EVERYBODY wants to know why our once-mighty West Indies cricket team is now struggling in world-cricket rankings.
The West Indies Cricket Board joined the sport’s then-international ruling body, the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1926, and we played our first Test match in 1928.
We had some great players in the early days as a Test side, but our success was more or less sporadic, that is, until the 60s.
By the late 70s, though, West Indies was recognised as the unofficial world champions, a title they retained throughout the 80s.
So how did we slide from being world champions for almost two decades, to currently struggling to win a match (Test or limited-overs) even against newly sanctioned Test teams?
In the early 60s, England introduced a domestic limited-overs competition with its Gillette Cup. Australia soon followed suit and so the shorter version of the game was assertively instituted.
Today, that format has become even shorter and has gained a tremendous following worldwide.
But still, how or why have we (West Indies), being world champions ‘just de edder day’, have now considerably backslid?
Limited-overs cricket are definitely more lively therefore exciting, and brings results in a matter of hours. Gone are the times we had to wait as much as five days for the result of a game.
And that is where those who possess the capabilities (gigantic stadiums holding between 50 to 100,000 fans) are now in a marketable position to draw acclaimed foreign players into their domestic limited-overs competitions. Two countries now taking advantage of this new aspect of the game are India and Australia. Added to the accommodating capacity of their playing venues, they also have what is truly required for the financial success of this new venture, supportive fans in their numbers.
Sport today is not just about winning trophies or medals anymore, it also takes into account the sport person’s financial status during and after his/her career have come to a close.
Today, with cricket’s new framework, financial incentives (and handsome ones at that) are gained via the enormous number of paying patrons and/or broadcast rights.
And this is where West Indies Test cricket may now be losing not the talents, but the aptitudes of its talented players.
Decades ago, an acclaimed player would have been revered by his country and honoured with run-of-the-mill monetary and/or non-monetary endowments. And he would have treasured it and be contented.
Given today’s economic realities however, die-hard fans (of any country) need to understand that making a Test team is now just the podium to be on to get selected by cricket’s money-spinning giants. The other option is sticking to the home side and more likely than not, a vague financial future.
As such, we (fans and selectors) need to watch closely the Test performance/dedication of those already selected by the commercial giants as it compares to the performances of our newly selected Test players.