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Time for WI to call it a day

By PETER O’CONNOR Sunday, March 9 2008

THE headlines were almost praising the achievement: “Young West Indies Lift Plate!” and words to that effect. Our Under-19 West Indies cricketers had just triumphed over Nepal—Nepal? They play cricket?

The reports went on to state that we were now ranked number nine in the world.

Number nine? There was no listing of the teams numbering one through eight, so I tried to make my own, probably not in the correct order, but this is what I came up with: Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, England…that is seven. We are nine, so who is number eight? Probably not Nepal or Papua New Guinea, whom we did beat. So that left one of Bangladesh, Kenya or Zimbabwe. And all this (bar the list) was published without comment or criticism.

With West Indies cricket at its lowest since I began to support them in 1950, we need to believe that our youth teams, our younger players, will demonstrate some talent and therefore some hope for the future.

In previous Youth Series our youngsters had been competitive, even victorious. When they failed to develop into a competitive Senior Team, we said it was because we did not have the professional development infrastructure and systems of the Australians, South Africans, etc.

So we planned, then set up an Academy (in Grenada, I think) to develop the talent which our young cricketers had displayed.

But what happened? Do we have a West Indies Cricket Academy? Where will our Number Nine youngsters go from here?

Coach Larry Gomes said that they should be “kept together”, presumably for their future development. But where shall we “keep” them, and what will we do to teach them how to play cricket?

Remember, they do not have the talent of some of their predecessors, all of whom failed to develop into a meaningful Windies Senior Team. So where, ladies and gentlemen, is the hope for this group of youngsters?

All this caused my friend Tom, who believes that West Indies Cricket should be “dissolved”, to call me to argue his case again.

If Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Bermuda and others can be representative cricket teams on the world stage, why not Jamaica, TT and Barbados?

“There is no such thing as ‘West Indies’,” argued Tom. It was a name created by Columbus, who was lost and thought he was near India.

The name was retained by the British Colonies among the islands occupied by the Spanish, French and Dutch. The proper name of the region is the Caribbean, and it encompasses more than the remnants of the cricket empire of Great Britain.

The Brits developed their game in their colonies in the Caribbean, first among their own people, and then the rest of us.

We, the colonies, became the West Indies, but our flag was the Union Jack and our anthem was God Save The King, changed to The Queen in 1953.

As “British Subjects”, cricket united us, and our triumphs in cricket made us proud as West Indians. As Britain shed its colonies in the 1960s, we each acquired a flag, an anthem, and our own reasons for pride and patriotism.

The great teams of the Lloyd era were still “West Indian” in their upbringing and in the West Indian tradition.

That is why former players like Croft and Viv Richards can bemoan the fact that the current crop seem to have no commitment to their “West Indianness.”

The truth is—there is no connection between youngsters in their twenties and the “West Indies”. What we have now is Trinis and Jamaicans and Bajans, being asked to subjugate their newly learned patriotism to a bygone West Indies.

They are all now Caribbean Men—ask Stalin! Even politicians speak of the Caribbean rather than the West Indies.

And the loss of West Indianness shows in our teams, as petty jealousies arise in selections, in captaincies, and in team loyalties.

So, for pride, for development, and for the good of the game, let us put West Indies Cricket to rest, and look to the future glory of Jamaica, Barbados, TT, Guyana, and other Caribbean nations developing their own teams and glory. I believe we will all become stronger for this.

In the world of football — over 200 member nations — three Caribbean nations have reached the Finals: Haiti, Jamaica and TT.

In Europe, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Balkans created several new powers in football. So let us consider our future as separate cricket nations.

If this column does not create an outcry in defence of retaining the West Indies, that alone should tell us that it’s time to call it a day, Windies.

And thanks for the memories.

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