How can West Indian Cricket be saved and should we care? In the words of Yoda, ponder this we must.
Is it broken?
I think the short answer is yes. That much is clear. I remember 2 successful eras in the last 40 years. The Clive Lloyd era and the Richie Richardson era. In reality, it was one long era of sustained success. I can remember most of the names from those great teams. Clive Lloyd led probably the most successful team in the history of West Indian Cricket with names like Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Jeff Dujon, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner. That side was so good, Gus Logie was a professional fielder. The team captained by Richie Richardson was almost as successful, but not quite, and was spearheaded by himself, Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop and Curtly Ambrose.
It wasn’t even the dominance that they showed on the field so much as the way they played the game, although the dominance helped. Their performance in the field was relentless. This was also before Australia had lifted the bar in terms of fielding internationally. The Windies were the first side I saw hit the stumps regularly. Their fast bowling was even more relentless. Fierce and intimidating they rattled many sides out before the game had really even started. Many international careers were ended because of an inability to play the short ball (or in Kim Hughes’ case, an inability to shelve the hook shot). Their batting was outstanding, they attacked at every opportunity and they scored their runs at a cracking pace. Boundaries are taken for granted now as crowds are satiated on a steady diet of 20/20 and a lifetime of ODIs but before the Windies teams of the 70s and 80s, Test Cricket was played at a languid pace.
More than anything it was their confidence that won fans over. They had an aura. In short, they changed the way Cricket was played.
That seems like a dim memory now. West Indies Cricket has been in a steep decline for a long time now. Tony Cozier elaborates the issue well in this article regarding the steady decline of West Indian Cricket over the last 20 years but it is this analysis by S Rajesh of the declining win-loss ratio of West Indian Cricket which makes most fascinating reading:
0 – 100 Tests – 35-33
101 – 200 Tests – 28-25
201 – 300 Tests – 53-13
301 – 400 Tests – 30-44
401 – 499 Tests – 16-53
Why should we care?
This is totally subjective. Cricket is more interesting when the Windies have a strong team. The Australia vs West Indies games of the 70s, 80s and 90s were iconic, lopsided at times, but iconic none-the-less. The same could probably be said for the West Indies vs all of the other Test playing nations of the time. The sad and continual decline of West Indies Cricket needs to be arrested.
What are the issues?
Population – The conglomeration of Island States just isn’t that populous. The fact that they have produced so many Cricket stars (let alone sporting stars in general) is a credit to the region. Comparison of Test playing nations by population is as follows:
India – 1,252,139,596
Pakistan – 182,142,594
Bangladesh – 156,594,962
England – 53,900,000
South Africa – 52,981,991
Australia – 23,130,900
Sri Lanka – 20,483,000
Zimbabwe – 14,149,648
New Zealand – 4,470,800
The West Indies comprises of the following nations/protectorates:
Barbados – 284,644
Guyana – 799,613
Jamaica – 2,715,000
Trinidad and Tobago – 1, 341,151
The following comprise the Leeward Islands:
Antigua and Barbuda – 89,985
Montserrat – 5,215
St Kitts and Nevis – 54,191
Sint Maarten – 39,689
Anguilla – 16,086
British Virgin Islands – 32,680
US Virgin Islands – 107,737
The following comprise the Windward Islands:
Grenada – 105,897
St Lucia – 182,273
St Vincent and the Grenadines – 109,373
Dominica – 72,003
Total – 5,952,537
This is an extremely long winded way of saying only New Zealand is smaller. Population is by no means the determining factor of success (otherwise India would win every single match), but it can help, so statistics aren’t on the side of the Windies in that regard.
Politics – Politics in Sport is hard enough but imagine trying to navigate the requirements of 6 different completely autonomous Cricket Associations themselves representative of 15 different countries/protectorates. Over the period of decline there have been 5 player strikes. The last strike was particularly damaging as it put off side arguably the most powerful Cricket Board in the World, the BCCI.
Weakness of the administration – The damaging relationship between the players and the administration of West Indian Cricket is typical of the precarious administration governing West Indian Cricket. Over the period of decline (and quoting Tony Cozier again) there have been 8 Board Presidents, 11 Captains, 12 Coaches and 7 Chief Executives. The governance around Cricket in the West Indies is far from stable. Ironically, the latest rift between the Board and the Test team was over an attempt by the administration to arrest the decline. A comprehensive restructure of West Indian Cricket was implemented by the Board, which included institution of a full home and away schedule for the first class competition (instead of a single round of fixtures), conversion of each of the affiliated boards into franchises and minimum payments for centrally contracted players. Ironically, the latter point was the catalyst for the latest strike between the players and the Board which resulted in the aborted tour to India.
Impact of other Sports in the West Indies – As the global reach of Sports like Baseball, Basketball and Football increase, this puts pressure on Cricket and playing numbers in the Caribbean. Not a great time to be underperforming.
Impact of IPL – Heard a recent radio interview with Brian Lara who is in Australia for the World Cup. He was asked about the decline of West Indian Cricket. He said that the IPL was probably contributing to the decline in that West Indian Cricketers who were being well paid in the IPL weren’t as hungry to succeed on the World stage as a part of the West Indies set up. He said in his day (which wasn’t that long ago), West Indian Cricket was all they had. It was important that it succeeded. Today’s Cricketers didn’t have that same driver.
Insufficient funding – The bottom line is that West Indian Cricket suffers from a chronic lack of funding. Facilities are poor (comparably). Young Cricketers just aren’t given the preparation or the training that young Cricketers from other countries get. Underprepared Cricketers receiving insufficient training will lead to commensurate performance. The current West Indian team isn’t devoid of talent. In fact, on their day they can beat most teams but on any other day they could lose to most teams. They lack consistency. Anecdotal evidence from the halcyon days of West Indian Cricket always mentions the recruitment by the English counties of West Indian talent and the benefits that the regular exposure to County Cricket provided. The IPL and the Big Bash isn’t providing the same benefits.
Can it be fixed?
At the end of the day only the West Indies can pull itself from this malaise. No-one else really can. That being said, other nations could help. Late last year I mentioned that the ACB should do its bit to help. I suggested an international challenge between Australian and the West Indies First Class Teams would help.
The big issue is funding. A more equitable share of funding from the ICC is essential. This is the theory espoused by Scyld Berry in the Telegraph and I’m inclined to side with it. The far reaching impact of the financial decisions recently made by the power bloc of the BCCI, ACB and ECB (altered the ICC Constitution so the bulk of the revenue went to the Big Three) has a flow on impact to the other Test playing nations let along the Associate Members of the ICC. Ironically, they are the 3 countries which need the money least. If more funding could be funnelled into West Indian Cricket this malaise which now seems so entrenched will start to turn around. It will certainly help the WICB in its recent reform strategy. The recent improvements to the domestic Cricket in the West Indies is to be applauded. Providing a base income for First Class Cricketers to make a living is essential. Extra funding could possibly start to heal the wounds between the Test team and the WICB.
If the ICC don’t take a broader World view then Australia will end up playing England and India in a never ending tri-series. The rest of the World will be playing Football.
What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?
- Bunnies vs Roosters – Super, super game. One of the commentators mentioned the game was of State of Origin quality. Given 11 players on the field had played Origin and 13 of the 23 other players are (or have been) internationals I think that might be why.
- Illegal targeting of JT. The NRL needs to take a leaf out of the NFL book and ban late hits against playmakers (or anyone for that matter) with in-game (just what is the sin bin for these days) and out of game sanctions. They’ve clamped down on fighting, spear tackles and crusher tackles. They need to protect the playmakers.
Other random thoughts
- The knockout rounds of the Cricket World Cup are finally here. Yay.
Bill James Award
For the statistically superior NRL human being.
DCE – Tries – 0, Run Metres – 100m, Try Assists – 2, Tackle Breaks – 5, Tackles – 19, Offloads – 3, Line Breaks – 2, Line Break Assists – 1, Errors – 1, Penalties Conceded – 1 and People who still think he’s going to mail in season 2015 – 0.
NRL Tips Round 3
Sea Eagles vs Bulldogs – Sea Eagles (Haters gonna hate. Players gonna play. Manly going to sneak under the radar. DCE will strike 10 minutes before halftime against those tiring Bulldogs forwards)
Broncos vs Cowboys – Broncos (It pains me terribly to say this, but I think the Cowboys forward pack are underdone. They can feel free to prove me wrong at any time but at the moment they just aren’t giving their backline sufficient momentum in the middle of the field. Defensive lines are set even when the Cows get to the red zone. Broncos showed improvement in defence last week. I think they will eke out a close one)
Warriors vs Eels – Warriors (Injuries starting to mount up for the Eels in key positions. Warriors have some injuries as well but have good depth in the outside backs and should see the Eels off at home)
Raiders vs Dragons – Raiders (The Dragons haven’t won in Canberra since Napoleon’s conquest of Europe and this week should be no different)
Storm vs Sharks – Storm (Storm should bounce back after being pipped at Brookie)
Rabbitohs vs Tigers – Rabbitohs (Tigers are growing this year but the Rabbitohs are still glowing red hot from last season and will be too much this week. I expect cracks to show eventually, just not this week)
Titans vs Knights – Titans (I’m picking an upset, plus I wanted to keep my picking the home teams run going. I just feel that the Knights were a little lucky last week. The Titans were diabolical but Penrith really ran up the score in the dying minutes. I think the return of the Cocaine Five will help immeasurably)
Roosters vs Panthers – Roosters (Roosters will be near the top of the pack all year long and Panthers not quite there yet)
Last week – 7/8
Season so far – 10/16
NRL Fantasy Round 3
Jordan Kahu (Broncos) for George Jennings (Panthers) – Cashing in my cash cow now that Josh Mansour is back from injury.
Kelepi Tanginoa (Cowboys) for Lachlan Burr (Titans) – Tanginoa has some definite Taumalolo potential and Lachlan Burr made way for the Cocaine 5 (sounds like a new boy band).
BTW, how hard is it not to keep using your trades. Resisted the urge to trade Robbie Farah. He will bounce back.
Robbie Farah (Tigers), Paul Gallen (Sharks), Andrew Fifita (Sharks), Shaun Fensom (Raiders), Corey Parker (Broncos), Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys), Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles), Thomas Leuluai (Warriors), Solomone Kata (Warriors), Iosia Soliola (Raiders), Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs), Eto Nabuli (Dragons) and Tuimoala Lolohea (Warriors)
Kierran Moseley (Titans), Sam Lisone (Warriors), Kelepi Tanginoa (Cowboys) and Mitch Cornish (Raiders)
Balance of the squad
Rory O’Brien (Dragons), Chris Grevsmuhl (Rabbitohs), Brendan Santi (Tigers), Mitch Moses (Tigers), Beau Champion (Eels), Jordan Kahu (Broncos), Lachlan Maranta (Broncos) and Edrick Lee (Raiders)
8,159 from 94,271
EPL Tips Match Day 30
Man City vs West Brom – Man City 3-1 (City could have picked up 4 points in the last 3 matches off Chelsea but instead dropped 2. At this stage it is looking like Arsenal have a better chance of winning the title than City)
Aston Villa vs Swansea – Draw 1-1 (Signs of life from Villa again. I think Swansea will pick up at least 1 point though)
Newcastle vs Arsenal – Arsenal 2-1 (Arsenal have more to play for at this stage and it will show. Oh and they are a much better side)
Southampton vs Burnley – Southampton 2-0 (Burnley on the edge of staying up but won’t get any points this week)
Tottenham vs Leicester – Tottenham 2-0 (Spurs will be keen to put last week’s effort behind them. Harry Kane will want to get on the scoresheet again as well)
Stoke vs Crystal Palace – Stoke 2-1 (Palace have been resurgent of late finding goals seemingly at will. Stoke will do enough at home to win this one though)
West Ham vs Sunderland – West Ham 3-0 (Hammers to compound Sunderland’s pain. No more Poyet to blame)
Liverpool vs Man U – Liverpool 3-1 (Liverpool will continue their mirror opposite season jagging another win. Chelsea should be more worried about these guys than anyone else below them)
Hull vs Chelsea – Chelsea 2-0 (Chelsea should do the business)
QPR vs Everton – Everton 2-1 (Are Everton finally ready to start turning this mediocre season around. I hardly trust them)
I’ve adopted the scoring system utilised by Mark Lawrenson on the BBC (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point and picking an exact score THREE points) and even though he wouldn’t know me from Adam we are going head to head all season long. It’s on like Donkey Kong (unless I get a letter from his lawyer or Donkey Kong’s lawyer and then I’m tipping against myself again).
Last week – Me – 6 (6 from 10 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 7 (7 from 10 with no perfect scores)
Season so far – Me – 208 and Lawro – 194 (Lawro randomly includes the odd FA Cup or League Cup fixture which is why his score is different on the BBC site)
Fantasy Premier League Match Day 30
Transfer of the week
Bobby Zamora (QPR) for Danny Ings (Burnley) – Some salary dump action.
My team this week
Forster (Southampton), Clyne (Southampton), Ivanovic (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Sanchez (Arsenal), Eriksen (Spurs), Downing (West Ham), Hazard (Chelsea), Cazorla (Arsenal), Kane (Spurs) and Austin (QPR) with Hamer (Leicester), Zamora (QPR), Bruce (Hull) and McShane (Hull) on the bench.
140,617 from 3,474,612
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 titled ‘Finally some rumblings from the RLIF’