Tripped by globalisation

 

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Category: International 15 Apr 07

 

“Two things strike you. The first is that, with the exception of Brian Lara, it is difficult to imagine anyone even remembering the names of the players of the past decade, let alone naming things after them.

 

“Second, that one of the most amazing things about the decline of West Indian cricket is the heights it reached in the first place.

 

“In terms of size and population, most of the islands are little more than big towns with flags and anthems.

 

“The spectators sit in three stands bearing the names of legends: Hall and Griffiths; Worrell, Weekes and Walcott; Greenidge and Haynes. What makes the event more poignant is that this great past is so recent in years and yet so distant in talent. Most of those players they are nostalgic for are still alive.

 

“Now, as the West Indies host the World Cup—a tournament they were the first to win, in 1975—they rank eighth of the 11 one-day nations, ahead only of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

 

“The most popular theories explaining this dismal state of affairs include reckless youth, incompetent management, greedy players, inter-island rivalry, cable television and economic decline. But one consensual strand underpins them all. It's not just about cricket.”

 

British commentator Gary Younge in the March 23-29 issue of the (UK) Guardian Weekly: You know what Brian? We are sorry too. Just like you, we realised too late, that possessing a disproportionate amount of talent for the tiniest cricketing nation in the world is no longer enough. Our cricketing legends did their job. They understood that it wasn’t about the cricket.

 

During colonialism, “the crease,” Younge writes, “was the one place where blacks and whites could interact with some semblance of equality. Aspiration for social change was being contested on the playing fields of the Caribbean.”

 

Younge writes, referring to the 70s: “Test matches between the West Indies and England were not about sport. They were about resistance against racism.

 

“About not accepting that we were ‘inferior.’”

 

The era of globalisation took us down. Younge blames it on the American influence, basketball, the attraction to “quick and fast” games. But we know better.

 

Road map

 

What took us down is what keeps us down, not just in cricket, but in manufacturing (under-trained workers mopped up by make-work programmes); in health (our spending is among the lowest in the region); in education (more than 40 per cent of our people are functionally illiterate) and in the use of our oil wealth (favouring buildings over savings and infrastructure).

 

It’s not just about the cricket. Cricket is the window to our national psyche.

 

It’s the road map that tells us where we are. Even those who don’t understand the nuance of the game must bow to its power. It binds five million people.

 

It allows us an emotional regional base from which we can build a regional identity. As the fire of globalisation and capitalism grazed the revolutionary spirit from Lithuania to Laventille, to the ground, making it all about the money, cricket became a professional sport, unfortunately for us, now, a sport for first world nations.

 

It can’t be any coincidence that it took us six or seven years before we began to decline because it took that long for Australians and New Zealanders cricket academies to ripen; their long-term grooming of players and training began to kick in.

 

Younge asks: “Just as with bananas and sugar, the question is: Will cricket adapt or die?”

 

The West Indies battled colonialism and racism but are tripped up by globalisation because we’ve allowed our party gene, with no-one giving a hundred per cent, being asked or being expected to give the best in any field, to win.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur