Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas 

(Plain Talk, Sept. 6, 2019)

“What do they know of cricket who only cricket knows?” — CLR James, “Beyond the Boundary”.

“The International Cricket Council should do everything possible to ensure that West Indies cricket is revived.” — Ian Chappell, former Australian cricket captain.

The sad state of West Indies cricket is troubling. Not only to those of us who grew up in the Caribbean or came of age when the mighty West Indies of Greenidge and Haynes, Richards and Lloyd, Kallicharran and Gomes, Richardson and Dujon, Roberts and Holding, Marshall and Garner, conquered and dominated the cricketing arenas for a decade and a half.  No team before or after has been so intimidating and dominating. 

For Caribbean people, for black people wherever they resided, the triumph and supremacy of a bunch of young black professionals, particularly when they forced the former colonial masters and their ilk in England, Australia and New Zealand to scream, complain and surrender, even as they bent the rules of the game to blunt the West Indies’ effectiveness, was nothing short of poetic justice. 

During the high tide of West Indies cricket, the team was playing for pride and respect; for independence, against apartheid and oppression. This is why Caribbean people were so hurt and felt so betrayed when a bunch of renegade players signed contracts to play in South Africa as “honorary whites”. This is why Vivian Richards, apart from his legendary greatness as a batsman, captain and player, is so revered for his refusal to sign a blank cheque to play in racist South Africa. 

At least from the 1960s fight to get a black captain, cricket was seen as more than just a game. The maroon WI Cap was more than headgear.  Then we looked beyond the boundary, to matters of race, class and manhood. We knew that to win was to gain respect and reputation; there was no money in the game then.  It was only after the Kerry Packer World Series that cricket became financially attractive. In those days, Richards stroked the ball to the boundary, tapped his red, black and green wristband, sneered at the bowler and said “Black power”. 

Before we dominated the game of cricket, we were known as “calypso cricketers”. a merry-go-lucky bunch. We entertained, but lacked the stamp of consistency and prolonged success. The moment we mastered the art of professionalism and success, our cricketers were labelled “marauders” and worse. Couple black with dominance and success, and you have the perfect menace. Sadly, today we are again reduced to calypso cricketers, laughingstock really, because our team cannot even entertain. Five-day games end in three; T20s end after 15, and one-day games are completed within 35 overs.

What has gone wrong? Sorry to disappoint, but it is not the usual suspects: administrators, selection panel or players. Their roles are marginal to the demise. The problem lies in the way cricket has been marketed and the manner in which the spoils have been distributed. As entertainment and results took precedence over fight, determination and survival, One-day cricket, and then T20 cricket gained dominance. Cricket was reduced to 6s, 4s, runs, wickets, winners, losers, instant gratification. Test Cricket is said to be too long and boring.

What has this done to West Indies Cricket? Michael Holding tells the story that when the West Indies lost its first game in World Series Cricket, Kerry Packer demanded excellence and success, or he would end the sponsorship. The players took the threat to heart, went on a fitness, training and practice regime that built WI cricket into the fiercest fighting and most successful machine ever assembled in cricket. 

With the emergence, emphasis and predominance of limited overs cricket, WI cricketers reverted to old habits: lack or insufficient attention to personal fitness, training and practice. 

In a T20 match, 45 runs can turn a game. Sixty by a middle order player may win it. Not so in a Test Match. There is not enough scheduling of the long version of the game. Test cricket is demonised and marketed as a dying species. Consequently, our cricketers no longer follow the mantra “Bat long”. The popularity of “Casino cricket” in the Indian Players League (IPL), where mediocre players can instantly become millionaires, adds to our cricketing woes. No one cares to play for the West Indies.

The Ashes series between Australia and England, and the Test series between India and Australia, offer ample proof that test cricket is the ultimate test of the mettle of athletes. It is marketable, entertaining, and popular, and can remain successful. People will pay to go see good, competitive test cricket.

A WI revival in cricket will only come when we create the conditions to build a determined fighting team in the test arena. Our batsmen dominated because they seldom gave their wickets away. Currently, we have skilled players, but cricket, with all of its scientific innovations, has gone past skill. Our players need to add technique. 

They have to look at tapes of themselves and opponents, and study them, correct weaknesses and build on strengths. Most of all, they have to learn to occupy the crease for long periods. This will only come through practice. Science has determined that a professional needs at least 10,000 hours of practice to be successful and remain successful. The swing to the hills mentality that is prevalent among our cricketers must be discouraged. The great Everton Weekes scored 4,455 test runs, averaged 58.62 and struck ONLY one six.

We need to create wickets that will encourage our bowlers. Don Bradman asked why would a cricketer want to be a bowler. Well, he may want to be one if the wickets offer encouragement rather than batsmen’s paradises.

Finally, high-level sports and performances is a developed society affair. Sadly, the ICC is dominated by India, Australia and England. Over 75% of the money generated by international cricket is divvied up between these three countries. This lack of financing to fund cricketing programmes, build academies, train young cricketers in the fine art of scientific training, physical and mental development may partly explain why WI is competitive in Under-15 and Under-19 cricket world rankings where raw talent is evident, but players flounder and fail to emerge into test and international prominence.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and theGrenadines. 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

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10 Comments

  1. Sanga, why you cannot write without the inclusion of some degree or other of racial nastiness I do not know. Your inherent hatred for white people is so obvious. Yet you work for a white boss who has dynastical control over poor black people, yet do nothing but answer to his beck and call.

    Sanga its all very well coming here and berating Black cricketers, yes, many of them are failures today when yesteryear they had bounding success’s. The major cause of that is the continual barrage of nastiness that they are bombarded with, rhetoric about being mentally ill because their ancestors were slaves. They are convinced by you and your ilk that they are suffering from post ancestral slavery syndrome. There are whole generations of school children who are looking up to achievers like you and believe everything that you say, you so cleverly sow the seeds of your Marxist ideology. Then there are members of the Vincentian intelligencia who realise that you and your master are simply using your position to damage and control the minds of those that follow you.

    Your reparation disinformation propaganda weakens the confidence of Black Caribbeans until they are now going backwards instead of forwards. Its little more than brainwashing of the weak, uninformed and ignorant.

    History will judge you for what you are, all that you have done in parliament as speaker is well recorded in Hansard, and all you write here and elsewhere will hopefully be archived for retrieval by our future generations.

    Your old friend Jolly Green

    Reply

  2. The problem is one of greed, life style and lack of dicipline. Indicipline has crept into our psyche more than before. We have seen it in the acceptance rate in university. Women now enter university by a ratio of three two one when compared to our male counterparts. The black man is no longer leading by example. It all filter down into our beloved sports. Our naysayers will beg to differ.

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    1. This is an aging chimpanzee. My memory failed me as it relates to Murray. Nothing deliberate. As someone with such aptitude for recognition, I thought you would have had something of substance to say regarding the state of our cricket

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  3. The issues of West Indies cricket can only be rectified if we encourage the longer format of the game at grassroot levels. That’s the only way players can develop technique, grit and determination.

    There is no way that the current crop of players can move the West Indies up the ICC Rankings. We need to flip a new page and recreate a culture where our batsmen love to bat for long periods like Chanderpaul. Yet be fearless leaders like IVA Richards. This can only be done from a young age.

    The most successful batsmen in the world at the moment are capable of concentrating for long periods. They are Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root. These players also rotate the strike with ease and score boundaries from low risk stroke play. Unfortunately, the West Indies is plagued, yes plagued, by hit or miss players with no depth or intellectual ability.

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  4. Leroy is a racist, from day one, I discovered, that since school days. Why did he attend White Colleges to attain his gold? Nobody owes black people nothing, they make life difficult for them. Which other race wants to go around having 50 kids with 40 different women, never taken care of any. What do you think is the result of that situation. That’s something, taking place worldwide, why don’t you address that among your people. Remember you are been hired by a White man, at present. By the way, there’s no Garifuna in SVG, that you Leroy is promoting, the people should wise and rebuke all those, promote that rubbish.

    Reply

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