My letter to the editor wondering whether there was a 10 year plan to end WI cricket (SN, Dec 18), had not even appeared when Mark Nicholas published on cricinfo an article entitled, ‘Is it time for the West Indies nations to go it alone?’ Mr Nicholas is an English word magician, who apparently lives in Australia. He, along with the now deceased Tony Greig, a South African who also lived in Australia, were basically the two foreigners given the licence to lionize Australian cricket. Mr Nicholas performed the obituary with the sadness expected on such an occasion, and even suggested that the death could have been avoided. I attempted to comment on his article, but as has often been the case in such situations, although my language was obviously not libellous, my comments were not published. I can think of no reason for the rejection of my comments except that they challenged the implication of Mr Nicholas’ piece that those WI nations could benefit from such dissolution. It is my belief that foreign journalists find it much easier to recommend this policy of having several WI ‘countries’ represented in international cricket, because they get so much support from West Indians.
It was the Hobart Test match in particular that was deemed to be the final straw. The great Australian team that was bowled out in England for 61 this year, and defeated by an innings in Abu Dhabi last year could stand it no more. In England the ‘whitewash’ in Australia one year ago was a faint memory, and the fact that England’s last two series in the WI ended in a loss and a draw respectively was not relevant. What is even more to the point, no one noted that Gabriel, who took the first Australian wicket and bowled best among the WI fast men, was injured early in Hobart, where the weather conditions often required the use of gloves and hands kept constantly in pockets. It might have been the worst weather conditions ever seen in a Test match at Hobart, an otherwise lovely city, which I had the pleasure of visiting when I travelled to see Lara break Border’s record in 2005.
When West Indians hasten to find agreement with Englishmen and Australians about cricket they must remember a few things: These people have long memories. The WI, with a handful of people and even fewer resources were a power in cricket for the entire second half of the twentieth century, and dominant from about 1978 to about1993 in which year they defeated Australia at home, a feat not repeated until recently when South Africa succeeded. In the early years of the WI demonstration of power, they received, as outlined by Bob Woolmer in his magnum opus Cricket, dodgy lbw decisions from home umpires, and as we all know, the English and Australians altered lbw and fast bowling rules to neutralize both fast and slow bowlers from the WI. Even on the tour of 2005 the umpiring decisions seemed to favour Australia so frequently, that the WI coach, an Australian, talked about the possibility of a formal protest. An Australian law professor told me at the Adelaide Test that he felt deprived of a contest by poor umpiring that negatively impacted the performance of the WI team. I brought back from Australia reports in their newspapers about the poor umpiring, which I sent to the WIBC without even acknowledgement of receipt.
The simple fact is that Australia and England have always resented the ability of West Indian cricketers to boss them, and have decided to react in a manner destructive to West Indies cricket at their first opportunity. West Indian fans and journalists have reacted to the long string of defeats by their team in a manner that gives much satisfaction to the English and Australians. How on earth, I ask, can the region benefit from the dissolution of the West Indies Test team, and how can those small countries (Trinidad and Tobago included) gain an advantage from going it alone? The notion is absurd. Frankly, it is not even in the interest of the game. West Indians should examine the behaviour of English and Australian fans during the period that the WI was humiliating them. The reaction was always the same: Let’s stand behind our boys, and try to improve our game to be as good as theirs.
WI must not allow the defeats to render them irrational. Try to improve your team and fight for better scheduling and better distribution of the income from international cricket.