Once a dominant force in world cricket, a team that won 2 consecutive cricket One-Day International World Cups and almost won the 3rd one, has failed to qualify for the ODI World Cup in 2023. The 2 time Twenty20 World Cup champions only recently failed to qualify for the T20 world cup as well. I have always been a big fan of the Caribbean way of playing cricket and the swag they bring to the sport. Their steady decline is a shocker and a disheartening one not only the Caribbean cricket fans but every cricketing fan in general. The team once showcased a formidable combination of talent, flair, and dominated world cricket with their intimidating attitude. They have struggled to maintain its past glory in the last couple of decades. The fall of the mighty Windies is inexplicable.
My first memory of the great cricketing team was watching them play, dominate and win the 1975 and 1979 World Cup on my Peripa’s (uncle) VCR tapes. Viv Richards, Greendige, Gomes, Haynes, Lloyd, Walsh, Ambrose, Lara and so many greats entertained the fans in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Ask any cricketer in that era, they would dread facing the pace bowling of the mighty Windies. Those pulls and hooks of Lara and the resilience of Chanderpaul are still fresh in my memory. I would stay up all night in India to watch India tour of Caribbean. Such was the excitement but there is hardly any now. So what could be the reason behind this steep decline?
Statistically, Windies have won only ~30% of their test matches in the past 25 years. In the last couple of decades their ODI win percentage has dropped below 50%. To make things worse their stock in T20 has also dropped alarmingly. According to me, there are many reasons behind this fall in quality. Some of them are
- Awful Management: Cricket West Indies have to take a huge blame for this sharp decline. They have been at loggerheads with current and former players many times. They have faced criticism for not being transparent, poor governance and lack of stability. The board once even threatened to pullout the players from the World Cup if they do not agree with their terms. Different board presidents had different agenda but I am sure Cricket Windies was not in their plans.
- Player Exodus: Since the advent of franchise cricket, global cricket travellers have increased especially from Caribbean cricket. Players like Russell, Naraine, Pollard started prioritizing franchise cricket that offered lucrative deals over international cricket. The best players did not play regional cricket or international cricket thereby causing a dip in quality. A recent press article reveals that Nicolas Pooran earns 8 times his International fee in just 2 months at IPL.
- Poor Infrastructure and Lack of Development : There has been hardly any investment in developing cricket at grassroot level and run academies efficiently to keep the talent flowing. There has been hardly any talent that is worthy of a discussion in the recent past.
- Impact of T20: Too much T20 has also impacted West Indian Cricket a lot. There is no patience for the players to build the innings especially in test and ODI cricket. The cricketers are either undercooked or know only one way of playing their game. There needs to be aggression but you also need to know when to slow down.
It is important to preserve the heritage of cricket and West Indies are a big part of the history. They need to find a way to reinvent the wheel and make a comeback. Rome was not built in a day and the same should be applied to West Indian Cricket. To change their fortunes, they should think long term and focus on nurturing young talent. Provide them with opportunities and resources to develop their skills. Arrange A-team tours and back the talent to come good. They must help their cricketers to find a balance between franchise cricket and International Cricket. Create a transparent system for the players and the administration to have an open conversation.
Only through proper strategic planning and a phased execution can help them regain their past glories and become a formidable force again. They should now focus on 2024 T20 which they are the hosts and build a team for 2027 starting with the India series. Comment on your favorite moment associated with West Indian Cricket or post your thoughts on the article in the comments section.