Windies legends on the revival of Caribbean cricket
There was once a time when West Indies were the behemoths of cricket. The first two editions of the World Cup were dominated by the Caribbean outfit! And the usage of the word ‘dominated’ isn’t just for aesthetic purposes.
When we speak of one-sided World Cups, Australia’s 2003 run can only be paralleled by West Indies’ performances in the 1979 World Cup. The only game they didn’t win in that World Cup was against Sri Lanka and it was due to the fact that it was washed out.
In the final, they won their encounter against England by 92 runs – which just stamped West Indies’ authority as the ultimate power in world cricket.
The legendary pairing of Gordon Greenidge and Sir Viv Richards were the top two run-getters in the tournament with 253 and 217 runs, respectively. It was, however, West Indies’ pace battery that was the most feared.
“I enjoyed the kind of cricket we played,” says Joel Garner, who took 8 wickets in the 1979 World Cup.
“We just went for it. Really and truly, the most important thing was that we enjoyed each other’s company. We supported each other along the way.”
The 70s and the 80s were all about the Windies as the combination of skill and strength made them the most formidable cricket unit in history. Richie Richardson took over from Viv Richards and the second generation of Windies cricket came into the fore with the likes of Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose carrying the torch.
After that, however, West Indies entered a period of darkness, which, in retrospect, feels quite unfathomable.
“It’s really sad to see West Indies cricket the way it is,” says the proud owner of 630 international wickets, Curtly Ambrose
“We were so accustomed to being No. 1 in the world and being the team that everyone wants to beat.
“To see the decline as a former cricketer is very hard to take.”
Between February 2009 and July 2012, West Indies won just two matches out of a possible 33 Tests. On top of that, they failed to qualify for the 2017 Champions Trophy owing to their ranking in ODI cricket.
In fact, West Indies had to take part in the World Cup qualifiers in order to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
“There was always going to be a decline,” Ambrose says. “No team can rule the world forever.
“There is going to be a time when you lose players. It was going to be difficult to find another Clive Lloyd, another Viv Richards, another Brian Lara, another Malcolm Marshall.
“But we are taking a little too long, in my opinion, to bounce back.
“I believe we have enough talent in the region to get back somewhere in the top three of world cricket.”
Is a resurgence around the corner?
Amidst all the gloom and doom, there were indeed some radiant moments. The Calypsos won the 2016 World T20 title to give hope to the younger generations.
The CWI, too, are taking steps to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated again. After all, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it again. The CWI have made the move to turn the entire domestic circuit professional while also incentivising upcoming potentials to make cricket their full-time career.
Apart from that, the rise of popularity of the Caribbean Premier League could also help the national team if resources are used correctly.
“T20 cricket is good for the consumers and people who run the tournaments,” says Garner,
“But it’s important that the money goes back into cricket.
“If we want to have the future of cricket, then you invest the money you make back into the grassroots level. That is where the next set of cricketers are coming from.”
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who is among the most revered West Indian batsmen of all time, stated that while the country don’t have the financial power of other boards, things are getting better than before.
“We do not have the money that is being pushed into cricket that another board might have,” he says.
“But we’ve done a lot in the last few years.
“I used to do everything on my own without any money, no contracts, nothing. I had to find my own money if I had to travel.
“Now the countries in the Caribbean all have contracted players, the local boys all have contracts. That means all the boys are going to play in regional tournaments.”
The improvement is slowly becoming apparent in the recent run of the team. They won the three-match Test series against England in January and then went on to draw the ODI series against the highest-ranked team in the world 2-2.
And now, at this World Cup, many consider them the dark horses due to the firepower they have in their team. According to the latest odds on cricket betting website Betway, West Indies are the 5th favourites to lift the coveted trophy.
However, as was seen in the matches against Australia and England, the lack of experience seems to be the biggest hindrance for the Windies.
“What you have to understand is that the great teams of the past had lots of senior guys to nurture the new guys that are coming into the team,” Ambrose says.
“Currently all these guys are basically starting their careers. They are learning on the job. It is going to take some time.”
Indeed, even the likes of Darren Bravo and Kemar Roach – both in their 30s – don’t have as many international games to their names as a cricketer of their age should.
As a result, there are whispers in the air about CWI employing former cricketers in the system of the team, something that most countries have done in recent years.
“When I was in the team, I would talk with them and help them, particularly when I was out in the middle,” Chanderpaul says.
“I see the England Cricket Board put Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Thorpe as batting consultants. That is something we have to start looking at.
“We have a lot of guys with experience in the Caribbean. We need a team of them to go out and work with young players to help them understand their cricket, because there is a lot of talent.”
While West Indies’ chances of progression may have taken a big blow with two losses, they still have a chance to progress to the top four. However, even if they don’t, CWI can make strides by factoring in their legendary players to the system.
All things said and done, one is for sure, the cricketing world needs a West Indies resurgence for the good of the sport.
The original interview can be found on cricket betting site Betway.
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