What West Indies Test Cricket (Still) Says About Us
Pictured: Young Windies Test Batsman Darren Bravo
By: Sean Lee
I am a proud Caribbean immigrant come US citizen, hailing from the twin isles of Trinidad and Tobago, who still has quite an affinity for West Indies cricket. Fortunate enough to remember a time in the early eighties when our record was something to be envied and even more so to have witnessed the rise and dominance of international star and batting record holder Brian Lara.
Far enough removed from our urgent need to define our independence through mastery of a game invented by our colonizers, we are in search of a new meaning for what this game still has to say about pride, application, success and ourselves. So what does the game of cricket, and in particular the revered long form of the game – the test, still have to say about us?
The subtext is nuanced, but given the proper consideration one can easily come to the conclusion that the game still has a lot to say about where we have been and who we have become in this moment. Moreover, it can give us a glimpse into where we are heading.
At the height of their dominance in the eighties, the Windies team was a model of application and excellence and their hard earned success (made to look effortless) was the rising tide that lifted the pride of a people desperately trying to define their nationhood. Such was the power and influence of this game that it remains the singular project to ever successfully unite the disparate Caribbean nations. For this reason alone there are lessons that must be considered.
Succession planning has certainly played its role in the decline of West Indian cricket and it must be said that it is apparent that the cricket board has not been proactive in its protection and promotion of the game. Cricket itself, and in particular test cricket is an exercise in character building so it is no small wonder that at its height it was indelibly tied to the pride of Caribbean nations. It was a time when the term ‘calypso cricket’ had a positive, uniquely identifying meaning and no one could dominate the game with the grace, power and flair that the Windies team was known for.
However as we neared the end of the eighties a couple things happened in concert which augmented the role of poor administration. As our stars aged out of the team and other countries sought to model the success of the Windies team, they became the coaches and mentors to our competitors instead of helping to groom the next generation and sustain success. It must be said that cricket was made a priority in other nations the way it never has been in the Caribbean and they provided better working condition and compensation for these ex-players, allowing them to continue to work in the game they loved. It should be noted that at the height of their success Windies players had to actively search out opportunities which allowed them to devote the necessary time to their profession. Even now, if you are not elite enough to secure a contract in either English county or 20-20 on the Asian continent then you are not in a position to provide for yourself and a family and only play cricket. It puts the professional athlete in the disadvantaged position of an amateur.
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