The West Indies Cricket Board has made its intentions clear. It is moving forward with the regional game and views its young, promising players as the means by which we might achieve that long-awaited turnaround of fortunes on the international Test stage.
Despite the aberrations that were the victories in the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy in England, the 2012 ICC Twenty20 Championship in Sri Lanka, the 2009 home Test series win over England and the 2012 home Test series win over New Zealand, the period between 1995 and 2015 has largely been one marked by the failure of our players and frustration for Caribbean fans.
Despite the mostly abject failure over the past 20 years, the two decades have been marked by West Indian cricketers reaping more financial rewards than at any period since Karl Nunes led the first West Indies team onto the field at Lord’s in 1928 for our first Test match. 1995 to 2015 has been a period where collective failure has ironically bred individual success.
We have seen the evolution of an era where players, through shortened forms of the game, have concentrated on enriching themselves rather than enriching the regional game and its legacy.
If Test cricket is the true measure of excellence, but not necessarily the avenue for greatest rewards, we are loath to criticize the Dwayne Bravos, Sunil Narines, Andre Russells, Chris Gayles, and others, who prefer to go where the money is, rather than concentrate on extending the great traditions of their predecessors. As adults, they have the right of choice.
But while they have the right to concentrate solely on their personal future, the West Indies Cricket Board has the task of protecting and properly managing the regional game while balancing the responsibility of adequately looking after the needs of West Indian cricketers. The WICB has often shown that finding common ground has been as difficult as winning Test series in South Africa. Wallowing in a mire of incompetence has frequently been much easier.
However, one cannot but agree with the WICB if a decision is now made to change focus to the young brigade of West Indies cricket. We have been losing for too many years with the so-called senior stalwarts. Truth be told, despite protestations from the Omar Khans and Azim Bassaraths of the region, based on the past two decades very few of our players can a make a case to remain in the West Indies Test team, far less at its helm.
In 1974 Clive Lloyd embarked on a tour of India in charge of a young team that included the likes of international fledglings Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts and an Alvin Kallicharran with just two years on the global stage. They were joined by a rookie Michael Holding the following year; Joel Garner and Colin Croft in 1977; Malcolm Marshall in 1978; and the nucleus of a dominant force was in place to rule the cricketing world for more than a decade.
Forty years later, Lloyd, in a different incarnation, is once again going the route of youth. But 20 years of failure have seemingly made pessimists of most West Indian followers of the game. Add to that the insularity that will never leave the region –– emotionally stirred by the Khans and Bassaraths – and some would still make a case to embrace the mediocrity that has choked us over the years.
We agree with Lloyd’s decision to try a different strategy to resurrect our fortunes in Test cricket. We agree with his appointment of Jason Holder as regional captain inasmuch as we would have agreed if the captaincy had been placed in the hands of Trinidad and Tobago’s Darren Bravo or Jamaica’s Jermaine Blackwood if that was the decision made.
But Lloyd is eminently qualified and excellently placed to determine based on instinct, association and assessment, in whose hands West Indies cricket will be best served at this juncture of our history. We would do well to leave the fractures that often divide these islands more than the sea, out of our cricket.
There have been suggestions that former captain Denesh Ramdin has been relieved of the Test captaincy because of his resignation from the West Indies Players Association. We will not attempt to dissect the logic or illogic of former West Indies manager Omar Khan’s allegations, but will ponder on whether Ramdin’s record and performance as Test captain merits security of tenure. Indeed, how many of our players have truly merited security of tenure in the regional side?
Regional board directors and other head honchos would do well to support the decisions made by Mr Lloyd and his fellow selectors. Let’s see where this fresh blood and new leadership take us. We already know where the old guard has left us.