Guyanese, once popular cricket commentator, Joseph ‘Reds’ Pereira, had a famous term which he loved to use on the air, “and he is on his way.” Those well-known words were used to describe a batsman making his way back to the pavilion after been giving out by the umpire.
These days, we sadly have to say the same for an entire team, making their way back to the pavilion and back to their respective country after a joy-ride for a short “holiday,” lasting three games in Australia, during their ICC T20 World Cup 2022. What a disaster for the West Indies cricket team to be referred to as the “Worst Indies” team! Under the headline, “The Titanic is sunk,” Sportstar Magazine of India (in 1997) said that West Indies cricket eventually “may well be as much part of history as the Titanic.”
Once, there were the “Bourda Green” days when the cavalier West Indies team was the most feared team in the world, filled with master blasters for batsmen and leaving blisters to be plastered from their throng of pace bowlers, all done in a continuous manner from number one to number 11, and also year in year out. It used to be a continuous attack with the bat and the ball (okay, minus Lance Gibbs with the bat). Even Colin Croft, a bowler and tail-end batsman, showed his prowess with the bat. His records show that he had a highest test score of 33 while remaining not out 22 times from his 27 tests!
At the prestigious Lord’s Cricket Ground in the UK, the West Indies won the ICC Cricket World Cup twice when it was known as the Prudential Cup played every four years, after being inaugurated in 1975 and again in 1979.
Under Clive Lloyd’s captaincy, they beat Australia in the first encounter in 1975, fielding four Guyanese players: Clive Lloyd, Rohan Kanhai, Roy Fredericks and Alvin Kallicharran. They then thrashed England on the second occasion in 1979; this time, three Guyanese took the field: Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran and Colin Croft. But they were unable to complete the hat-trick in 1983 when India beat them in a low-scoring game with only two Guyanese at the crease: Clive Lloyd and Faoud Bacchus.
West Indies never fully recovered from that astounding loss and never won this World Cup 60/50 overs format of the game again. A slow but sure decline in the quality of Caribbean’s magnificence dwindled with the setting sun and the tiger lost its teeth. Michael Henderson of the Times in London maintained that, “an era came to an end, beyond all argument,” adding that it ended with a submission so feeble that the years of West Indian domination appeared to be a trick of the light. Such commanding dominance went to bed.
The ICC T20 World Cup was introduced in 2007 and played every two years. Rays of hope seeped through dark clouds momentarily to enlighten some spark of excitement, enticing a cricket-starved Caribbean for some more days of glory, to truly represent the international fame of bedazzled names, decorating the electrifying era of earlier, thrilling sensationalism.
West Indies won the cup in 2012 when they defeated Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and won again in 2016, when they beat England in India, both times under the captaincy of Darren Sammy. The glaring absence of any Guyanese player was prominently featured on both occasions. Again, the doldrums of boredom seeped through the crevice to intoxicate rousing and gripping cricket. West Indians were spoiled with the calypso style tempo of cricket, accustomed to see runs flowing freely and fluently from the flashing bats and wickets tumbling from the pace and turn of the ball, coupled with hawk-like fielding from the athletic and acrobatic skills of the inspiring cricketers.
The prolific, powerful players did not proliferate the past protégé of profiled prominence. Cricket in the Caribbean again bloomed like wild, unwanted flowers without fragrance in the burial ground to be noticed from far but not to be used productively or practically.
Samuel Hasan of Pakistan’s leading English newspaper, Dawn, once advised: “The only thing the West Indies now require is a complete overhaul. If the team remains as disparate as it currently is, they may be up for greater humiliation.” So true, embarrassed, the West Indies did grieve and mourn the death of a premature birth.
The West Indies team failed to cross the starting line this year. Former Australian cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, described West Indies performance as a “disgrace.” Beginning gloomily, the team failed to secure direct entry into the super 12s.
Former West Indies cricket captain, Kieron Pollard, said it’s a “sad day” for Caribbean cricket. He was both surprised and disappointed at the team’s early exit.
Cricket West Indies President, Ricky Skerritt stated: “A post-mortem will be carried out immediately.”
The first man on the table may be the head coach, Phil Simmonds. He has already indicated his decision to resign at his “beck and call.” Really? Not playing some key players with experience may also come into play.
Darren Sammy confessed: “The team lacked inspiration, they lacked motivation and tactically we were not on song.”
The Hetmyer saga is another drama. Was there contamination at the selection level? Was the captain, Nicholas Pooran, at fault? Was there indiscipline? Did their attitude, attire and aptitude contribute to an attrition?
Sir Andy Roberts wrote: “I’ve said it more than once – our players need to embark on personal development. They have to develop their game.”
Is this the answer or to play the blame game? He further observed: “I hardly hear the Director of Cricket (Jimmy Adams) say anything concerning the development of cricket.”
As previously advised by the expert: “New attitudes, new ideas and liberal minds are needed to work for progress.”
Should the focus shift from too much fitness and concentrate on skills and/or they need to try new things rather than sticking to the same script?