Letters & Opinion

Why Can’t West Indies Change?

By Roland Cox

Caribbean cricket, like Caribbean economics, now stands at a strategic crossroad, a place where revolutionary and drastic measures need to be implemented before all is lost.

This introductory paragraph above and the rest of the cricket story were published in The VOICE Newspaper on 23rd January 1999, following South Africa’s whitewash (5-0) of the Lara-led West Indies. The circumstances which prompted the article, have apparently not changed, and both our cricket and our economic development seem to be wandering in the dark with no light in view. What do you think?

I was tempted to republish the article as is, because of West Indies’ recent Series loss against Sri Lanka, but opted instead to pointing out that our cricket has really taken a very backward step.

We cannot even find a consistent and dependable captain for any of the regular formats of the game, and simply resort to a musical chairs type of selection. We have seen changes to Board membership, but this has not produced the required results. What do you suppose the departed icons like Malcolm Marshall and the Three Ws be thinking of us? Please read the rest of the article and see if the information, bar the names, is still relevant today. Then you can respond, and offer your plan for the resurrection of West Indies Cricket.

In the case of regional economics, help has begun at national, regional and international levels through private and public sector consultations, as well as financial and technical assistance to help government modernize and stabilize the fragile economies, which have emerged from the colonial era. Problems are still widespread, but generally, Caribbean people are beginning to see some measure of economic independence today.

Cricket presents a somewhat different yet parallel kettle of fish as the West Indies have moved from the top of the ladder and are tottering towards bottom. The current debacle in South Africa is merely symptomatic of what is wrong with Caribbean cricket and regional authorities will have to begin paying greater attention to the new technological developments which have been integrated into the playing and training facilities of other cricketing regions.

On paper, West Indian players rank with the best in the world in terms of natural talent and innovative stroke play, but recent events are proving conclusively that talent and flair are far from adequate in modern international cricket. International cricket countries are grooming their cricketers from their early teens, and not only are the technical aspects of the game drilled in, but great emphasis is placed on developing mental toughness and the ability to perform satisfactorily even when the situation is all gloom and doom.

Every cricketing nation today can boast of statistics where their players regularly present some kind of rear-guard action when the team gets into early trouble. In fact, this South Africa tour has painted a vivid panorama of this amazing phenomenon, as the West Indies have often taken the early batsmen cheaply, but the “tail” has been able to wag dangerously on every occasion and force the West Indies to defeat. A rear-guard effort by the West Indies team is something of a rarity and that is one of our major problems. Our players succumb too easily because their fighting spirit has not been developed or strengthened. The killer instinct which characterized performances in the Wes Hall to Andy Roberts and Michael Holding eras is totally lost and needs to be recultivated.

The players need to be exercised in psychological and mental activities in order to balance and complement their natural capabilities in order to better cope with tough times. Cricket West Indies needs to invest heavily in providing trained motivators and psychologists to assist the players in moving from the current downhill trek to the top of the heap where they belong.

Current statistics indicate that we have nourished a team of highly talented individuals who are no more than mental whims. Whenever the players are faced with a crisis, they just fold up and hope that it will go away. Our players need to be taught the truth of the saying that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Character development must be made a compulsory part of boot camp for all West Indies teams and the programme must be continuously reinforced during the tours, especially during this crucial stage.

With this whitewash behind us, the players and probably officials as well, are certainly demoralized and it will not be easy to climb back from that hole without professional help. It is important to realize that this side is not entirely the fault of the players, so, instead of finger pointing, we should be prepared to deal squarely with the problem so that it can be eradicated as quickly as possible. The team is not a bad team. The players have just been psychologically bruised and the healing has to be worked out. The shame is felt by all of us and it has to be a cooperative recovery as well.

The region is endowed with a number of trained psychologists and motivators and their services should be sought urgently to help our boys back on the hard road back up. Those coming easily to mind are Dr. Linda Banks of Anguilla, Dr. Ken Nedd and the tried and tested Rudy Webster, just to name a few. The other cricketing nations are investing heavily in developing fighting spirit in their players as well as the technical tools to help analyze the strengths and weaknesses of opponents. It has been quite significant that whenever the top order batsmen from the West Indies walk out to bat, the field placing are generally tailor-made to exploit their weaknesses and curtail their strengths. This is not often apparent when the West Indies is the fielding side. Is it that we cannot afford the technology, which allows teams to scrutinize every facet of the opposition’s game?

In the best interest of everyone concerned, Cricket West Indies needs to ensure that the mental grooming of the players is adequately catered for because no team in this modern era can win and keep on winning with players who are not psychologically prepared, even if they boast of the greatest talents in the world. If cost is or appears to be a prohibitive factor, then maybe the Board can discuss with the players the possibility of jointly funding the services of a motivator or a team of motivators to mould the players into a winning unit. The players will all benefit personally because they will become stronger individuals and better equipped to handle not only the problems on a cricket field, but those in all areas of life as well.

With the Australian tour of the Caribbean and the World Cup around the corner, the team needs a fillip before venturing to those competitions. And the best way to achieve that is to get motivators working closely with the players so that each man will be led to the point where maximizing his potential is not just an option but a duty which he will not be able to flinch from. When our players are coached to see themselves in that light, it won’t be long before our beloved team climbs the ladder to sit on top of the cricketing world again.

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