How much further can the once mighty West Indies fall?

2012-04-19 00:00

THE much-hyped or much maligned Indian Premier League is now in full swing, with most of the T20 international hired guns already showing their wares.

However, seeing some West Indian internationals plying their trade in the tournament is a sickening sight.

I have been and I still am a great admirer of West Indian cricket and how they enthralled audiences with their joie de vivre and happy-go-lucky approach to the game.

Mind you, those traits were matched by some talented individuals who had the steely character and the resolve, tactical nous and brute strength to execute their game plans so efficiently that they ruled the game for just over two decades.

I was not around to witness them in full flight, but they were a talented and skilled bunch and they deserve the glowing paint that history brushes them with.

The Roman Empire though, could not beat Father Time and the same applied to the West Indian dynasty, which was first stormed by Mark Taylor’s marauding Australians in 1995.

Their cricket has stooped to such depths that the board cannot even put up a full boundary ring of advertising hoardings, which indicates malice from brands and companies who do not want to associate themselves with a losing product.

The West Indies are now engaging Australia in a three-Test series for the Frank Worrell Trophy, named after an icon of the game who, along with Richie Benaud, was responsible for reinvigorating a game that back in the late 1950s and early 1960s was being constricted by stodgy and conservative cricket. The series was a marque for Test cricket worldwide and even when the Australians were under the pump between 1978 and 1995, it was a crowd-puller and deserved the attention it received.

Even during the Packer years where, like during the IPL when the top players were missing, the series still managed to pull in good crowds and produce excellent cricket.

The Packer split cannot at any stage be compared to the IPL because then players were underpaid, whereas with IPL, players are now flexing their muscles as to when and where they want to play.

Which leads us to the issue of seeing Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and the likes playing IPL when they should be donning the maroon cap.

Gayle’s battle with the West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) has all but become a soap opera where spurned lovers continue to trade insults when they know they need each other, while Samuels will go down in the Carl Hooper-category of players who did not do justice to their potential.

In essence, the West Indies need Gayle more than he needs them.

Under Darren Sammy the team is showing signs of life and the ability to compete.

But what is sorely lacking is the game breaker who can turn stale draws into potential wins.

The draw in Mumbai against India and the loss against Australia in Barbados are clinical examples of when the protagonists needed each.

In both those games, they were in positions were they could have taken the game away from their opponents, but on both occasions ceded hard earned advantages.

Sammy’s marked improvement as a bowler has all but offset the loss of Dwayne Bravo, while Sunil Narine’s offerings, as confusing as they are, have yet to be tested long enough at international level to show that he could replace Devendra Bishoo.

The IPL’s riches may be as blinding as Ali Baba’s cave of gold, but like the Australian Test players have shown, the pride in the badge is more important.

The WICB losing its players during such an important series shows the lack of muscle with the board.

It is impossible to see the England and Wales Cricket Board releasing its star players for a T20 charade before the Ashes.

World cricket needs a competitive West Indies, but the board needs to find itself and peace with its main players before it takes a step forward.

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