Not only is the West Indies the only cricketing region that does not always put its best eleven players on the park, it is also the only team where regional players do not always demonstrate a total commitment to representing the Caribbean.
That was one of the several observations made by University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, during yesterday’s launch of the Sagicor UWI High Performance Centre at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex. Sir Hilary, a life-long cricket enthusiast, player, administrator and writer on the sport, compared West Indian players to those of other countries when it came to making themselves available for national duty.
“Can you imagine in Australia, in England, in India, the selectors picking a team of their eleven best players and four or five of them say: ‘I am not available because I have other matches to play’. Because those are societies that take the citizenship seriously, the nation takes its identity seriously and the citizen represents the nation. The nation, of course, has the conversation with the citizens and this is where we Caribbean people are at,” Beckles said.
He also stated that the days of having players cherry-pick when they felt like playing cricket or representing their nation (West Indies) should be a thing of the past. Sir Hilary expressed a great deal of confidence that current West Indies captain Jason Holder, who once played for the University of the West Indies, had what it took to lead this young generation of cricketers.
Beckles stressed that cricket excellence was eminent in West Indian culture and the region had to ensure that such excellence was sustained.
“Each time I meet with Jason Holder, I always say one thing to him: ‘Lead, lead your generation, talk to them, and find the balance between maximizing your income and representing your nation’. You cannot have young men who walk out of the team and cherry-pick when they are going to play from when they are not going to play. We are the only team that does not put our best eleven cricketers to represent the nation because the citizen sees himself as superior to the society, that his personal cause is superior to the cause of his country.
“I know that young Jason understands his responsibility, he will talk to his youngsters and he would help them to find the balance. I have confidence that he would help them to find their balance, maximize their income and take serious responsibility for representing their people. And the University of the West Indies would be here to back them, to support them, to give them whatever they need because West Indies cricket excellence is our greatest cultural achievement as a people and we cannot lose it, we have to rebuild it,” he said.
Also speaking of the glorious days of West Indies cricket, Professor Beckles referenced the great Barbadian and West Indies fast bowler Malcolm Marshall who in 1984 bowled and batted in the Headingley Test against England with his left hand in a cast. The noted historian pointed to regional cricketers in Marshall’s era who he said had a very strong passionate desire to represent their nation, and added it was that kind of purpose that many West Indian supporters longed to see on the field once again.
Sir Hilary said the time had come to reproduce the village academy in order to protect the people’s culture – cricket.
“I interviewed many of our stars that were associated with the collapse and they were all skilful cricketers and you must remember that the West Indies team was filled with stars when they were losing every match, when they were being humiliated, they were filled with stars, all very competent, technically sound cricketers. But the rest of us sat back and saw that there was no resolve, there was no passion, and there was no fight. There was a breakdown in the mental construct and our job is to fix the mental construct.
“We need to reproduce the village academy in another environment and that is what the University experiment is, to take the people’s culture and bring the people’s culture into the academy to protect it and that is what we did, brought the village culture of cricket and bring it into the academy to preserve it and to say our ancestors were right, they achieved their excellence because they knew what they were doing. Times have changed, times have moved on, let us take their knowledge, use that knowledge and bring it into the academy of the University to sustain it,” Sir Hilary said.