Under normal circumstances, you’d struggle to be well represented if 12 of your top players suddenly announced that they were unavailable for an imminent tour. But with the world in the throes of a global pandemic for the last year, January/February 2021 is anything but normal.
So, unsurprisingly, Sir Clive Lloyd has penned a missive to the two replacement squads the CWI has been able to cobble together at short notice and dispatch to Bangladesh.
You may be second string players, he implies, but ‘you’re not second-class cricketers. You can step up to the plate’.
Who among us does not understand what WI cricket’s most successful captain is seeking to achieve with his open letter to the depleted aggregations now in Bangladesh? But who among us really rates his chances of success—or theirs—very high? Not I.
For starters, unless Sir Clive had the presence of mind to send a video, an audio tape or a long voice note, he’s off on the wrong foot; his would-be communication has a good chance of remaining dead letter.
That’s not cricket; it’s a generational thing. I can cite no erudite research paper to support my claim; it is but a gut feeling backed by over a decade of first-hand experience teaching essentially millennials and Gen Z-ers.
Their forte is watching and listening. Reading and understanding? Not so much.
And there’s more. On the basis of ‘inputs on exciting talent from 15 coaches, players, scouts, analysts and observers from around the world’, the June 2020 Cricket Monthly listed 20 players ‘who will dominate the next decade’.
The only West Indian among them is Jayden Seales. And although there was no limit to the number of cricketing heroes each selected player could choose, Seales was the only player to name a West Indian, Curtly Ambrose, as his.
The world, Sir Clive, has moved on. For the world, this is the Age of Media, for cricket, the Age of the Mercenary. The magnetism of cricket’s mystique is no more; money is the new magnet. Appeals to abstracts and intangibles are mostly a waste of breath.
But still Lloyd writes, in 2021, that ‘you should be proud to wear the West Indies blazer and cap. You are representing one of the best cricketing nations which possesses an enviable record of which we are very proud’.
Yes, in the present tense, ‘possesses’ and ‘are’.
It is 2021. For years, WI have been in the lower reaches of the rankings and are currently ranked 8th in Tests and 9th in ODIs. Frankly, the team’s 21st Century record is an embarrassment. The records of which we remain very proud are Brian Lara’s unbeaten 400 and 501 as well as his team’s 418 in the fourth innings to defeat Australia.
None of those, alas, dates from the last 15 years. So it won’t be too long before an entire generation has only heard about the West Indian winning habit, of which Sir Clive is duly proud.
But he knows that, doesn’t he? His letter also says this: ‘You have the opportunity to […] instil some pride again in the standard of our cricket.’ (emphasis mine.)
And is equating the situation of the squads currently in Bangladesh with the team that he took over in 1974 anything more than a false equivalence? True there were a number of ‘untried players’. But who ever contemptuously dismissed Lloyd’s 1974 bunch as a second string and got away with it?
When Sir Clive says glibly that his team ‘eventually emerged on top’ (emphasis mine), two things occur to me. Before ‘eventually’ arrived, there was the 1975 5-1 humiliation in Australia, wasn’t there? The one seared into the brain of every WI fan alive at the time?
Is that what we have to look forward to in Bangladesh?
Secondly, before ‘eventually,’ the mid-1970s team got a transformative boost from a deus ex machina named Kerry Packer. Is it likely that IPL scouts are being dispatched to Dhaka as we speak to get a look at the exciting new prospects in the WI ODI line-up?
Imagine that Shah Rukh Khan, say, is recruiting players on the sly for a league to rival the IPL, how many of the WI squad in Bangladesh might, you think, get a call from his recruiters, Ian Chappell and Mark Nicholas?
Do you fancy the chances of the astute Kraigg Brathwaite to skipper some one of the county teams in England next season?
I hate to carp but Wired868 contributor Louis Carrington, who is probably hard-pressed to make his village’s wind ball side, argues that it is ‘lunacy’ to have the Bajan opener lead the Test team in Bangladesh.
I disagree but my sense is that it is a widely shared view, at least in T&T. Just saying.
Including his top score of 212, all three centuries the 28-year-old opening batsman has made against Bangladesh came on home turf in the West Indies.
The last of the three came more than two years ago in 2018. And after being relieved of the vice-captaincy so that he could concentrate on his batting, Brathwaite has done himself no favours by producing scores of 10, 21, 24 and 0 in New Zealand.
Furthermore, the records show that he has not contrived to secure so much as a draw in any of the five Tests in which he has been at the helm.
So ‘astute’? Hmmm… Lloyd thinks, I suppose, that, like Jason Holder, Brathwaite ‘has a good cricketing brain’. But does he remember to take it on tour with him?
Lord Nelson’s message to his troops before the Battle of Trafalgar was simple: England expects every man to do his duty. It would have been, mutatis mutandis, apposite here.
Instead, Sir Clive opted for, in the words of the Sunday Express, ‘You can do it!’
Which, I reckon, was General Custer’s stirring message to his troops before the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
We all should know how that turned out…