West Indies, a cricket team, a conglomerate of 15 nations (Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago etc.) in the Caribbean Sea in the Central & South America, representing as a single team. To put into perspective, the distance from Jamaica to Guyana is approximately 2500Kms i.e. almost from London, UK to Moscow, Russia. Exceptionally remarkable proposition for the Board, Selectors, Broadcasters, Travel Management, Support Staff etc. to manage such a wide spread multi ethnic pool of players.
Windies Cricket Team, when you think about them, young and old, we canreminisce the aura they displayed in the 70’s, 80’s, The Champions Era,with the likes of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Michael Holding, Malcom Marshall, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts and then followed by Gutsy Era of Richie Richardson, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop in the 90’s and early 2000’s and then the Charismatic Era of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Marlson Samuels, Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine of the late 2000’s to 2016.
It is so disheartening for all the cricket lovers to witness the steep downfall in the performance and results from the peek that they once were to where they are today. The once invincibles, who gave every opposition shivers to a team in a never-ending transition, carrying an underdog tag against most of the teams, home and away. The feuds between the player’s union and their cricket board to calling off a tour in between to unceremoniously dropping many a star players to pay issues to Darren Sammy’s heart wrenching emotional speech after winning the WT20 Finals in early 2016, more reasons to feel disgraced and frightening, as we never will know if the Windies we all know and love to watch, would ever reach those heights again.
There have been glimpses of highlights in the form of ICC Champions Trophy Victors in 2004 in the ODI’s, but that success never reflected in how they fared in ODI’s in future International championships. Although, the Twenty 20 format did more good to this enigmatic group, the only team to have won the World T20 Trophy twice in 2012 and 2016. Most of Windies walk into the starting XI of franchises all around the world. But, at the same time, their TEST performance, spiraling down rapidly. Currently ranked 8th just ahead of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe
Players blame the Board and the Players’ Union representative and the communication issues and the Selectors fault the Players and drop whoever they like (or don’t like), the Coaching Staff are dismissed so abruptly and then board faults the players and the coaching staff for humiliating them by making strong comments. This seems to be a never-ending saga and more so for all of us, sitting this far away from what is the reality in the West Indies cricket, we are no one to judge and remark on who is right & who is wrong. What we can certainly do is, emphasize on their performance on the field especially on the longest format of the game (since they are competitive in the LOI’s)
Let us analyze their Test performances breaking them up into 3 periods,
The Era when West Indies dominated the world, 1975-1995/96, they played a Total of 39 Test series, a period spread across 20 years, losing only 3 Test match Series in Total. This is quite an outstanding record. When the slide started, though they were fairly competitive, in 1996-2006 by winning 11 out of 32 Test series played during this time frame. And now for the most recent past, 2006-2016, the dreadful record shows, their last series win coming way back in 2012/13 against the Kiwis, more worryingly, during this timeline, Windies, have NOT won a single series Away from home against any Top 7 Test playing nation and their last Drawn Series Away was 6 years back in 2010/11 against Sri Lanka.
Scrutinizing further, what can be noticed is the free fall which has become difficult to arrest. From a 48%-win percentage, a drop to 20%-win percentage in following 20 years combined, is quite out rageous. One can argue, if Bangladesh would have played during the 1975-1995/96 era, the Test and Series wins would have rocketed further up for the West Indians.
This is not good for the health of the game as such. Witnessing deserted stadiums in the recently concluded TEST series against India and the Day & night Test match against Pakistan receiving merely 60-100 people is audacious. The opposition teams and players would soon feel their wins and performance would be of lesser credit than they are due. Slowly, second string sides would tour the Caribbean like how it is happening against Zimbabwe. Playing against West Indies would become like a training exercise for the TOP teams to groom their ‘A’ team pool.
There is no smoke without fire, there definitely is much larger problem than what is being seen by the outside world. The question is not the players preferring to play franchise Twenty20 cricket and ignoring representing the nation in TESTS. Before it goes further down, ICC needs to take control of this and sit down with the WICB and players and find some solution. The sport does not want to see West Indies going into Test hiatus ala Kenya in the ODI’s.