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The West Indies Death Wish
Fragmentation of the once mighty West Indian Cricket Team mirrors the disintegration of the West Indian nation
By Mike James, Catholic Standard
The Editor of the Prestigious Wisden Cricketers Almanac Scyld Berry, in an article in Wednesday’s UK Daily Telegraph writes:”West Indian cricket seems to have a death wish, to judge by the inability of its administrators and players to pull together. Not even the ultimate humiliation of being beaten at home by Bangladesh has sparked any common sense, purpose or sanity.”
In the article, which unsurprisingly headlined the sports pages of regional newspapers such as the Trinidad Express and Guyana’s Stabroek News, Berry said that while he felt that the West Indies might assemble “decent” teams for World Cups and Twenty20 tournaments, their incompetence at Test level “is now a sorry fact.”
In that case, he asserted, “it might prove better for all concerned, in the long run, and after a painful separation, if the West Indian territories were to do what Trinidad proposes”, which would have each WI territory compete as a separate unit.
Test cricket would then be restructured into at least 2 divisions with Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka in the first division. Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, T&T, and perhaps a combined Leeward/Windward Islands would join the Second Division. “National, not regional, pride would become the driving force, with the aid of governments and without the West Indian Board getting in the way.” Even in Trinidad where the idea of breaking up the WI team was first publicised it has been recognized it would take Trinidad and Tobago on its own perhaps up to 15 years to reach the standard to compete genuinely with the top tier teams.
Perhaps the most damning statement in the article, only echoing the comments up and down across the region since the collapse of the West Indian Federation 45 years ago, was this, “Only a common culture has held the Anglophone West Indian territories together, and this no longer appears to be strong enough. All other Test teams have been, and are, nation states.”
What has happened to West Indian cricket over the last 15 years is merely symptomatic of what has happened to almost all our regional institutions. CARICOM has become such an empty shell and a mere talk shop that the people of the region no longer expect any of their summits to produce either statements or implementation that will make any appreciable difference to their lives.
For example Article 45 of the revised (1989) CARICOM Treaty of Chaguaramas states that:
“Member States commit themselves to the goal of the free movement of their nationals within the Community”.
Furthermore, in Article II, Respect for Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, of the Charter of Civil Society, the following is included as one of the fundamental human rights and freedoms:
“Freedom of movement within the Caribbean Community, subject to such exceptions and qualifications as may be authorised by national law and which are reasonably justifiable in a free and democratic society”.
The CARICOM Website notes that notwithstanding the above, the Conference decided to implement free movement of skills in a phased approach, but the ultimate goal is free movement for all.
In fact the recently introduced CARICOM Skills Certificate allowing free movement and residence for UWI graduates and certain skilled personnel in music, sport and media workers only applies to a very small percentage of CARICOM nationals, and still has not been fully implemented by some territories such as Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados, according to the CARICOM Web Site.
On the other hand, for example, some 4,000 work permits for construction workers mainly out of Mainland China have been granted by the Trinidad and Tobago government over
the past two years. On Saturday 1 August while thousands of Trinidadians joyfully celebrated the public Emancipation Day holiday, hundreds of hard hat Chinese workers slipped across the huge Emancipation parade to go back to work on the massive Creative Arts Cultural Complex being constructed just off the Queens Park Savannah. No public Emancipation holiday for them. A common Caribbean culture is not strong enough to advance free movement for the majority of ordinary hardworking people in the region, if Chinese labourers will work on Public Holidays and live like indentured labourers in male-only barracks for rock bottom salaries.
The University of the West Indies is a shadow of the premier regional institution it was in the sixties and increasing the campuses respond to the special needs of the territories where they are located, rather than to the needs of the region as a whole.
CANA the high quality Caribbean News Agency respected internationally which helped bring Caribbean people ever closer on a daily basis came, had its heyday and has gone, a victim of insular interests and the domination of foreign based TV news channels like CNN and BBC for whom Caribbean people are passive recipients rather than creative actors.
Even at the religious ecumenical level the Caribbean Conference of Churches now exerts far less influence than it did, locally, regionally and internationally in the years immediately after its 1973 establishment. Our common Caribbean religious culture is not strong enough to withstand sectarian interests
Premier Caribbean Journalist Hubert Williams recently quoted Sir Shridath Ramphal as telling Caribbean leaders 34 years ago, “The people of the Caribbean must be careful and not relax in our commitment to community. We must be careful to strengthen our bonds lest the sea which we believe is the uniting force between us becomes the instrument that increasingly separates us. We must be careful and work steadfastly to strengthen our unity, for if not, in the face of difficulties – and challenges there will be – it is into our separateness that we shall regrettably retreat.”
The leaders of CARICOM, and the people who vote to keep them there have not heeded Ramphal and now he has had to return to try to convince our cricketing “crabs in the barrel” to rescue at least a shred of dignity out of the humiliation heaped on the people of the region by incompetence, selfishness and greed of players and managers alike, and by those who consider it is proper for national Caribbean sides to play in the second division where they belong, rather than united and powerfully dominating world cricket as they did in the years of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.
At political, sport, educational, cultural and even religious levels, the region is doomed as a whole to mediocrity if we cannot sacrifice individual selfish, insular interests for the common good of the region. We rise together or sink individually. The paradox for WI cricket like all life, is that the in order to succeed we must give up our own selfish individual interests to work for the benefit of others.
St Francis gives us the solution much more simply, clearly and truly, with a completely different kind of death wish
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.