The cricket players of today may just not be as good as past greats or the current competition

Dear Editor,

 

If the Champions trophy were to begin now, the West Indies would not participate, as they are ranked number 9 in 50 overs cricket, and only the top 8 participate in the Champions trophy, which the West Indies won in 2004.

In 1991 Sir Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall and Jeffrey Dujon retired from Test cricket. In 1994 Desmond Haynes followed. In 1995 Sir Richie Richardson retired and Ian Bishop followed in 1998. Sir Curtly Ambrose left in 2000, and in 2002 Courtney Walsh and Carl Hooper joined the ranks of the retired. Although only 10, they probably would have been able to defeat any team that ever played the game.

It appears that notwithstanding the absence of these incomparable players from the fold, West Indians expected their team to perform at a much higher level than it did, say, from 1995, when it succumbed to Australia for the first time in two decades to the current time when it is ranked number 8 in both Test and ODIs.

The departure of those players was never advanced as a legitimate explanation for the deterioration in the quality of the Caribbean game, not even by those great players themselves. Some have used the exclusion of West Indies cricketers from English county cricket in contradistinction to the days when those great players graced the landscape, as a contributing factor. That explanation, also, has not been widely accepted. The two explanations that have found most favour are the poor performance of the WICB, and in particular the character of the modern West Indian cricketer. For example, two of the greatest fast bowlers of all time, Roberts and Garner have both opined that the deterioration in that part of the game in which they excelled, is due primarily to the laziness of the practitioners of that most critical skill. Sir Richie Richardson has on occasion attributed the decline to the players’ preoccupation with money, rather than with the love of the game and pride in representing their country.

One blogger who goes under the name ‘Point’ in the website called caribbean cricket.com has consistently and with great regularity made the point (no pun intended) that West Indian cricketers today play much less first class cricket than cricketers from the leading countries, a state of affairs that necessarily results in their being less well prepared technically and otherwise for international encounters. His is an argument is not dissimilar to that based on their exclusion from English county cricket, and taken together with the mass withdrawal of pure genius between 1991 and 2002, and the cyclical nature of the emergence of sports talent, would seem to deserve careful consideration, although it does not appear that a great deal can be done in that regard in the immediate future.

I worry that the former greats and those who focus a great deal on the character of the players tend to be more emotional in their diagnosis, and consequently do not offer viable suggestions for improvement. The administration could, of course, look for people of better character, but it does seem that the indictment goes to the core of the society, which leads, logically, to a conclusion of hopelessness.

I understand the frustration felt by all West Indians when the glorious performances of the golden era are contrasted with today`s ongoing string of defeats. I do believe, however, that the chances of improvement are enhanced tremendously by the recognition that the players may just not be as good as the past greats, or even as good as the current competition. That recognition would lead to a focus on implementing support systems that could help to develop and improve those who appear to be the most talented. Not to belabour a point I have made in the past, it does seem incongruous that one of the worst performing teams would have one of the leanest support staffs. At the risk of reader misinterpretation of my priorities, isn’t it likely that a fielding coach would improve fielding? If not, why do most of the stronger teams have a fielding coach?

The challenge is too great to be made even more difficult by the intrusion of politics, insularity (regionalism) selfishness, false pride or just plain irrationality.

 

Yours faithfully,

Romain Pitt

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