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WHAT MATTERS MOST: Let’s keep building West Indies cricket

Clyde Mascoll

WHAT MATTERS MOST: Let’s keep building West Indies cricket

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IN A RECENT cricketing discussion, I suggested that the current West Indies team had turned the corner, with which most disagreed. I have never held positions based on popularity, but moreso on perspective prepared with a long dose of thought to complement empirical observation. But not all observation has to be empirical and in many cases intangibles are equally critical.
In a world excited by averages of one sort or the other, it is important to have such information available to defend or prosecute a case. But, given the emphasis placed on team, the individual averages do not always get the job done.
My recent comment on turning the corner may indeed be supported by averages, which may, however, still fail to demonstrate the improved performances of the current West Indies team on and off the field.
For fear of becoming too dependent on averages, I appeal to such issues as professionalism which by definition implies preparation and planning.
From a distance, it is evident that coach Ottis Gibson has a formula to restore West Indies cricket which places attitude above ability since the sport is about 80 per cent mental. This is understandable for many reasons but it does not require any magic to know that a cricketer who plays for the West Indies should by definition have ability which has to be refined not restructured.
However, it is not expected that the same talented cricketer possesses the mental capacity required, since this is an area that is far less God-given and more created by one’s environment. In this regard, the game needs to be taught from its intangible roots such that the lessons in the documentary Fire In Babylon remain relevant in an era of financial security which the game now offers.       
It is in this context, and this context alone, that I have severe difficulty with an attitude which elevates the shorter form of the game to a place where a cricketer proclaims that he has no interest in legacy/Test cricket. To disregard one’s history in pursuit of instant cash is to neglect the real cause which inspired regional governments to invest five years ago, beyond their means, in an activity that could not be quantified in dollar terms alone.
Once again there are those among us who are able to reduce the beauty of life to the value of the dollar and so our society is expected to be ordered, not now in accordance with privilege of birth, but in accordance with one’s access to the tangibles, without reference to the intangibles of life. What a pity!
It is also a pity that cricketers of average talent will be allowed to have above-average influence on the course of West Indies cricket, when other cricketers of no less talent are prepared not to sleep while “Rome is burning”. Do we not understand that a team is built around a philosophy? And do we not understand that the beauty in team is that the individual does not have to the best at what he does to do his best?
Given that only 11 can play, the size of the cricket team is pre-determined, the structure of the team is therefore far more critical. In the past, there were four fast bowlers. The luxury is no longer available and the truth is our pitches are no longer conducive to such lack of balance.
In the circumstances, quality all-rounders in the form of a wicketkeeper/batsman and a genuine batsman-bowler-batsman are essential requirements of any future great West Indies team. These all-rounders allow us to have five bowlers and to extend our batting. Such a structure permits four seamers including fast bowlers and a spinner. When the conditions are favourable, it is possible to play two specialist spinners.
It is imperative that such talents as Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite, just to name two, be developed in fulfillment of the task that lies ahead. Another imperative is to restructure all territorial administrative bodies to facilitate the professionalism required to deliver the preparation and planning so necessary in the restoration of legacy cricket.
Of course, the opportunities and threats to West Indies cricket cannot be elaborated on in such limited space, but, fortunately, the purpose of the game must always be reduced to its impact on the psyche of West Indian people. It’s the intangibles!
• Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokesman on the economy. Email [email protected]