Tuesday, April 23, 2024

We gave cricket brand to world


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IN ORDER TO SOLVE any problem, a true interpretation within its historical context is important and this statement aptly applies to Barbados and West Indies cricket.

Frank Worrell’s team of 1961 in Australia ushered in a special brand of cricket that was distinctly Barbadian and West Indian. This superior brand ruled the cricketing world from that series until its sudden demise in the 1990s.

Testament to the popularity of this brand is the very fact that large crowds around the world flocked to see the West Indies; in 1963 and 1966 long queues waited from early morning to see the exponents of this brand, for just like Pele and Garrincha introduced ginga football to the world, Worrell, Weekes and Walcott introduced and perfected this brand with the special technique of “driving inside-out”, “driving outside-in” and driving the ball on top of the bounce.

The West Indies first defeated England in England 1950, but lost in 1957 due to an arbitrary change in the LBW rule. They returned to their winning ways in 1963 and 1966. 

So superior and popular was this brand that England changed the county qualification rule, enticing the iconic master Sobers and his batting rival Kanhai among other West Indians to join the county circuit.

It should be noted that none of our great batsmen – Worrell, Weekes, Walcott, Kanhai, Hunte, Sobers and Nurse – had played county cricket before 1968. And yet they were consistently beating England in England. It is rather illogical, therefore, to maintain that the West Indian finishing school was county cricket. It is even more laughable to suggest that the low standard of the English league was vital in the development of this brand. Again to emphasise the point, five of the main players of the triumphant 1976 West Indies team – Gomes, Fredericks, Holding, Rowe, Daniel and King – had neither county or league experience. 

Moreover, it must be stressed that all the West Indian players, up until the demise of West Indian cricket in the 1990s, were the central figures, the leaders and teachers in their county teams – Sobers of Nottinghamshire, Clive Lloyd of Lancashire and Desmond Haynes of Middlesex to name but a few. Yet it behoved Micky Stewart to insist that county cricket was the finishing school for West Indies.

 Cricketing teachers

Some West Indian players and commentators, cocooned in a certain frame of mind, repeat this statement for they cannot come to terms with the idea that they could be the cricketing teachers as opposed to being seen as the students in England during that period. 

This negative mindset brought with it an equally negative outcome in that the West Indies Cricket Board did not demand a fair share of the profits during this period of dominance, neither did the players insist on just rewards for their service to county cricket.

Some of these players claimed that England taught them how to refine their technique. But words are important and so my reply is that their technique was already refined, but they had to adapt themselves to new conditions. 

This is also true of Indian or Australian circumstances. This adaptability was possible because they had a refined technique in the first place; an example of this being Doug Walters – he did not have the technique so he could not adapt to English conditions.

The greatness of the West Indies team sprang from a strong centre, Barbados. In fact, Barbados during that period of dominance had become the de facto centre of world cricket, so much so that Australia began to state openly that a series against the West Indies was more important than England.

The Barbados Cricket League and Barbados Cricket Association teams, plus, according to Imran Khan, the strong inter-regional cricket, were our cricketing finishing schools. 

We should restructure the game, aggressively promoting and playing cricket, first and foremost in all primary schools. Some secondary schools around the island should be considered cricket academies.

Our youth should be shown videos showing that we gave a brand of cricket to the world. This, no doubt, would inspire them.




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