At present I am deeply engaged in reading the revised edition of A History of West Indies Cricket, written by Michael Manley; which has a scintillating foreword by the legendary former West Indian captain Clive Lloyd. The deep revelations that this book produces, tracing the simple introduction of cricket to the Caribbean natives and the disreputable embarrassment that spurred the unrivalled determination to develop the sport in the region, is as astounding as it is sobering.
Apart from the early historical perspectives on the introduction of cricket to West Indians, a large portion of this West Indian cricketing scripture focuses on the meticulous conceptualization, nurturing and dominance of a team that ruled the cricketing world for 15 years.
The special memories of those glory days of our cricket that I was lucky to experience while growing up, rushed back to me on Tuesday last when Curtly Ambrose became the 16th West Indian player to be inducted into the International Cricket Council (ICC) Hall of Fame. It is heartening to see that the world governing body for cricket has taken time to recognize another West Indies cricketing legend.
Ambrose with his 98 Test matches and 405 Test wickets along with 176 ODI matches and 225 wickets was never taken lightly by any international team against which he played. Of the 3,683 Test overs he bowled 1,001 were maidens. He was one of the stingiest bowlers the West Indies ever produced, who made batsmen toil for every run they scored off his deliveries.
Speaking to the BBC after his induction, Ambrose was very candid in his remarks on the current state of West Indies cricket. He said, “I believe that the cricket board in the West Indies made some mistakes… I believe that when we were the best team in the world nothing was ever done; nothing was ever put in place to nurture the talent we have coming up.” He continued, “Cricket has changed and the rest of the world has caught up with us back then and have gone ahead of us. That’s the reason why we’re playing so poorly these days.”
What I believe Ambrose was getting at was that while the rest of the cricketing world has emulated the professionalism and dedication of the West Indies team of old, the current team and administration have somewhat embraced the vices of lack of professionalism, lack of strategic vision and a reluctance to learn and apply the technical competencies that modern cricket requires.
Ambrose further posited in his conversation with the BBC that it will take years for West Indies to rise again, gain respect, and dominate world cricket. It is almost two decades since the West Indies have been reinventing themselves as ‘calypso cricketers.’ Is it true that it will still take more years for a formidable West Indies team to develop? I believe I speak for many cricketing fans when I say that the West Indies administration has had more than enough time to field a very competitive team.
I believe that some modification must be urgently made to the diet of first class cricket in the Caribbean. Perhaps the level of first class cricket must be elevated to a comparable competitive international standard that can cultivate the mental fortitude, discipline and technical application that is so badly lacking in the current and emerging West Indies cricketers.
I salute and congratulate Mr Curtly Ambrose on his hall of fame induction. I sincerely hope that this accomplishment inspires young West Indian cricketers to strive for excellence and dedicate their energies towards the resurgence of our cricket to its former glory.