get paid. So, you now must perform to be recognised properly, and that is not happening.”
Bucknor witnessed the ugly attitude creep into West Indies cricket, a stark contrast to years past.
“A Test match ends under three days and the cricketers, it doesn’t matter to them,” he explained.
“In the days when people were playing for pride, people were sad when they lost a game. Today, at the end of a game, somebody is gone partying or something. So the care is not there.
“(It’s) definitely a loss of pride,” added Bucknor, whose first Test featured India against a West Indies team loaded with many proud standard-bearers, including Viv Richards and Courtney Walsh.
“Because when you’re playing and money is not the factor then you’re playing because you love your country. Now, today, money is a factor. You’re paid, you lose, it doesn’t matter.”
Bucknor did not spare the current West Indies Cricket Board, lashing the region’s administrative body for failure to establish a “West Indies way” of cricket; not implementing a system to properly teach cricket in each territory; discarding quality, experienced players too soon; hiring foreign coaches; and not ensuring more cricket is played at the grassroots level – particularly in schools.
“(The problem) is from the bottom up,” said the 65-year-old from Montego Bay.
“I don’t think enough persons are playing cricket in the West Indies. So there’s not the love for cricket. We’ll do well, but I do believe that the board must think seriously. We need academies around the West Indies. Every island should have their own academy, and there should be a West Indian way to play. In other words, there must be the coaches who coach the West Indian way and think about exactly what they’re doing.
“(Players) must be taught how to play properly. And this, I think, is the biggest drawback. Not enough support is there for cricket. But the West Indies (Cricket) Board can make it happen. I don’t think they are thinking in that direction at all.”
Bucknor, who also stood in 181 one-day internationals (ODIs), including five consecutive World Cup finals between 1992 and 2007, admitted there were times he was stunned by the quality of West Indies cricket while actually standing in a game.
“Many occasions,” he said. “I’m out there (in an ODI) and I see a bowler, first five balls of an over, very good deliveries, five dot balls. And ball number six he’s experimenting.
“And when you experiment the ball goes for a boundary and you’re wondering now ‘why is this happening?’
“They’re batting, nobody is able to pass your bat. Suddenly, you want to play all your shots and your team needs you to remain at the crease.”
According to Bucknor, West Indies’ recent teams are so damaged by failure they no longer recognise success.
“You’re never on top in any game,” an astonished Bucknor said. “How can you make 590 runs (in the first innings of last month’s drawn third Test against India) in one innings and you’re close to losing a game?
“So we don’t understand that by making 590 runs we’re not losing, we’re nearer to winning. But we didn’t know that.”
The man nicknamed “Slow Death Bucknor”, for his deliberate style of nodding before giving a batsman out, is not ready to bury the West Indies. He doesn’t, however, see a quick turnaround for the team which once ruled world cricket, but is now ranked seventh out of nine Test playing nations; eighth of 13 in ODIs; and eighth of 10 in T20.
“No,” said Bucknor, “not the near future.”