Recently, on March 7, we celebrated Sir Vivian Richards’ 66th birthday. Sir Viv Richards is regarded as perhaps the best West Indian batsmen of all time, amassing over 8000 international test runs, scoring 24 test centuries, and winning the West Indies’ second consecutive One-Day World Cup in 1979. But the tale of West Indian cricket doesn’t stop there. Brian Lara, who played for the West Indies from 1990-2007, collected over 10,000 ODI runs and set amazing records in the test format including an innings of 375 vs. England in 1994, 400* vs. England again in 2004, and an incredible 501* for Warwickshire.
Now West Indies sit 8th in the Men’s Test Rankings and 9th in the One-Day rankings. Despite having two One-Day World Cup titles to their name, the Windies now are forced to play through the World Cup Qualifiers. The West Indies team hasn’t won a One-Day series in 3 and a half years, and there are two easy culprits to point fingers towards: the rise of T20 and poor management.
Today, majority of the famous West Indian cricketers have founded their fame through T20. Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Gayle have all been some of the hottest picks for franchises in T20 cricket and have set up successful international careers. However, of the four names mentioned above, only Chris Gayle is with the international team trying to help the West Indies qualify for the World Cup. Other players, such as Darren Bravo and Darren Sammy don’t appear for the national team anymore after a fallout with the board and Sunil Narine chose not to wear the West Indies shirt in favor of a T20 contract with the Lahore Qalandars for the PSL. Hypocritically, Narine later stated before the start of the PSL season that it would be a dream for him to represent the West Indies, but when the West Indies needed him most and gave him the opportunity to play, Narine turned it down in favor of franchise cricket.
Although the West Indies has seemingly thrived in the new T20 format, winning two World T20 titles in 2012 and 2016 respectively, it has come at the cost of their performances in the longer 50-over and test formats. However, along with T20, the cricket board themselves are to blame. Along with poor management and disagreements with players, the board fails to identify a sound reason as to why West Indian cricket is declining.
Recently, WICB President Dave Cameron made comments regarding the decline of cricket in Jamaica, pointing the finger towards female PE coaches. His claim was that since majority of Jamaica’s PE coaches are female who don’t have an accurate knowledge of the game, there is a lack of students who play cricket.
However, along with the future generation, the current generation is also refusing to play cricket for the West Indies. Dave Cameron came under fire in October of 2014 after many players dropped out from the West Indies squad on tour of India due to contract disagreements.
West Indies cricket is capable of so much as we’ve seen in the past, yet logistically, they are at a low point in their history. The management is most definitely to blame but so are the players themselves. If the current players don’t value the international shirt enough, future generations won’t either. If international cricket is not a priority for the players, then the board and the players will never find common ground to resolve their issues. Unless the board loosens their grip and the players rekindle the value of wearing the West Indies’ shirt, West Indies cricket does not look like it’s going to improve and go back to the feared side it once was.