Cricket: Ultimate test of love for a cricket nation

Tony Cozier looks back on a week when football stole the applause in Jamaica

It has been a week of contrasting emotions for the sporting people of the West Indies. Beyond themselves with joy on Sunday at Jamaica's qualification for next year's football World Cup, the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to cross the Rubicon of the world's most popular sport, they were dumbfounded on Thursday by the West Indies cricket team's heavy defeat by Pakistan in far-off Peshawar. It was a significant juxtaposition.

Cricket is the one endeavour by which the small former British colonies have collectively made their name in the world. Although there have been individual successes in track and field, principally by Jamaicans, no other sport has come close to matching cricket's record. The Jamaican footballers, for instance, are still only 39th on Fifa's most recent world rankings and Trinidad and Tobago 58th.

As CLR James so pointedly established in his classic book Beyond A Boundary, cricket was pivotal in the social and political development of the region and has provided a path to fortune and fame for those who otherwise would have been confined to a humdrum existence.

Efforts at a political federation have long since foundered on the rocks of petty insularity. But while the proliferation of separately independent mini-states have created their own flags, anthems, United Nations seats and sports teams, West Indies cricket has remained intact through thick and thin, uniting the diverse people through its sheer excellence. Between 1980 and 1995, the side did not lose a single Test series. They have not been beaten by England for 29 years.

But attitudes are changing and cricket's status is being challenged, if not undermined, by the appetite of modern youth for more exciting ways to expend their energies.

The omnipresent satellite television that provides blanket coverage of American football, basketball, and baseball and soccer from Europe and Latin America feeds that craving. In contrast, impoverished terrestrial channels in the Caribbean cannot afford to counter such competition with coverage of the West Indies overseas. Not a stroke of the Peshawar Test was seen on local screens.

So it is not the best of times for cricket to suddenly find itself in crisis. And it is in crisis. The debacle in Pakistan was symptomatic of the bickering that has wrecked attempts at West Indian unity in other areas.

No team boasting Brian Lara, acknowledged as one of the finest batsmen of the day, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who averages in excess of 50 in Tests, and Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, two great fast bowlers, each with more than 300 Test wickets to their name, have a right losing by an innings to any opposition. They have done so twice this year - the other occasion was to Australia in Adelaide in January - as well as struggling against the modest opposition of India and Sri Lanka at home.

The truth is that deep divisions have surfaced both in the administration of the West Indies Cricket Board and the team itself. Before the WICB's semi- annual meeting earlier this month, the Trinidad and Tobago Board, one of its six affiliates, furious at the decision to reject the selectors' recommendation of Lara, a Trinidadian, as captain in favour of the incumbent Walsh, charged there was "a plot to destroy Lara at all costs" and that "West Indies cricket administration is heading in the wrong direction".

There has been disquiet in the rest of the Caribbean as to what is perceived as the "Jamaicanisation" of West Indies cricket while a frosty relationship has developed between Walsh and Lara, the captain and the vice-captain. According to those on the spot in Pakistan, it was clearly evident during the First Test last week.

Xenophobia is never far from the surface in small societies and it does not sit too easily with other WICB members that the president, the businessman Pat Rousseau, the director of coaching, Reg Scarlett, and the marketing executive Chris Dehring, each appointed in the last year and a half, as well as Walsh and "A" team captain Jimmy Adams, are all Jamaican. Or that Red Stripe, "the great Jamaican beer", stipulated that the finals of the annual limited-overs tournament it sponsors be held exclusively in Jamaica for each of the five years of the deal.

In contrast, Jamaica's achievement in football has been greeted with universal jubilation. It may be an individual territory, but it is seen elsewhere as a triumph for the entire Caribbean, as the great deeds of the West Indies cricket teams under Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards used to be.

It might just be an early sign that the Sobers, Lloyds and Richards of the 21st century, instead of smashing a small red leather ball around the cricket stadiums of the world, will be kicking a somewhat larger one instead.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam