The problems of Windies cricket run deep!
By Sir Viv Richards
Questions have to be asked now. The West Indies disappointing performance in this World Cup has been a massive disappointment to everyone in the Caribbean and the time has come for us all to take a good, long hard look at every aspect of our cricket.
Something has been missing, something has been lacking in this West Indies side. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what has gone wrong but I think of West Indies cricket as a jigsaw puzzle with too many of the pieces not in place.I had high hopes that we had a very decent chance of reaching the semi-finals before the tournament and I could even see the West Indies becoming the first hosts to win a World Cup. Sadly, with four defeats in the Super Eights after five matches, it was just not to be.
Brian Lara has done the right thing in retiring from one-day cricket in the aftermath of the defeat against South Africa and now the selectors have to think very carefully over whether he is the man to captain the West Indies in the four-Test series in England this summer.Changes have to be made if we are to progress and the leadership question is one of the issues that needs to be given serious consideration.
But it is too simplistic to believe that we could sack Lara and then everything would be alright. Problems run much deeper and the management of this side has to be called into question too. Everybody knows that Caribbean cricket is not nearly as strong as in the glory days of the seventies and eighties but there have been signs of improvement in recent times, particularly in one-day cricket, and our elimination now is a huge setback to the hopes I had that this World Cup would further invigorate the recovery of the sport in this region.
Yet what we have to do is look on this as an opportunity. Everybody involved in West Indian cricket has to assess where we are at and start to plan for the long-term health of the game here. We must decide which direction we are moving in and make the necessary changes to ensure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. I am not just disappointed with events on the field. There is no question that a lot of mistakes have been made off it too and there is a lot of finger pointing going on in the Caribbean over the poor attendances at the majority of the grounds.
The most successful sporting events are those where the prices are reachable for ordinary people and I have been very sad to see the magnificent new stadium that bears my name in Antigua less than full for all the games staged there. It really is a very impressive facility too. Yes, I know that some people have said they miss the atmosphere of the old St John’s Recreation Ground but I think that will be replicated at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground when people get used to watching their cricket there—as long as they are not priced out of going!
It’s not all doom and gloom. There has been some fantastic cricket played in this World Cup, in particular the wonderful match between England and Sri Lanka. I was also absolutely delighted when Herschelle Gibbs hit six sixes in an over for South Africa against Holland so early on in this tournament. When I launched the Johnnie Walker Six Sixes Challenge, I never dreamed that we would be handing over a million dollars to charity so soon in the competition. After all, the feat had never been achieved in international cricket before and as an advocate of attacking batsmanship I was proud to be associated with the prize that Herschelle won for this pioneering achievement, not to mention contributing to such a worthwhile charity as Habitat for Humanity in the Caribbean.
Australia, who are leading the Johnnie Walker Kings of the Boundary league with 204 boundaries after seven matches played, are the team to beat in this World Cup and it will take a very good team to stop them winning again. But there is a lot of exciting cricket still to come and we in the West Indies must overcome the disappointment of our own team now and enjoy the rest of the carnival on our doorsteps. And if anything can be done, even at this late stage, about the pricing policies then so much the better.
Editor’s Note: Sir Vivian Richards is an ambassador for Johnnie Walker, the official whisky of the ICC World Cup 2007. Johnnie Walker reminds all cricket fans to know their boundaries and always drink responsibly.