It’s just not cricket without the West Indies

2009-07-22 00:00

TEST cricket has produced some extraordinary results of late. England pulled off an impressive Test victory against the Australians at Lord’s, but perhaps more remarkable were the events that unfolded in the West Indies. Bangladesh — a team dubbed Test minnows for so long — secured an historic Test series victory against the West Indies in Grenada.

It’s not all that surprising when smaller cricketing nations pull off unexpected victories in the shorter forms of the game, but Test cricket has always been the ultimate leveller, or so we thought.

To witness the previously powerful West Indies succumbing to the Bangladeshis has the cricketing world concerned. After all, it was not that long ago that the West Indies were a force to be reckoned with in world cricket. The West Indies Test victory in England was just a few years ago and before that was any era of cricketing heavyweights, in the form of Test legends Holding, Marshall, Sobers, Ambrose, Walsh and many others.

Taking nothing away from the Bangladeshis’ superb performance, it’s obvious that the West Indies are a nation in the midst of a cricketing crisis. The West Indian Cricket Board faces a boycott from many of its top players who are (justifiably it seems) unhappy about the contracts they have been offered. The WICB are stubbornly refusing to select any players who made themselves unavailable for the series against Bangladesh and the resultant stalemate has had serious repercussions, not least of all the fact that they relinquished the series to Bangladesh.

But controversy, divisions and disputes are not new to the West Indies. As a nation made up of far-flung islands, each with its own identity, unity as a cricketing nation has always been a challenge, even in the days when the West Indies dominated world cricket. These challenges have always been under the surface, but more recently the cracks have begun to show.

The competition between the islands has always been intense. In Malcolm Marshall’s day, Barbados was the most powerful, followed by Chris Gayle’s Jamaica and recently the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, home to the legendary Brian Lara . With the increasing dissatisfaction with the WICB it’s rumoured that Trinidad and Tobago, who have been the most successful in the domestic competition, are considering breaking away from the divided West Indies and applying for Test status in their own right.

Bangladesh will no doubt put their Test series victory into perspective. They will be aware that Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe before them took many years to secure their first away Test series victory. Bangladesh will certainly not dominate world cricket just yet, but their performances are a reflection of the healthy state of the game in that country. They have a huge support base and money is flowing into the game, which is hugely encouraging.

All of this is in stark contrast to the cash-strapped woes of the West Indies, whose future hangs in the balance.

Perhaps a spilt in West Indies cricket is the answer? Either way a speedy resolution to the standoff between the West Indian Cricket Board and the players is essential. World cricket needs contented calypso cricketers performing at their best — it’s not really cricket without them.

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