After the ignominy of the West Indies’ utter humiliation in the last of their three-game limited overs encounter against England on Thursday, the BBC TV sports news on the following day didn’t even trouble itself to report on the outcome of the game. Contextually, it would have been deemed, in terms of newsworthiness, to be a virtual non-event given both the predictability of the outcome and the much more newsworthy competitions currently ensuing higher up the international cricketing totem pole. The omission, too, was yet another poignant indicator of the fact that the place of pride which the Caribbean side once held in the game is now but a distant memory. Not only have we become a long-term tenant in of the cellars of international cricket, but also, our emergence therefrom any time soon appears decidedly unlikely.
This time around, seemingly with a greater measure of success than before, those of us with a passion for the West Indies’ cricketing tradition managed to allow the humiliation to pass without the level of angst and bellyaching that has customarily characterized our collective response to another abysmal performance. And why not? After all, cricket in a region where there is no shortage of a competing agenda for worry, cannot forever be our foremost cause for fretfulness in circumstances where repetitive disappointment over the performance of ‘our boys’ changes nothing save and except the increasing pressure that it exerts on our capacity for gloom and feelings of humiliation. Surely, we must begin to ration our stamina lest, both as individual territories and as a region, we lose altogether the wherewithal to tackle those issues that are more directly linked to our survival.
At any rate, when you remove the humiliation – not the defeat but the humiliation – that obtained over the series (and particularly in last Friday’s final game) which, for England, was little more than a proverbial morning jog in the park, we have surely arrived at a juncture where, as far as Caribbean cricket is concerned, there is little if anything left to write about. Surely, our writers are now perilously close to exhausting the political, administrative and performance dimensions of the regional game which leaves us with only the emotional burden of having to accept, however grudgingly, the reality that we have been reduced to little more than cannon fodder for our betters.
You can identify a cricket team that is picking itself up from the doldrums by its body language and from clearly identifiable incremental improvement in its overall game. Take fielding, for example; there is an argument for suggesting that the Caribbean side may well have been far more competitive in the recently concluded series of games against England had the fielding been up to what, these days, is expected in a game of cricket at the highest level. In the other departments of the game too, we were well and truly ‘blown away’ by more mature, more able opponents. Tough as it may be to concede ‘our boys’ (if the expression of endearment still applies) did not belong on the same field with England. “Two teams which are worlds apart” is how a BBC report on the internet summed up the encounter.
As has been the case at the end of each of our protracted succession of embarrassing defeats, the issue of what to do about Caribbean cricket surfaces again. Cricket is not a subject that regional critics are inclined to leave alone, however onerous an intellectual pursuit the subject has become. This, despite the fact, that each of our successive failures has left us increasingly clueless as to quite where to begin to look for a turning of the proverbial corner, far less, for a solution, having seemingly tried every conceivable option in recent years.
These days, such persistence that obtains in our concern over the condition of Caribbean cricket is almost certainly attributable to a characteristic profusion of West Indian pride that simply will not permit us to accept that supremacy in the game works in cycles, that our time has come…and gone and that it is more than just a matter of waiting for the wheel to turn full circle. Perhaps the state of West Indies cricket may well be a microcosm of a wider regional challenge put there to provide a lesson for us – that goes way beyond cricket – in how to recover, mature and to become better.