Revata S Silva, in Island, June 2018,
There are parallel discussions in Sri Lanka and the Caribbean now. The reason is due to a common understanding that the two nations, once domineering forces in world cricket, have slid from their supremacy. Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup and since then emerged a super power across all formats. West Indies added a different taste to this gentleman’s game particularly since the 60’s and remained undisputed kings of the sport through the entire 80th decade. But both sides are now in a patchy, topsy-turvy situ.
In Sri Lanka the reasons boil down to poor administration, politicising the game, extensive commercialism and the rise of the league game, etc. There are fixing and corruption allegations too. The older generation who followed it so passionately has gone away, some say.
West Indies, a group of nations that unite only in cricket under the banner ‘West Indies,’ has somewhat different explanations. A taxi driver, Rene, whom we met in St Lucia, said it was mainly the inter-island politics that ruined the sport. “Some islands tend to favour their own players. Politics in the sport is the biggest problem,” he said.
The old, passionate followers of the game who cherished especially Test cricket are no longer with the game, said Rene portraying a similar situation in both places, Sri Lanka and the Windies.
Meet David Harris –
David Harris is a veteran journalist from Barbados, a native Barbadian, who is from this islet of cricketing giants. Barbados is so small that one can drive across the island in less than an hour but such a small place producing nearly 80 West Indies cricketers is phenomenal. And, roughly, one-eighth of them are all-time greats of the sport!
Harris who presently writes cricket to ‘Barbados Today’ has different opinions on our topic: the reasons for Windies’ cricket downfall. “Politics and inter-island clashes is only part of the problem. Only a minor part. I think after the 1990s, West Indies could not change according to the needs of the time. The other countries studied how to beat us. They turned to a more professional approach. But we did not change. That was the main reason,” said Harris, hinting some complacency as a reason for their fall from supremacy after eras of Lloyd and Richards.
“There is the same following for the sport. But the younger generation prefer the shorter formats. The Kensington Oval is full for T20 matches,” he argued. Is an island like Barbados dominates West Indies cricket. It has seven players including the captain in the present XI. There are about 15 Caribbean cricket playing islands.
“We’ve done so well because we’ve been ruled by the Englishmen who brought us cricket. In some islands there was either French or Portuguese influence. That’s why Barbados has such a rich cricketing history,” negates Harris the point people like Rene of St. Lucia makes on the current situation of Windies’ cricket.
Politicising is relevant to Sri Lanka’s situ as well but this ‘inter-island competition’ is something essentially Caribbean, like Calypso, for us!