If West Indies cricketers and administrators needed additional motivation to spur them from the prolonged morass into which they have sunk, they have been provided with it in ample measure beyond the boundary in Australia over the past weeks.
It is sometimes an insurmountable task to lift oneself from physical defeat. But when the pummelling delivered is psychological and becomes entrenched in the psyche, one is likely to become numb to that physical defeat. Current regional players –– in and outside of the West Indies team –– require psychological reinforcement to return consciousness to our body cricket.
As much as we would want to believe that this glorious game is just a sport, we could not be more removed from the truth. Though not done overtly, or with seeming malice, the Australian media and cricket commentators have demonstrated to a significant degree that cricket is also about class, race, world order, and even gender.
A writer in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph suggested to the Australian cricket authorities that the “Mercy Rule” be invoked for the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Australian women’s team take the field against the West Indies.
“The best women’s cricket team in the world versus the worst male cricket team in the world. I think that there would be huge interest in this match. I think our girls would give them a run for their money,” the contributor wrote.
And Anthony Sharwood, writing in the Huffington Post, had this to say at the conclusion of the second Test in Melbourne yesterday: “The West Indies earned a little credibility after each of their seven top batsmen made a decent start. Channel Nine got a full day of cricket which kept viewers and a certain fast-food franchise happy.
“The Australian players got the day off tomorrow, which they’ll all appreciate. And the rest of us also get the day off watching the cricket, which, let’s be honest, is no small mercy . . . . That’s all you really need to know about another largely forgettable one-sided Test match.”
In an earlier scenario that conjured up images of Simon Legree positioned anachronistically with microphone in hand inside Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an Australian interviewer lapped up the unconscious former West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo’s revilement of the West Indies Cricket Board yet again. West Indian commentator Fazeer Mohammed has been at pains to find anything positive to say about regional cricket while contributing commentary for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation just outside the door of that metaphoric cabin.
Ron Reed writing in the Herald Sun quoted an unnamed commentator from what he described as the “thinly-populated ranks of the West Indies media” in Australia, as saying that the problems facing the West Indies team were causing “limited angst back in the island nations”. With success in cricket being the source of much regional pride and providing the main unifying force in the English-speaking Caribbean, we ponder on which island buffoon would have made such an uninformed and uneducated statement in a foreign land.
Race and class have been as much a part of cricket in the islands as fours and sixes. Such manufactured lines of demarcation led to the formation of the Empire Cricket Club in Barbados. South African-born England captain Tony Greig’s comments about making the descendants of slaves “grovel” stirred the passion of the 1976 West Indies team in England.
Depending on which side of history one stands, one will either see national pride and passion or delinquency in Colin Croft’s barging of umpire Fred Goodall and Michael Holding’s flattening of the stumps on the forgettable 1980 tour of New Zealand.
When Australian captain Kim Hughes resigned in tears at The Gabba on November 26, 1984, under the pressure of constant battering from the West Indies team, no one called for an invocation of a “Mercy Rule”. When England suffered back-to-back series whitewash in the 1980s at the hands of the West Indies, no call was made for a two-tier international cricket system or for a women’s team to face David Gower’s 1984 strugglers or the 1988 team that was reduced to fielding four different captains in five matches.
The response then to Caribbean dominance was to reduce the number of bouncers in an over to stymie the region’s fast-bowling strength and to insist on 90 overs per day. There were even suggestions to lengthen the pitches.
Although no sinister motive can be proven, it is more than coincidental that the opportunities for West Indian cricketers in the demanding finishing school that is the England county circuit have all but dried up.
Sadly, the WICB has accepted tour contracts where our players have one or two matches to acclimatize to foreign conditions. It is noticeable that the regional side of this era starts every overseas assignment poorly before improving as the tour progresses. That administrative surrender can be added to the weaknesses of a beleaguered but still very relevant board.
We may never return to our glory days and there is a need to stop comparing current players to the stars of the past. It is unfair. But perhaps what the WICB and our cricketers could attempt is to win their games before they take to the field of play. Winning them beyond the boundary could make victory within the boundary palpably easier.