March 6, 2003

Business As Usual?

Carl Hooper, the current West Indies cricket captain should do the right thing and step down as captain for both the One Day and Test teams.... and immediately.

This, following the West Indies' dismal performance during the preliminary round of the 2003 Cricket World Cup (CWC), in South Africa. Failure by Hooper to voluntarily leave office, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), should insist that he does so.

In other professional sports, when teams perform as poorly as the West Indies did during their recent campaign at the 2003 CWC, heads are expected to roll. There should be no deviation from this practice in professional sports. It simply cannot be business as usual. The West Indian public deserve much better than the lackluster performances that the team seem capable of producing while on overseas tours.

The management team, all of whose contracts with the WICB have come to an end during the course of this month also should go. This is the absolute minimum that should be expected as a result of the team's poor showing.

The early exit from the 2003 CWC is especially hurtful, since the West Indies will play host to the next CWC in 2007. Many of the countries vying to host matches during the 2007 CWC were hoping to use the opportunity to start sensitizing the rest of the cricketing world of the facilities and amenities that can be expected for the next CWC. But, all these plans have to be either shelved or scaled down since the West Indies team has made an early exit from the sports biggest tournament.

It is also apparent that the West Indian players have no sense or appreciation of what it means to represent nearly 10 million people - both at home and abroad. Their lack of commitment and understanding even of their roles as ambassadors of the Caribbean is also evident.

One calypsonian summed up the significance of cricket to the West Indian peoples this way: "It [cricket] is like a tattoo on the heart of every West Indian." The fact that our players seemingly lack understanding as to their roles as ambassadors is also a reflection on their preparation by the Board might explain the team's sustained poor performances abroad.

The WICB is not without blame in this situation either. It was the same Carl Hooper who previously `resigned' from the West Indies team just days prior to the team's departure for the 1999 CWC in England. It was the same Carl Hooper, who, along with Brian Lara was also at the center of controversy prior to the West Indies' tour to South Africa in 1998.

After all, Jimmy Adams was `relieved' of his position as captain of the West Indies team following a series of poor performances by the West Indies especially abroad. The same standard must therefore be applied to Hooper and nothing less would be acceptable.

Also, with the player revolt taking place just days before the team's departure for the 2003 CWC, it begs the question: what was the state of mind of the team going into the most prestigious competition of the sport? Where is their commitment to the 10 million people of the Caribbean who pay their salaries? They should be made to show more resolve and purpose whenever they put on the West Indies colours and take the field.

It is therefore time that the WICB start looking towards a more youthful player who can (a) command a place in the team, and (b) inspire the team to many successes in the future. The West Indian public has been hearing since 1991 that the West Indies team is in a "rebuilding phase". Certainly, it does not take 12 years for an all-conquering team to revamp and retool. The patience of the West Indian public is beginning to wear out, and the team needs to start performing much better - both at home and abroad. The first step in this though, is for the current captain to step aside and take a few of his worn soldiers with him. The young players now playing in the Carib Beer Cricket Series can therefore look forward to the 2003 Cable & Wireless home series against Australia, then Sri Lanka with much hope and expectation. The West Indian selectors cannot afford to keep faith with these `tried and proven' failures. This simply cannot be business as usual.