Looking at West Indies cricket: From the 2004 Champions Trophy to now
The West Indies have had a period of steady decline, a slide from the lofty pedestal that once made them a dominating force in world cricket. By the end of the 80s and early 90s, a number of stalwarts had retired, leaving behind a gaping hole that looked hard to fill. A young crop of cricketers and a certain Brian Lara emerged.
Lara was the mainstay of the West Indian batting line-up for much of the 90s and mid-2000s. However, the rest of the team remained a bunch of underperforming and inconsistent individuals. A fall from grace could only be salvaged by a huge victory.
The Champions Trophy win in 2004 was a perfect setting for a renaissance. But have they been able to set the record straight?
Dispute post the Champions Trophy win
The happiness of winning an ICC trophy didn’t last long. The West Indies Players Association got into a major dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board in 2005. The point of conflict was between Digicel and Cable & Wireless, two telecommunication giants, amongst which the players’ contracts were divided. The dispute led to a payment issue which started a long series of differences between the players and the Board.
During 2004-05, a number of players decided not to participate in the Test series in South Africa, forcing Shivnarine Chanderpaul to take the reins. A reconciliation did result in most of them participating, but the seeds of mistrust had been sown. In 2014, a fresh argument broke out, leading to the West Indies pulling out of a tour of India due to payment issues. A replacement tour to Sri Lanka was quickly arranged by the BCCI , who were “shocked and disappointed”. They slapped a $45 million damage charges on the West Indies Board, for their “monumental disaster”.
Simple things such as the absence of 12-month contracts at the domestic level and the lack of use of resources to build the infrastructure are creating a rot inside. Before the World T20 this year, the Board threatened to send a second string side after the players had asked for doubling the remuneration.
All this aside, the team has failed to build a strong side, unceremoniously sacking established cricketers such as Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan from the setup.
Individual efforts over team performances
Amidst all this, there were individual performances of note that helped maintain the popularity of the game in the Caribbean. Brian Lara was a shining light in the ruins, an artist par excellence who pulled the team out of hopeless situations on the weight of his long vigils at the crease. His 400 came the same year the team won the Champions Trophy, and he kept on piling runs till his retirement in 2007.
Chris Gayle’s international form might have tailed off, yet he has to his credit a triple century in Tests and a double century in ODIs, the latter of which was achieved in the World Cup last year. He is one of few players from the 2004 win who are still active on the international scene. His international commitments have decreased after disputes with the Board, yet he continues to sporadically appear, having been part of the recent World T20 triumph.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul retired from international cricket earlier this year after being discarded from the national side when the Board opted for a youth-oriented policy, but not before he had become the second highest run getter for his nation. He was named the Player of the Year by ICC in 2008.
Sunil Narine, with his healthy repertoire of spin bowling, ascended to the top of rankings, bamboozling the best of batsmen round the world. His participation in the various T20 leagues round the world has made him a force to reckon with for various franchises.
World T20 victories in 2012 and 2016
The biggest positive for the team has been their exploits in the shortest format, with a heady mix of aggressive batsmen and effective bowlers in their ranks. A spirited performance by the spin duo of Narine and Badree handed the West Indies a World Cup after a very long time. The team, which looked to crumble and drag along, suddenly found form and jelled as a team at the right moment.
“It feels really, really good and we’re definitely going to cherish this moment,” said Darren Sammy.
The team came back four years later, to earn themselves another World T20 this year, with Carlos Brathwaite looting four sixes off Ben Stokes to hand them another sensational win. Darren Sammy stated in the post-match interview that there were issues with the WICB, and that the team had felt “disrespected”.
There were murmurs that the team might boycott the tournament altogether, but they went nevertheless, and came back with the prize.
West Indies is not a country but a conglomeration of 16 states. The allocation of funds and the sharing of resources will continue to be a problem unless the administrative side of things is not corrected. Their erratic performances and sporadic victories continue to be a cause of concern, but the players continue to represent the country with the same zeal that their more illustrious predecessors did. They recently reached the finals of the Tri-Series involving South Africa and Australia, but stumbled on the final hurdle. A victory in front of the home crowd would have been a perfect setting. But then, things are rarely perfect for cricket in the Caribbean.