West Indies contracts row July 15, 2009

Nothing short of a disgrace

What solution do we have for the chronic blindness on both sides to the reality of the increasing irrelevance of West Indies cricket?

If what the fans witnessed in St Vincent wasn't second division Test cricket, then they might as well accept the notion that independent senators should not be getting in the way of a government's agenda.

Everywhere you turn, people in positions of authority and influence are taking a one-eyed view of matters within their purview. And what of the blind followers? Well, they are just an apathetic, indifferent bunch, never mind all the noise that is generated in the public domain.

Like Paul Keens-Douglas' water boy, the fans sound emotional and look the part with cap pulled down, collar up and pads buckled tight. But when things turn ole mas, as Kamau Brathwaite wrote, you can't find a man (or woman) to hold up the side.

And so the charade will continue with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) issuing another ultimatum that will be steadfastly ignored by a West Indies Players Association (WIPA) which is clearly digging in its heels this time, even as the product (yes, it's not an institution anymore, it's just a product) they both claim to represent so passionately is crumbling at their own hands.

Those drawn into the details of the latest round of thrust and parry between the WICB and WIPA will be entranced by it all, from the administration's reference to the strikers as "former players" to Jimmy Adams' stout defence of his president and CEO, Dinanath Ramnarine, and almost militant stance suggesting that if West Indies cricket must grind to an absolute halt to solve this long-running impasse, so be it.

What solution, though, is there for the chronic blindness on both sides to the reality of the increasing irrelevance of West Indies cricket? Or is it that the plummet from the very highest of heights is mere collateral damage?

Floyd Reifer's side has been referred to as makeshift, third-rate or just plain rubbish, the implication being that the presence of the established star players would have made a fundamental difference to the result at Arnos Vale. Okay, maybe against Bangladesh. But nobody else, and that's the way it's been for a long time.

If it is galling to lose to a team with a record of just one win -- against a decimated Zimbabwe side as well in 2005 -- in 59 previous Tests, why is that humiliation not seen as the inevitable consequence of a record of decline going back 14 years and incorporating all the names that are being bandied about as essential for the restoration of pride to West Indies cricket?

Pride? What pride? Since winning 2-0 in Bangladesh almost seven years ago, the Caribbean cricketers (all of them, from Lara to Chanderpaul to Gayle to Sarwan and every other name you can come up with) have been contributors to a shameful record of 37 defeats and just eight wins from 65 Tests.

That is embarrassing enough on its own. When taken in the context of a team that has been at or near the top of world cricket since 1948, and didn't lose a Test series anywhere on the planet for 15 years from 1980 to 1995, it is nothing short of a disgrace, an indictment of everything and everyone directly associated with one of the few things in the region that the fans could hold up with collective pride in the face of sneering condescension from elsewhere towards our tiny, geographically insignificant territories.

When Bangladesh head coach Jamie Siddons made the point before the start of the first Test that it's taking a while, but they are an improving side and moving upwards, not falling down from the top, he should have added: "Not like you guys, mate!"

Of course, had the Australian done so, many of us would have mounted onto our high horses and chastised him as being out of place. Correct, yes, but boldface to come in our backyard and tell us what we are not honest enough to acknowledge.

Speaking of high horses, West Indies are saddled with a cricketing administration that has no intention of fundamentally reforming itself (you hear me, Deryck?). It has overseen our degradation and humiliation. It is weak and has no credibility.

There's a new fabric tossed into this nauseatingly long spin cycle of West Indian cricketing bacchanal, though. It's called Twenty20. Not the Patrick Manning version but the big money, vupping variety. But wait, they're almost the same, aren't they?

Record profits from hosting the 2007 World Cup have made no lasting difference on the field which, ultimately, should be the measurement of success or failure of any sporting entity.

Yet, they ain't moving, never mind what PJ Patterson and his committee or anyone else recommends.

There's a new fabric tossed into this nauseatingly long spin cycle of West Indian cricketing bacchanal, though. It's called Twenty20. Not the Patrick Manning version but the big money, vupping variety. But wait, they're almost the same, aren't they? Anyway, you know what I mean.

Players with reputations and market value now have the chance to make a better living freelancing for different teams in the many Twenty20 tournaments cropping up all over the place instead of representing the region.

And already there is talk that Trinidad and Tobago's appearance in the Champions Twenty20 League in India in October could be the catalyst to go it alone as an associate member of the ICC, given the increasing public disaffection and disinterest in the declining West Indian product.

Narrow-minded and self-serving, you say?

Well, if such priorities can hold sway in the lofty Senate, why not in the lowly matter of bat and ball?

Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad