'More embarrassment in store from West Indies' - Hilaire
In a scathing criticism of West Indies cricket, Ernest Hilaire, the CEO of the region's cricket board, has said fans will have to endure more "embarrassment" in the years to come not merely due to the lack of quality cricketers coming through but also because of the overall attitude of players towards the game, with money and fame favoured over excellence. The decline of West Indies cricket, Hilaire added, was also a reflection of what, according to him, was the virtual irrelevance of the "notion of being West Indian" to the younger players.
"I listen to our players speak, and they speak of money, that's all that matters to them - instant gratification," Hilaire said during a panel discussion on the topic 'Nationalism and the Future of West Indies cricket' at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. "There's no sense of investing in the future coming from them. We are producing young people in the region that we expect, when they play cricket for the West Indies, to be paragons of virtue. That just won't happen.
"Sometimes when you speak to the players, you feel a sense of emptiness. The whole notion of being a West Indian, and for what they are playing has no meaning at all.
"They have not been brought up with a clear understanding of what it means, and its importance. But do we blame them?"
This change in attitude was a product of the wider societal ills in the Caribbean, Hilaire said. "Our cricketers are products of the failure of our Caribbean society, where money and instant gratification are paramount. We as a region have some real issues and problems that are producing young men in particular, that cannot dream of excellence. Excellence for them is about the bling, and the money they have."
There was no shortage of advice for improving the state of affairs in West Indies cricket, Hilaire said, but until there was the right infrastructure, the decline was bound to continue. "Until the High Performance Centre, as a structure of support that has been created now [in Barbados] to prepare the next generation, we will suffer a lot of embarrassments and a lot of awfulness, because our present cricketers are not prepared.
"I have listened to many past players, taxi drivers, immigration officers, and hotel barmen to name a few. All will give you advice on what to do with West Indies cricket. People ask me, 'What will you do about this team? They are an embarrassment'! I tell them you have about three more years of embarrassment still to witness."
Hilaire said there was little hope even in those who could take over the reins from the existing senior team. "I keep hearing from people, 'Fire those [current] guys, and bring in new ones!', but where is the new set coming from? Who are we going to bring in?
"Somebody said to me, 'Bring in the Under-19s. They came third at the Youth World Cup'. And I whispered that almost half of the Under-19 team could barely read or write. The simple fact is that we are producing cricketers who are not capable of being world-beaters in cricket. It's just a simple fact."
While acknowledging that there was talent coming through, Hilaire said there was a general failure in the transition to succeeding at the highest level. "We can win matches occasionally, but not consistently with what we have," he said. "It is not that we do not have the talent, but in today's cricketing world, having talent alone means absolutely nothing.
"For the last nine years, we have been chopping and changing. Between 2000 and 2009, the WICB has tried 59 new players in Test match cricket alone. We have put young men in the international arena only to be slaughtered, demoralised, dejected, and the development path they ought to take never really takes place."