Coming To Terms With The West Indies Decline

From Sriram Veera, another statement of yearning for a West Indian cricket resurgence:

The locals, both in Trinidad and Antigua, have a resigned look when talking about cricket. It’s sad, and to say as much is almost condescending. It feels wrong, especially when one is from a generation that grew up in awe of them, to write about West Indies cricket in words of pity. Reality can be cruel. More proof came through the mail this morning: Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth skipping the Test series to be ready for sterner trials in England. Wise decision, of course, but it reflects the state of West Indies cricket in some ways.

This type of story comes once every few months, and the format has almost hardened into genre. First, begin with a general lament of the current state of affairs. Second, remember how it used to be. Third, face the fork: either look at current players and offer either guarded optimism (in the past, Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Jerome Taylor; now, Pollard, Bravo(s), Roach) or resigned defeat.

Not having watched the West Indies greats (other than in polemical documentaries, i.e. Fire in Babylon), I can’t say I completely identify with prevailing sentiment. I suspect this malaise is more felt by a previous generation, and its source isn’t merely the facts on the ground — namely, the string of Test losses and mediocre players — but nostalgia. There’s also a sense of human limits: a feeling that men grow old, they leave the realm of action and the next generation does not always take its place.

That may be the most difficult element of the West Indies storyline: it runs counter to the progressive vision of history of constant improvement and a trend-line always-on-the-up. The vision of decline on display frightens older folk, but it also serves as a cautionary tale for those in the 20s (especially us Americans, currently facing the limits of power). More hardened folk would look at the West Indies’ run from 1975-1995 and say, “Such great feats are to be admired, but never repeated,” and accept history’s judgment that the small archipelago enjoyed an anomalous run.

But the fears remain: what if India cannot sustain its own brilliant run? What if we turn into Australia, now in the midst of severe infighting? What if the talent dries up? Who will fill the ranks of the next generation? Looking at the West Indies now is like studying Ancient Rome and wondering, What if our own grand works will be reduced to dust?

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4 thoughts on “Coming To Terms With The West Indies Decline

  1. Babua says:

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  2. Gaurav says:

    Boss, the glory that was West Indies cricket between ’65 and ’95 was something that only those who experienced it first hand can understand. They dominated in a way that no other team in sports has ever done, but more important was the way they dominated – they were extremely serious, driven characters gifted with enormous amounts of natural ability and athleticism and they made the best use of their talents. More important however, was the sheer sense of joy and unique style they brought to the game. Cricket was a stuffy white man’s game played with 6 sticks in the ground and 11 up the players’ asses. The Windies took the stick out. They laughed and jumped and high fived and celebrated and that joy was infectious, so that even the teams they beat could not help but feel they were part of something special, and even when they played away from home, they found a ready welcome and admiring support from crowds who came expecting to see their teams beaten by superior talent. It cannot be explained fully. Every kid of my generation in India grew up wishing to play like Richards or Greenidge or Lloyd. Nobody wanted to grow up to be Chris fucking Cowdrey that I know off. We like the Australians, we laughed with Derek Randall and admired Botham, but we revered Richards, Holding, Marshall and Garner. Even now, so many years later, I can recite the 1983 Windies team 11 from memory. I might struggle to remember the entire Indian eleven that beat them at Lords to lift our first world cup, but that Windies team I will never forget – Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lloyd, Logie, Gomes, Dujon, Holding, Roberts, Garner and Marshall. So much talent, coupled with their record of unchallenged dominance, and yet they never sledged or indulged in cheap theatrics. They were world champions who were universally loved. Held in awe, admired and feared by opponents, but never hated. Nobody loved the Australian team that featured in 4 consecutive world cup finals. Nobody loved Pakistan except Pakistanis and Imran Khan’s mirror. No one outside India loves Team India. The Windies beat you and you loved them for it. Only who saw them play can understand what World Cricket has lost.

  3. yenjvoy says:

    He he. Liked the post. Ever hear your dad or older relatives talk about Indian hockey in their time, and wondered “what the hell are these oldies talking about, our hockey sucks”. WI youth must feel same about Cricket

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