Vaneisa: Caricom, cricket and culture—the conclusion of decades of decline

EPL Infrafred Sauna

It was a pleasant surprise to find myself so eager to watch the First Test match between the West Indies and India in Dominica. I embraced the prospect, knowing fully well that we were unlikely to do well against that formidable team.

I prepared for Wednesday, basically leaving the day clear.

It had been a long time since I had indulged, falling away from watching the unbearable spectacle of losses. Games were not lost simply on the basis of better performances by opponents, but by atrocious displays of poor cricket that were humiliating to witness.

West Indies batsman Kyle Mayers is bowled by Scotland pacer Chris Sole during the Cricket World Cup Qualifying clash in Harare on 1 July 2023.
(Copyright ICC/ Getty)

For seven years, I have written the annual review of West Indies cricket for the Wisden Almanack, picking up what Tony Cozier did before he died in 2016. At the beginning of this year, I wrote to the editor telling him that I could not bear to do it anymore. It had become too painful to examine each year’s worth of dismal stories.

Space was tight, so there was little room for real analysis, and documenting the events took such a heavy toll on me that I felt it was best to shed that load.

To write something of that nature means going through the records, reading match reports and commentaries, and combining them with what you have seen and adding background from a historical perspective.

It doesn’t matter if the article itself is short, it has to be an informed, comprehensive affair. Over time, you see the pattern, you see the trajectory, and it is bleak.

So, why was I so keen to see the match?

West Indies Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite.
Photo: CWI Media

I turned on the television, flipping through the usual stations, but saw nothing. I had been reading the press reports leading up to the game and there was no indication as to where it would be available for viewing. It is something that has always irked me.

Very rarely do newspapers carry the dates, times or the availability of ­coverage when they talk about games. Why not?

I tried to find information online. Nothing. The Cricket West Indies site does not stream anything, nor does it tell you where you can find it. ­After my exasperating search, I gave up and just followed the scores on the ESPNcricinfo website.

India cricketers celebrate a West Indies wicket during the first Test in Dominica.

It was a silent and ominous experience, as wickets clattered at the hands of Ravichandran Ashwin, who tallied his 33rd five-wicket feat in Test cricket.

I had to ask myself why I wanted to watch the disintegration on repeat. The answers were immediate.

I visualised the Test ground, the sun, the light, the players on the field; spectators milling about, or sitting gregariously in the stands. I thought of the commentary teams (I enjoy hearing Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose and Samuel Badree) and their chatter and how engaging it can be, even when you are arguing with their opinions.

I thought of how fascinating it is to watch the body language of the players, and to get a chance to see the technique and spirit of the younger ones, in particular. I had been keen to see the 24-year-old Dominican, Alick Athanaze, based on what I’d been hearing. These elements bring pleasure.

West Indies batsman Alick Athanaze scored 47 on his Test debut against India.
Photo: CWI Media

I didn’t see any of it and I was disgruntled. It was not until late in the afternoon as I was complaining to my cousin about it, that he told me it was available on Rush Sports on Flow’s Channel 389.

I was able to see the final over as West Indies crumbled to 150, with Athanaze making the highest score of 47 on his debut.

I am writing this on Thursday, before the day’s play begins, but I wanted to talk about this. My cousin, one of the few remaining cricket diehards in my clan, told me that he too had to search to find the channel. Like me, he was disgusted that none of the administrators nor the media thought it worthwhile to reveal that information.

CWI president Dr Kishore Shallow (left) and vice-president Azim Bassarath.
(via CWI Media)

At first, when I thought it was unavailable, I was going to write about it in the context of the laments about the decline of interest in cricket in the region. I still think it is a point worth making.

At the 50th anniversary meeting of the Caricom heads, one of the outcomes was a sub-committee to look at the state of West Indies cricket. T&T’s Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, is to be its chair.

The degeneration of our cricket has been steady for more than two decades, and the reasons are copious and, frankly, overwhelming.

Are West Indies now at their lowest point?

People offer analyses and solutions that, taken collectively, cover most of the factors. For the entire period of the slump, there have been committees and sub-committees endorsing what the cricket community has said. With much fanfare, the findings and recommendations have been announced, and then stashed away without action on the most ­substantial of the points.

Cricket West Indies, as it is currently constituted, is designed to empower local cricket boards, and they are entrenched in outdated methods of governance. Cricket has evolved, and like Caricom, the people who make decisions lack the vision to keep abreast, far less be on the ­cutting edge.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) poses with West Indies cricket legend Sir Viv Richards.
(via Dr Keith Rowley’s Facebook page)

The players themselves are culled from the very same culture that is endangering our development.

There is no simple fix. It calls for an entire overhaul of our cultural decline, both in Caricom and ­cricket. It is a subject worthy of further ­exploration, and action.

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About Vaneisa Baksh

Vaneisa Baksh is a columnist with the Trinidad Express, an editor and a cricket historian. She is currently working on a biography of Sir Frank Worrell.

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