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When Windies cricket reigned supreme

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cultural degeneracy has set-in across the English-speaking Caribbean and is at the core of the hopelessness of West Indies cricketers and cricket. Off the field, succeeding West Indies cricket boards have demonstrated their innocence of knowing what to do. 

What is worse, the boards have not shown any inclination to accept solid organisational and cricketing advice. Instead, they have behaved in the only manner they know: colonial governorship that covers its ineffectiveness and barrenness of thought through the high-handed and inappropriate action of the governors. 

Notwithstanding our hand-wringing over Samuels, Roach, Ramdin, Holder and others, it is only when the people and institutions of the West Indies come to understand our condition can we develop the capacity to transform one of the few aspects of our civilisation in which we have at times led the rest of the world.

Not for the first time, I offer an outline of the cluster of circumstances and intellectual thought which worked towards creating the greatest cricket teams in the history of Test cricket; obviously I speak of the West Indian Test teams in the Lloyd and Richards era and before that the golden era created through the intervention of Frank Worrell.

West Indies cricket came out of a colonial relationship with the colonised seeking to make the point of their humanity to their colonial masters: we can take your game, which was and continues to be a statement on civilisation, and beat you at it.

The English undoubtedly assisted in the process of West Indian cricket arising out of adversity. Before West Indian players dazzled on the English county circuit, a couple dozen West Indian players led by Learie Constantine and the great George Headley played on the Village Green in the English Leagues. There Constantine through the 3Ws, Sobers, Hall and Gilchrist and others became professionals working for their keep amongst teams of local amateurs. The West Indians along with pros from Australia and elsewhere had to perform to earn wages and the collection taken around the grounds on Saturday afternoons.

When the likes of Roy Marshall and Sobers and then the modern era of Lloyd, Gibbs, Fredericks, Murray, Davis, Holding, Roberts, Richards and several others filtered into the county circuit, they became fully aware of the rigours of professionalism. They had to play day-in, day-out with no fall-back position; if they wanted to keep their contracts they had to perform at the highest professional levels and against many of the top players from all over the cricket-playing world.

Players of the periods had grown up and developed personalities in an era of strong values, a sense of virtue, pride in achievement and had the benefit of parental training to develop character; and it mattered not what social strata they were brought-up in.

As part of his masterly leadership of the West Indies Frank Worrell nurtured in West Indian players an understanding of what being a West Indian meant; he taught players to convert island nationalities into a West Indian identity and in so doing they could conquer the world. 

Worrell also led the way from the era in which it was believed by many that only a white West Indian could lead black players on the field. He demonstrated as Toussaint L’Ouverture had done 150 years before that in strategy, leadership and on-field battle, black generals were inferior to none. More than that, Worrell led with such dignity that 250,000 Australians were on the streets to wish the West Indians, who had revived Test cricket, farewell after the 1960/1 tour Down Under.

The Sobers era in a team with the likes of Kanhai, Hall, Griffith and others reigned supreme on the steam of what Worrell had left behind. However, not for the last time, the WICBC did little to preserve the legacy. They, like many others, believed there was little behind the success of Worrell and Sobers but brilliance; a kind of capacity born of their West Indianess and not by any exercise of the intellect, planning and programming for the future. 

As the Worrell input dissipated and chastened by a sound licking by Chappell’s Australians, Clive Lloyd determined he had to reclaim his West Indian heritage left him by the great Challenor, Constantine, the incomparable Headley (Atlas who held the West Indian world on his shoulders), by the 3Ws, led by Frank Magline Mortimer Worrell, Sobers, Kanhai, Hall and Gibbs.

For the task forward, Lloyd aligned himself with West Indian talent Down Under in the form of Dr Rudi Webster, a trained and well-practiced sports psychologist. Together they toughened and smartened the approach of our players to face the world. The team had the additional bump from Kerry Packer who threatened to send the team of West Indians home if they did not perform.

Lloyd went against decades of belief that the best combination required a pair of fast bowlers, a medium pacer to swing the ball through the middle overs and a spinner or two for when the wicket was made rough by four days of constant play.

Instead, Lloyd used the penetrating force of four lightning-quick fast bowlers of different styles and varieties and methods of attack, allied to intellectual strategies and mental strength to flatten the opposition. Combined with a few of the most destructive batsmen in the history of the game, himself included, Lloyd and then Richards swept all before them for 15 years. The point is success did not happen by guess. To be continued . . . 



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