The future of West Indies cricket April 20, 2007

Time for real change

Fazeer Mohammed



The fact that West Indies rallied from 8 for 2 to reach 230 for 5 against Bangladesh is almost inconsequential, as many pressing issues still remain © AFP

Never mind what Brian Lara, Ken Gordon, Bennett King and their assortment of public relations specialists and agents have said, it matters not one iota whether Bangladesh were easily brushed aside yesterday or if England are hammered tomorrow in the last of the Super Eights matches.

The fact that West Indies rallied from 8 for 2 to reach 230 for 5 against Bangladesh is almost inconsequential, except that Ramnaresh Sarwan's unbeaten 91 reinforced his value as a batsman to complement what should now be his inevitable appointment as captain for the tour of England.

All of the references to these two matches being important in getting back on track and shifting the focus to the next campaign are just so much repetitive rubbish. Go back to almost every series, home or away, in recent years and the mindless mantra has been the same. The impression is always created that things will be better next time around and that instead of harping on the negatives and moaning about the latest debacle, we should cast our eyes optimistically to the next challenge.

Well, baseless optimism and the absence of real accountability has brought us right where we are: used, abused and humiliated under the whip of the ICC and their minions in the Local Organising Committee's (LOCs), bundled out of what was laughingly described as "our" World Cup even before the last two Super Eights matches, a fractured, underperforming team, a technical staff incapable of insisting on any sort of standard, and an administration preoccupied with all sorts of silver-tongued public relations foolishness in the midst of almost irreversible decay.

Here is the evidence on the field: no Test series victory anywhere in the world for the last three years; not a single Test match win since June 2005, since which time the West Indies have played 15 Tests; elimination in the first phase of the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, while getting to the second stage of the current tournament has only exposed us to more embarrassing whippings than were experienced in those two previous events combined.

The saving grace has been the Champions Trophy, where the West Indies were champions in 2004 and beaten finalists last year, which merely reinforces that we have the talent to succeed, but lack the wherewithal to triumph in the extended contests and over the long haul. This has been the modern story of West Indies cricket. And the media and the fans are to blame for it? Give me a break. The blame would be that the media are too superficial in the analysis of issues, while the fans are so very desperate for success and so very willing to forgive this lot that they cling hopefully to an unfounded belief that, sooner rather than later, every little thing will be alright.

We have passed this way many times in the last decade, but once again, here is the chance to make a fundamental change. Those who talk a good game, but deliver practically nothing, should do the decent thing and step aside.

In hesitating over such apparently drastic action, we should consider for a moment the frequent cautionary advice that things will only get worse if a wholesale house-cleaning is undertaken. Worse than this? You can't be serious.

I had spoken about how change for change's sake since 1995 has made no difference. Now, though, we should consider real change: not replacing one for another of like mind, but installing personnel who will abide by a code of conduct, on the field and off it, that rewards performance, commitment and integrity and is not compromised by expediency and convenience when it comes to dealing with those - in the dressing room or the boardroom - who make a habit of stepping out of line.