Cricket lost in paradise

On a few things in the disparate lands that form the Caribbean all are agreed. Their cricket team is rubbish, the game is in crisis and it cannot be allowed to continue. They have been agreeing on this for 15 years and the continuation has been virtually unchecked.

Examinations of the state of the game, which are regular and earnest, are not so much obituaries as descriptions of a dead man walking. It probably makes it more miserable that way, and if anybody thought it would really be a mercy killing there might be a case for sporting euthanasia.

Another point yielding universal accord at present is that the West Indies will lose the forthcoming Test series to England and thus extend to 14 the number of series they have gone without a win. Back in 2004 they managed to beat Bangladesh.

What makes this run more dreadful is the legendary sequence that came a little while before, the one between June 1980 and May 1995, when the West Indies went 29 series without losing, winning 20 of them. That was at least a cricketing generation ago, and 82 players have represented the West Indies in Test matches since with an increasing lack of success. The one-day arena which has occasionally sustained them is no longer doing so: of their last 24 matches from the start of 2007 only six have been won.

The last hurrah was almost exactly 10 years ago when a team obviously already on the skids somehow managed to repel Australia. In one of the epic series, featuring repeatedly miraculous batting exhibitions by Brian Lara, they managed to draw 2-2. Since then, virtually nothing, and if there has been the odd false dawn it has been easily recognisable for what it is.

Cricket, it seems, after a couple of weeks here, is still in crisis if it is not a shambles. The inertia which has dogged the sport for more than two decades shows no signs of being eradicated. Successive boards have been lambasted for not doing enough and have been followed by boards which have not done the same amount.

Ricky Skerritt was the team manager of the West Indies for four years between 2000 and 2004 and is now a senator and Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture in the small Leewards Island nation of St Kitts & Nevis. He is as aggrieved and alarmed as everybody else that the decline shows no sign of stabilising and that leadership from the centre remains moribund.

“Everywhere, you have problems with club structure, association management and the whole infrastructure of cricket is going downhill,” he said. “It's a problem at local level but the problem at central level doesn't help that because the central West Indies board is constantly talking, talking, talking and not doing. In addition the selection policy has a total randomness about it. Psychologically for this region this is a very hurtful experience.”

Cricket could still be the glue that binds together an eclectic region. It is true that it is not being played at the same level as it was before. The anecdotal evidence is grim. Go anywhere in the sub-continent from the back streets of Multan to the maidans of Mumabi, or indeed in parts of rural England and impromptu games of cricket are to be seen. In the Caribbean, except where there are Asian communities, they are not.

There are abundant reasons: a losing team, ill conceived development programmes, the so-called American influence and as Sir Garfield Sobers pointed out in these pages a while back the changing culture which sees kids, like kids everywhere, using their time in different ways, such as watching telly and playing computer games. But there are no coaches because there are no coaching programmes. Junie Mitchum, for instance, who played for St Kitts & Nevis against England this week is about to become a level three coach purely because he took his badges in England while playing club cricket there.

Solutions have been offered at a rate to match the losses. The trouble is that none has been implemented. It is a mystery in so many ways because as Skerritt said: “It's a horses and courses situation. If you look back at the successive presidents of the West Indies Cricket Board they have all been good people, people who are care and are capable who have come in with the intention of getting things done and generally have been frustrated by a bureaucratic system.”

The latest presidential incumbent is Dr Julian Hunte, a highly decorated businessman and statesman from St Lucia, and so far there is no real sign that he has been any more effective than his predecessors. The same goes for Dr Donald Peters, the chief executive, who has already been suspended once. There is a row at present - it is one long row in one long blame game while the team somehow keeps turning up - about the fate of a report into Caribbean cricket which was compiled after an inquiry led by P J Patterson, the former long-serving Prime Minister of Jamaica.

It would be difficult to think of a heavier hitter than Patterson to conduct a forensic examination of the ills affecting the game and come up with some answers. In cricket report writing terms he is probably the Sir Vivian Richards of the business - to summon up one of the long gone legends.

Patterson's report, more than 100 pages long, was unwieldy in places but it was thorough, painstaking and brutally honest. It delved into the history and said what should be done in the future. Since it was commissioned by the WICB - or at least one of its former presidents - there might have been the possibility that something would have been done about it. A few days ago Patterson felt obliged to break his silence after months of inaction. At its most basic he wanted to know what the hell was happening, though he put it more eloquently in a letter to the board.

“After more than a year, the people of the West Indies are still in the dark as to the outcome of your deliberations and the consequent fate of our report,” he said. “As presently structured the WICB, as trustees, has no obligation to account for its decisions and actions to stakeholders. Unless extensive changes are made to the existing governance structure and soon, we fear the eventual demise of cricket, lovely cricket. We have no interest in embroiling West Indies cricket in more controversy but we can no longer remain silent.”

The inquiry was emphatic on issues ranging from the establishment of cricket academies first suggested 20 years ago to player education. It remarked on player indiscipline, the failure to modernise administration, the corrosive effect of other sports.

It also urged some blue skies thinking, which should not be out of the question given the surroundings here, suggesting how the game might become a major tourist attraction (witness the hordes of England fans who will descend on Antigua and Barbados next month) and that cricket links could be formed with China which already does business with governments in the region.

The WICB responded to Patterson's complaints quickly but did not directly address them. Nothing continues happen. The academies, for instance, vital to player progress, appear as far away as ever. The Board has repeatedly made a hash of things. Short of real cash because there is no regional television station big enough to pay the sort of fee that keeps the English game afloat, it still manages to upset would-be benefactors.

They have a draft plan of their own, supposed to run from 2008, but it remains a draft. Precious little has been done about enacting it. The lack of a cohesive strategy seems to be repelling the American billionaire Sir Allen Stanford whose establishment of a domestic Twenty20 tournament - later complemented by the infamous Super Series with the $20m winner take all match featuring England last year - seemed to offer financial salvation. Instead the WICB got into a mess, desiring Stanford's millions but wondering how to embrace him and upsetting their official sponsor Digicel into the bargain. Stanford is expected to jump any day.

They have had repeated clashes with players, who remain prone to gross indiscipline, but deal with them ineptly. No recent statement remains truer than that given by Chris Gayle not long after he assumed the West Indies' captaincy. “The WICB say they want the best out of the players but we also need the best out of the board.”

West Indies can still compete after a fashion and in Shiv Chanderpaul they have one of the wonders of the age. In the last two years of Test cricket, over 13 Test matches, he has averaged 104. It has been a tour de force of broad shouldered batsmanship, and it deserves its reward in the next few weeks.

And it should not be forgotten that in one important respect the region has improved. The 2007 World Cup, so disappointing in so many ways, at least saw the erection of new stadiums, albeit too inaccessible in some places. But it is truly something to build on.

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Shami Chakrabarti
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker