Tuesday, Apr 09, 2002
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By Vijay Lokapally
The picturesque Bourda ground where the first Test between India and West Indies begins on April 11. At left is the Rohan Kanhai Stand and the Member's Pavilion is at right. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
Defeats have outnumbered triumphs in the case of the West Indies. For a team that once ruled the cricketing world, this loss of image has been a colossal dent. True, efforts are on to redeem the pride but it will take time.
The series against India should give a fair indication of the state of the game in the Caribbean. World cricket has felt the impact of the West Indian decline. Crowds that used to throng the venues to watch the West Indian brand of attacking cricket, now stay away, knowing well that the team has lost the charisma.
However, the man on the street in the Caribbean is still not ready to give up. "We beat you maan'', is the common refrain. So the Indians better watch out. The changes in West Indian cricket have been sweeping, and also painful for most of those who helped create a great cricketing history. The humiliation suffered at cricket fields the world over has compelled a distinguished cricketer like Michael Holding to refuse commentating on matches involving his team.
The present coach of the West Indian team, former off-spinner Roger Harper, believes the team has the potential. "The future of the West Indies cricket rests in the hands of the new players. I'm happy with the commitment they have demonstrated,'' he was quoted at the end of the camp at Port of Spain.
"We have a few niggles. Lara's progress is the major concern but he is coming along pretty well,'' Harper sounded confident.
The decline of Barbados
Experts in the Caribbean are convinced that the sorry of state of affairs is the result of the flow of talent from Barbados having dried. Gradually, the power of cricket in the Caribbean has shifted from Barbados to countries like Guyana and Jamaica. For the second year in running, these two nations contested the final of the prestigious Busta International Shield. Not very different from India where Railways and Baroda have figured in the Ranji Trophy final for two years now.
If Guyana won the final, it was on account of all the senior players making themselves available. Very much different from the Indian set up where the first thing a cricketer learns after becoming an international is ways to skip domestic fixtures.
The decline of Barbados is considered a major factor for the West Indies not being able to match the progress made by other nations in the world cricket. The reasons are many but nothing more prominent than the lack of talent, and also to a large extent, as many past West Indian cricketers feel, an absence of commitment. Here again, not very different from the scenario in India.
Like Kapil Dev said recently (assuming he was quoted correctly), most Indians play for themselves. Even Sunil Gavaskar has held similar views and it is time the seniors in the side took a cue from the past. It will also help them to accept the fact that cricketers like Gavaskar and Kapil were tremendous performers when playing overseas, often raising the level of their game when confronted by quality opposition.
The Indian Board has made a few strides in trying to bring in a sense of professionalism in its administration back home, but it has made itself a laughing stock by asking two of its officials,_Messrs Jyoti Bajpai and Amrit Mathur, to inspect security arrangements for the team's tour of England.
The point is not how qualified these two gentlemen are to carry on the assignment, but who has been taking such decisions, which hardly project Indian cricket in good light. In this case, a report from John Wright, who has invaluable experience of playing and coaching in England, would have been a far more meaningful exercise.
The grounds in England have a tradition to uphold, unlike many ill-maintained venues in India that offer archaic facilities to the spectators and media alike. The one which readily comes to mind is the ugly Ferozeshah Kotla where cricket is the last priority, and of course the venue in Baroda for the Ranji Trophy final last year.
Security arrangements have to be dealt with by professionals like the way it is done by the Australians and the English, who have engaged a former policeman for the job.
The Caribbean islands are known for their scenic cricket venues and the first stop for the Indians is the Bourda here. A ground more than 200 years old, the Bourda has seen some fascinating contests and nurtured famous cricketers like Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, Clive Lloyd and Alvin Kallicharan.
The stands here are generally full of spectators of Indian origin and it shouldn't surprise Sourav Ganguly and his men if they feel at home here. Five years ago, the Bourda presented the Indians a pleasant experience of a victory overseas when the home team, Guyana, lost the first-class match off the penultimate ball. It was a rare occasion for the Indians and the win came under the captaincy of Mohammad Azharuddin, who otherwise did not have a good tour.
The West Indians have set their priorities for the season. Cricket still engages the imagination of the populace in the Caribbean but it has become increasingly difficult for the administrators to get the best. For quite some time now, youngsters, in the absence of role models, have been weaned away by soccer and basketball. The distractions are many but the hopes rise from very committed quarters in the islands where people have grown listening to tales of a glorious past when cricket was a medium for the common man to express his sentiments to the colonial rulers.
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