Vaneisa: “We curse off the WI cricketers for being us”—a case of us and them

EPL Infrafred Sauna

We can divide the discussions into two. The internal, what’s happening inside the body of West Indies cricket, its circuitry; and the external, the factors contributing to its current state.

It’s really an analogy for the state of our region. Everything applies to what’s happening in our societies. We have to stop referring to our athletes and delinquents—not just our cricketers—as a group existing in some kind of exclusive planetary bubble, impervious to the conditions of our time.

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite (left) and teammate Tagenarine Chanderpaul chase runs during a Test contest with India in July 2023.
(Copyright AFP/ Getty)

These are mostly young people who, more often than not, have come up in environments of hardship. Typi­cally, some relative stretched themselves thin in order to let the cricket blood flow.

Yes, we complain that this generation is deeply hued by a puzzling sense of entitlement—feeling that the world owes them, without ­acknowledging what an absolutely ­arbitrary creature this thing called life is.

But do we consider that if there was a time when that was not the norm, how has it become so? Everything has a root.

In the case of our current cricket, it is a superficial response to single out the poor performances on display, as distressing as they are, and to beat up the players. It has been 21 years since West Indies have won a Test against India. The decline began manifesting itself since then.

If we feel it has reached the lowest now—one commentator from India said the team should no longer be playing Tests and it was at the lowest in all three formats of the game—then we cannot pretend we did not see it coming.

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)

It would take more space than I have (though I intend to keep going on this subject) to go into details, but I would dearly like to encourage a discussion about the state of our cricket that is focused on solutions, not blame. We have a way of being crass in our criticism, hurling insults that do more damage than good.

It is natural that when people are disappointed, they vent, but we live in a time when social media allows every level of crudity to make its way into the public space. What impact does that have on the psyche of the players?

As is the tiresome norm, after the humiliating defeat in Dominica, the belittling jokes about the West Indies team began circulating. I cringe at them, considering them a form of ­domestic violence. It only contributes to the trauma that haunts every aspect of our society.

Are West Indies now at their lowest point?

We’ve come from a past replete with horrendous examples of humankind’s barbarity. We cannot ­ignore the impact.

That complex past has led to a multitude of coping mechanisms. There are those who have devoted their creative energies into building magnificent edifices that remain inspiring reminders of what we can be. There are those who trap themselves inside the paralytic framework of victimhood.

There are those who adopt airs of braggadocio, of indifference, and complacency. There are those who have learned not to trust anything or anyone. There are those who don’t care if Monday falls on a Friday as long as they can fulfil their hedonistic desires.

When the second case of mpox was announced in this country, one of the television stations asked people if they were concerned about it. A woman said she was a Trini, and Trinis don’t care about these things as long as they could have a good time. She was not going to take any precautions.

It summed up a prominent characteristic of this society.

The lesions from monkeypox are similar to those from a smallpox infection.
(Copyright Getty Images)

We love to proclaim the party mentality of our culture; it is truly a national boast. But we savagely attack our regional citizens when they demonstrate our vaunted traits. So we curse off the cricketers for being us. We distance ourselves as if we are merely onlookers.

We call people cockroaches and arrogate unto ourselves the authority to stamp them out. The barrage of crime that is terrorising everyone has its roots somewhere, doesn’t it?

Are we asking ourselves why this violence has erupted so mercilessly? Are we asking what has led to this brutish mental state?

Thugs guard the headquarters of gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” or “Babekyou” Chérizier in Port-au-Prince.

I’m not straying from the cricket here. I am talking about a pervasive condition that has taken over the way we conduct our lives. There are many factors: trauma, mistrust of public institutions and private corporations, physical and mental abuse, and the sense of inequity are just a few.

Our education system has failed in the most catastrophic way. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in trying to make the case for local government reform, spoke about the colonial irrelevance of the current structure and its paralysing effect on municipal corporations.

It is true of the archaic education system that leans heavily on providing certification, but does not teach the skills required to cope with living. History has disappeared as a subject on the school curriculum; the primary schools used to have a social studies component; those elements that contribute to developing a sense of identity have been obliterated.

A satirical take on books.

Reading is dismissed, and it seems boys particularly have been encouraged to see it as a sissy pastime—maybe in the way mathematics was ­depicted as being too difficult for girls to master.

Functional illiteracy is a plague, and I will come back to it. Students are not being given the tools to analyse situations, and that is a core weakness for our players. I will have to continue this.

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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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One comment

  1. Glad to read someone of the same view. The contentious politics of our region has created a culture of division that has obliterated the chance to create the unity paramount for the Carry-beyond to succeed.
    Even the ones who’ve benefited the most give so little back in return.
    The “every man for himself” mantra is wrecking the “West Indies”.

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