Fazeer Mohammed
Writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain
Trinidad & Tobago Express

Crisis in West Indies cricket

West Indians need something to celebrate

The West Indian supporters are desperate for something to cheer from its cricketers, but are WIPA and the WICB listening?

Fazeer Mohammed

July 29, 2009

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Travis Dowlin switches gears, West Indies v Bangladesh, 2nd ODI, Dominica, July 28, 2009
Travis Dowlin's century brought cheer to the many West Indian supporters © AFP

Obviously you can say what you want around here without fear of recrimination or contradiction.

From the Prime Minister's claim of an assassination plot against him a year ago to a Dominican groundsman's assertion that he had prepared a pitch with pace and bounce, there seems to be enough of a rabid following to ensure that critical factors, like the absence of definitive supporting evidence, will be flung into the background by the flag-waving masses.

Yet after all the kakada and to-ing and fro-ing by the combatants over the many issues that occupy our interest, at some point the noise dies down, the dust settles and we see the truth for what it really is in all its stark, unrepentant detail. Problem is that by the time we are all forced to swallow the bitter truth, the medicine has passed its expiration date. In any event, there will always be some other distraction, some other bacchanal, to render any effort at reconciling with the truth - like the events before, during and immediately after July 27, 1990 - as an exercise in futility.

At midday yesterday, Windsor Park Cricket Stadium was a heaving mass of Caribbean celebration. Okay, so it wasn't packed to capacity on this public holiday for the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica . Still, it was noise and jumping and waving for so with Travis Dowlin blazing his way to an unbeaten, even 100 and the West Indies piling up 274 for six to give themselves a better-than-even chance of squaring the one-day International series against Bangladesh.

More than anything else, it reflected how desperate the people of these fractured territories are to rejoice at the successes of the one regional institution that had once achieved global domination on our behalf, and therefore a grudging admiration, even awe, beyond the demeaning stereotype of smiling islanders only too willing to do the bidding of visitors bearing foreign currency.

Of course, the match was far from over, but it felt like a victory already the way everyone around was smiling. To everything there is a context though, and even if this was already being hailed as a mini-turnaround against the backdrop of a 2-0 Test series loss and a 52-run whipping in the first ODI on Sunday, it is uncomfortably sobering to consider what was the spark for this impromptu fete.

We were already sliding inexorably towards minnow status anyway with our very strongest teams on the field since 1995. Now, this feels like two guppies fighting for territory in a big drain, blissfully unaware that soon they will be washed out to sea and swallowed up by the really big fish lurking out there.

Bangladesh were playing their 200th ODI yesterday. The win two days earlier - the first ever against the West Indies - was just the 45th they had enjoyed in 199 previous matches. Of those 45, only nine were against established Test-playing nations, the other 36 coming against a combination of Zimbabwe and ICC Associate Member countries like Kenya , Ireland , Netherlands and Bermuda .

There's no question about the degree of effort being put in by a number of players now, unexpectedly no doubt, wearing West Indian colours.

Dowlin, despite being clearly exhausted in the stifling heat halfway through his innings, never gave up and deservedly accelerated through to the hundred that he missed in the first innings of the second Test in Grenada . Darren Sammy, keen to show that he was prepared to give his all for the regional side after being surprisingly overlooked for the one-dayers against India last month, battled through the pain of a hamstring injury and regular treatment to continue bowling.

Dave Bernard again made a useful contribution with the bat, claimed the first wicket of the Bangladeshi reply and then leapt to his left at midwicket to snare one of the catches of the year to get rid of the dangerous Tamim Iqbal. So there is no doubt that the commitment is there, as you would expect, given that most of these players never dreamed of being in such a situation until the latest bell rang on the latest round of the marathon slugfest between the West Indies Cricket Board and the West Indies Players Association just before the first Test in St Vincent.

But it's easy to get carried away and lose perspective with a little bit of success against patently weak opposition. Indeed, some at the ground were already prepared to suggest that a come-from-behind victory in this ODI series, if achieved, would strengthen the Board's apparent insistence on selecting the Champions Trophy 15-man squad from the 30 players (minus the strikers) already named for the tournament.

Okay, so let's consider this. The West Indies, as presently constituted, go to South Africa and take on Australia , India and Pakistan in the group stage of the eight-team event. What would you expect?

That doesn't mean that those who would normally be the first-choice players should be selected just to avoid the prospect of some serious cut-tails, because there is no guarantee that it wouldn't happen anyway. Our record for more than a decade bears that out.

However, in agreeing to go to mediation and then reinforce the Champions Trophy selection policy less than 48 hours after the smiling handshakes between Julian Hunte and Dinanath Ramnarine in Georgetown nine days ago suggests that the administrators are not in the mood for conciliation.

In the meantime, West Indies cricket will continue to suffer, whatever the results over the next few days.

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

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Fazeer Mohammed Fazeer Mohammed's claim to cricketing fame is that he once played in the same 2nd XI at the Queen's Park Cricket Club in Trinidad with Brian Lara. It was only a brief association, as one was on the way up and the other refusing to come to terms with the depressing reality that his limited ability would take him no further in the game. It certainly has been for the good of the game that Lara never allowed such severely critical assessments to stunt his development. In allowing his fellow countryman to blaze a trail on the field, Mohammed has opted to follow West Indies cricket from the media centre since 1988 as a journalist, and since 1992 as a radio commentator.

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