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The shock elimination of the West Indies from the T20 World Cup is still being digested by the wider population. It was the latest in a string of disappointments that have shaken the region’s faith in a game that has been at the core of our collective nationalism. The advent of T20 cricket has further weakened the West Indies brand. With less emphasis on skill and strategy, the specialist T20 cricketer is not the finished product. For its part, the West Indian T20 approach is premised primarily on big hitting. So, when that approach does not click, there is nothing to fall back on. That was so painfully evident at the World Cup.
We have commented on the role of the globetrotting T20 player in the decline of West Indies cricket. The failure to balance accumulation of wealth with national consciousness is at the hart of the matter. Understandably, the wider society which has been mired in a cycle of economic impoverishment has cheered on the boys. Consequently, the cricket authorities which initially tried to combat the bad tendencies of the players with full force have had to back-down. But in doing so, they went beyond compromise to the point of surrendering to the whims and fancies of a group of players who had long accepted their role as raw material for money-making leagues around the world.
Pollard should have never been made captain. Not because he is an incapable leader, but because he would infect the team with his non- national mentality. And this is precisely what he has done. There is a level of self-righteousness and arrogance that is disrespectful of the true meaning of West Indies cricket. The surface-like engagement does not take a cricketer into the bosom of the people or inspire a desire to take on their burden. So, when nations confront nations in a battle for pride, our cricketers are found wanting. Form is never a substitute for substance.
So, the region now braces for another dose of pre-Christmas mauling. Perhaps many people have not noticed that a squad is in Sri Lanka for a two-game Test series. Again, the selectors have chosen a squad which does not reflect the best that we have to offer. Where are Darren Bravo, Hetmyer, Lewis, Pooran, Odean Smith, Alzari Joseph and Hayden Walsh Jr? The first four are our best batters, the next two are among our fastest bowlers and Walsh is our best leg spinner. Sadly, the selectors view them as specialist white ball players—a backward position. It is clear to everyone that other countries are trying to develop more all-format players.
Where is the vision? Can somebody explain how Blackwood, Bonner and Mayers are better batters that the ones referenced above? While Gabriel has served West Indies well, it is clear that he is chronically injury prone. Such fast bowlers are encouraged to play the shorter versions where their workloads are much lighter. But not the West Indies selectors. There is a kind of predictability to our selection policy that belies the complexity of the game.
But the selectors have gotten away with flawed selection because of a lack of accountability. Our cricket bosses have never been accountable to the West Indies people who they view as simply fans—not stakeholders. And the people in turn have not demanded accountability from administrators, selectors or players. The same situation bedevils our politics. In the end we drift from one agony to the other.