UWI senior economics lecturer and PNM senator Lester Henry explains why the West Indies’ 2016 Twenty20 World Cup success was a triumph of hard work and professionalism over happy-go-lucky cricket; and not the other way around:
There is a saying, made popular by Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”, that if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything, you are bound to become a genius at it.
This forms part of the debate over hard work and practice versus natural talent.
I have never been confused by the erroneous time waster that natural talent superseded hard work and practice. The motto of my old school in Brooklyn said it all: “Nil Magno Labore”—that is, nothing without hard work!
What we just saw from the West Indies cricket team at the recently concluded World Twenty20 Championship in India was again a testimony to this simple logic.
The West Indies team did well mainly because they are mostly hard-core seasoned professionals, especially at the T20 game.
The likes of Chris Gaye, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Samuel Badree and captain Darren Sammy have played in just about every professional T20 tournament across the globe over the past few years, including the Pakistan Super League just prior to the World Cup.
Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin, are not known as T20 specialists but have played at the highest level for over 15 and 10 years respectively. In other words, this is no bunch of amateurs!
The failure of the West Indies system over the past 20 years has been the inability to transform so called “natural talent” into professional standards. So, pay close attention to what will happen to our Under-19 world champions in the years ahead.
This is the main reason why our cricket fell apart after the Englishmen booted us out of county cricket. All those who then felt that our “natural talent” would ensure we kept on winning were made to eat their misguided words. And some continue to engage in this folly even today.
The last West Indies tour of Australia highlighted the gap between a motley crew of regional amateurs and the professionalism of the host nation.
Many across the cricketing world are still trying to figure why West Indies won the Twenty20 Final.
CricInfo’s Kartikeya Date, for example, wrote an article titled: “West Indies: perfectly built for T20”, in which he attributed the West Indies’ win to the fact that “Of all the teams in the tournament, they had the deepest, most lethal six-hitting capacity.”
Even if this is true, who picked the team? How do we know this? Obviously some intelligent and experienced West Indian figured it out!
Date noted in his article that the West Indies’ combined T20 team experience was 1,703 games compared to England’s 1,136 and that a knowledgeable BBC commentator whispered to him during the tournament that “the West Indies seem to know exactly what they are doing.”
Yet, he still went on to conclude that the win was a result of simple, brute force hitting.
In my opinion, the lack of avenues for professional development of young West Indies cricketers in the region and abroad remain the major obstacle to restoring our competitiveness in the longer formats of the game.
For over 20 years, we have fielded what are essentially amateur teams against hard-core professionals from the main Test playing nations, and the results are there for everyone to see.
This group of West Indian players took the opportunity afforded by the proliferation of T20 tournaments all of the world to fine tune their skills and become almost 100 percent professional, and the results are also there to be seen.
One intriguing question that now arises is: What will we do if India throw West Indies players out of the IPL? Or Australia do the same with the Big Bash?
We will wait and see.
In the meantime: Congratulations to the West Indies team for a job well done.