Fans have begged for improvement. Pundits have cried for transformation. Leaders have demanded progress. And yet, here we are
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I do not want to write about the current crisis in West Indies cricket. I want to pretend that it isn't happening. This must be a nightmare - a doomsday situation one might dream up after checking a few old scorecards while watching an apocalyptic movie before heading to bed. It has been that bad for the fans, and it is just another in a long and painful line of disappointments.
I became a cricket fan two decades ago, which means that my support for West Indies has coincided with the major part of their ugly slide down the slope of respectability, both on and off the pitch. It has been a period of utter tumult, as strikes, exiles, infighting, bans, second-string teams, a carousel of captains and players, a host of administrative upheavals, and many other dreadful events have come and gone. And that does not even begin to mention the performances on the field of play.
The current fiasco that Caribbean cricket is in is just another chapter in this period. Cruelly, and ironically, the current mess emanated from a righteous initiative to distribute earnings for the wider benefit of regional cricket. Alas, it all went downhill from there, with an almost comedic series of blunders, misinformation, stubbornness and emotions leading to the team's withdrawal from a tour of the most important country in the cricketing world. The maelstrom has got worse since the abandonment, with the tit-for-tat approach among the parties paling in comparison to the US$42 million bill sitting in the WICB's mailbox. It is a pathetic state of affairs.
There is a cruel twist of irony in all of this too. The West Indian fan base is probably the most well-equipped in world cricket to handle an ordeal of this nature, because it has seen such a range of blunders and tomfoolery over the past few decades. With so many different unfortunate events, this episode does not feel entirely odd. Therein lies the tragedy, for we have become inured to controversy, accustomed to disappointment.
How can the mindset of the current West Indian supporter be explained? Simply stated, it is complex. One cannot help but love one's home team, as they are ambassadors of the region and its people on the world stage. At the same time, the fact that the team's slide seems unrelenting makes the pain of losses all the more agonising. Further, the sparkling history of the West Indies team, replete with legends and famous wins across the world for years on end, looms large. It creates an expectation of excellence, which serves to intensify the darkness of the current state of our cricket, when such excellence is not remotely replicated.
Torturously, West Indies have been unable to lift themselves out of the doldrums of the world rankings despite having evident talent. That talent is another source of complicated feelings, as blistering knocks and fiery spells can only provide limited relief when the "win" column remains bare. We have even had legends, like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara, in our ranks over the past two decades, yet our fortunes have remained dismal. Today they are the two most defeated players in the history of Test cricket.
One cannot ignore that when there is an occasional sparkle of success on the field, or a significant development off it, it prompts the proclamation that "change and rejuvenation have arrived". The reality of the current era, though, has made that cry increasingly irritating, as debacles like the recent tour pullout continue to occur, resulting in further frustration. The fan, rather than wondering what's next, with gleeful anticipation of World Cup contention or success on a coming tour, is left to dread how the board will pay its bills, or wonder whether players will sign contracts. Repeated incidents pile disenchantment and exasperation on the back of an an already laden fan.
Once again, in the midst of the latest affair, declarations that "reform is needed" and "we must act now" can be heard. But are things different? Fans have begged for improvement. Pundits have cried for transformation. Leaders have demanded progress. And yet, here we are. If our only issue was losses on the field, then the situation might have been more tolerable, as it is the very nature of sport to have winners and losers. The infuriating, intolerable problem, though, is that West Indies cricket is caught up in extrinsic ramblings, and our proverbial house is in disarray.
I am still a fan of West Indies, for I am incapable of abandoning them. I believe that the approximately six million people in the region, and millions more across the world, are still fans as well. But I do not want to write about the current crisis in West Indies cricket. I want it fixed, for good.