Dear President Cameron. A key platform in the Development phase of West Indies cricket as we look to the future with confidence and commitment with the talented yet impressionable youthful charges on the field and the team in the Boardroom, is paradoxically to take a peek back to the future. Does this generation know of the comprehensive and clinical defeat that was inflicted on England by the West Indies in the summer of 1984 for instance?
Reference is made to England parenthetically because of the historic rivalry between these two teams that dates back to 1950 in the British Isles where they have symbolically faced the formidable former colonial masters in challenging conditions with obvious intent. Have they read of the exploits of the illustrious sons of the Caribbean – Gordon Greenidge and Joel Garner when they were mere toddlers in the 80’s?
Do they know of the late, lamented legend Malcolm Marshall, who defied logic and demolished England in the Third Test at Leeds in ’84, taking 7 for 53 with one hand in a cast yet bowling with such venom and ferocity. These gifted young players of today must know that those were just three members of a great team led by inspirational captain Clive Lloyd that routinely turned pressure into adrenaline and flaunted their mental toughness with intimidatory effect, as they wore West Indies colors with pride and honor.
It is critical to acknowledge that those destroyers of the 80’s had vowed to emulate their predecessors, the likes of the 3 W’s, Sir Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith as they aspired to uphold the crescendo of West Indies dominance. And Lloyd’s leadership of those heroes would have been influenced by erstwhile conquering Knights Frank Worrell and Sobers who exemplified dignity, integrity and excellence in charting the course.
In a real sense, that in my view is part of the genesis of the steady decline and eventual erosion of West Indies cricket which began in the decade of the 90’s. Those – the aforementioned icons, who knew what it took to win consistently at the highest levels of the game – they who played in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s with such passion and commitment – they who left a legacy of excellence and accomplishment have not been substantively as involved and utilized in the development of West Indies cricket as they should, by the West Indies Cricket Board.
It is worrisome that with each passing day under the current regime, these icons have been relegated progressively further from any involvement in the development of West Indies cricket. Mr. President, the experience and talents, and the insights that fueled their legend, ought to be embraced and utilized by the Board to the benefit of our gifted young cricketers who are sorely in need of skilled guidance. Surely a mentoring program should be considered by the Board as one element in the development of West Indies cricket.
Back in the 90’s the Board did not grasp the initiative to establish full-fledged cricket academies throughout the Caribbean as veritable training grounds for promising young cricketers from teens to twenties to replace our stars that shone so brightly in previous decades. It is imperative, Mr. President, that satellite institutions similar to the High Performance Center in Barbados be established in most territories throughout the region to identify, harness and develop the talent that proliferate in the schools and on playing fields in our area.
These Centers should be linked to our institutions of higher learning, and the training should not just embody expert cricket coaching, but good health and physical fitness, nutrition, psychology, business, leadership skills, human relations, computer technology, and other skills. It is necessary to link education to the cricket skill set, to enhance personal development and to bring to bear a cerebral approach to all facets of the game – an element that has been evidently lacking in recent matches regionally.
Mr. President, the Board ought to also consider the establishment of a specialized Bowling Academy – perhaps the Ambrose/Walsh Bowling Center, where gifted young bowlers such as Jason Holder and Ronsford Beaton, and Sunil Narine and Shane Shillingford and Shaquana Quintyne, and Anisa Mohammed and others would hone their considerable skills and fine tune their techniques under the watchful eyes and informed tutelage of the aforementioned Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Lance Gibbs and others.
While there is no magic bullet for the restoration of West Indies cricket, what worked for the team of 1984 could well work some 30 years on.
Though the genres and formats of the game have changed, the fundamentals of cricket remain essentially the same – bowling in the right areas, exploiting flaws and weaknesses with discipline and dedication; batting intelligently, building partnerships and sustaining innings with good technique and temperament; predatory fielding with fitness and focus, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the opposition.
What is required for success sir, is informed, imaginative leadership from the Boardroom, disciplined, dedicated and committed players, and an administration willing to make the systemic changes and major investment necessary for the growth of West Indies cricket.