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Whither West Indies?

IN THEIR 20 and 18 years of life, respectively, I have never told my children a lie about anything important (though I may have artfully dodged a question or two). Accordingly, my children have accepted everything I’ve sincerely told them except for two propositions too preposterous to reconcile with the modern evidence: 1. When I was their age, in order to have a phone, you first had to construct a building (if only a telephone-booth); and 2. When I was their age, West Indies had the best cricket team in the world.

They’d quicker believe in the God they understand was created by man than that West Indies could once bat for 90 overs.

On Wednesday just gone, a Test match, West Indies v Sri Lanka, started at the Queen’s Park Oval – but there was no traffic jam in St Clair. No matter how low the price might be dropped, you will still be able to roll up to the counter on any day and buy all the tickets you want, and you’re likely to find more nuts vendors than West Indies supporters if you do go (apart from, possibly, the Trini Posse “party stand”). The bitter truth is that chef Joe Brown’s restaurant, Jaffa, probably drew a bigger crowd to the Oval this week than captain Jason Holder’s team.

The West Indies are playing Test cricket in the Oval – but does anyone under the age of 60 even care?

And who can blame them, my kids, or the Trinis who care more about the NBA finals, when I find myself wondering if I’m telling the truth myself? Did we really beat all comers in the cricket world? (Don’t mind that the Test-playing cricket world didn’t even get into double figures.) Did we truly regularly trounce Australia? Did we choose to bat a second time against England only if the coach agreed to let us off net practice? When Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Andy Thomas and Colin Croft were tearing up the wicket, did the Telegraph really run a cartoon of quaking English batsmen in the nets facing, as practice, a cannon at the bowler’s end? Did the sports pages really have to invent the word, “blackwash” to describe our 5-0 Test series wins?

And what was the score at stumps yesterday?

If we were playing Australia, South Africa or England, the game that started at the Oval on Wednesday might have been over even before you could read this!

And it’s not so much a case of, “How the mighty have fallen” as, “Help! I’ve fallen and I cannot get up!”

An even bitterer truth I’ve avoided contemplating is that many readers may have bailed at my opening paragraph: if hardly anyone wants to watch West Indies cricket – and I could not find the game on cable or DirecTV – who will want to read about it?

But our cricket has always been the most complete statement of ourselves, of our national condition, and never more so than today; if ever we needed to watch, write and read about our cricket, it is now.

West Indies cricket has never been a barometer for, but a thermometer of, the West Indies itself: it does not predict our future, but painfully accurately measures our present. Both our long history and our modern plight is depicted in our Test team. For a little while, in a short golden period, and largely due to a final shaping by external forces – to a man, our great teams played English county cricket, where they learned professionalism – we were world-beaters; left to our own resources – we cannot accurately say, “on our own strengths”, for we have effectively none – we have sunk to the bottom of the world cricket order.

West Indies can not win a Test match because we can hardly put one foot in front of the other long enough to bat for a full day – but we can plainly labour in the field for centuries.

Like everything else in our region, and in our history, the blame for our predicament lies largely with a single group.

The same group of usually corrupt, almost always self-absorbed and always incompetent imbeciles that infects our Parliaments also poisons the societies.

The West Indian crisis remains one of leadership.

We ent have none.

The current “leadership” of West Indies cricket is demonstrably more interested in showing the players who the boss is than in fielding the best team.

It doesn’t matter how good the players are or how great a team spirit the captain and the coaching staff can create.

The people in charge of our cricket will firetruck it up.

Already, the glory of playing for the West Indian nation has all but vanished on their watch.

Give these losers – the West Indies Cricket Board, not the team – a few more years and West Indians with cricket talent will be emigrating to real countries. There is more of a cricket future in Toronto than in Trinidad.

In our lifetime, if things remain the same, the question, “Whither West Indies” will be replaced by a statement.

Wither West Indies.

BC Pires is always batting to save the match and, when he looks up, it’s always Shoaib Ahktar or Brett Lee bearing down at him

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