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“Why there is apathy for West Indies Cricket”
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“Why there is apathy for West Indies Cricket”

Small crowds for international cricket in Trinidad are not about lack of interest in the game, writes Shastri Sookdeo, 28, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Trinidad now living in Amsterdam, but are evidence of ongoing issues with local management of the sport.

The crowds for the 1st and 2nd One Day Internationals (ODI) featuring India and the West Indies at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad have been well short of expectations.

Granted, both games were shortened by rain, which is an inevitable consequence of the international season in the Caribbean being pushed down into the rainy season to accommodate tournaments like the Indian Premier League. But even taking that into account, the stands were largely empty.

This is quite unusual. Matches against India have been almost guaranteed to sell out when played in Trinidad. Indeed, a sizeable proportion of the older Indo-Trinidadian cricket supporters will profess equal love for the Indian cricket team or even support India over the West Indies, though the reasons for that would take an entire other article!

It always seemed nonsensical to me that Trinidadians would choose to support another team over the West Indies. While I have no particular love for the Indian team compared to other Test playing nations, I certainly would have preferred to watch India play the West Indies instead of Zimbabwe play The Netherlands, which is the only international game on offer here in continental Europe.

I would have preferred to watch West Indies play India but had I been in Trinidad, it is likely I would not have gone to the game. The game itself, where a result was possible, was quite one-sided and easily won by India. But the lack of competitiveness is not what has disappointed fans to the point of absence. In fact, this lack of competitiveness stems from mismanagement of the talent available to the West Indies team by Cricket West Indies (CWI).  It is the actions of CWI that disappoint and infuriate to equal measure.

It is extremely unlikely that the average cricket fan in the West Indies has a high opinion of the cricket board. Disputes with the CWI that have threatened to disrupt tours go back to 1998 (the board was then known as the WICB) when the team threatened to abandon a tour to South Africa due to a dispute over payment. Pay disputes have resurfaced regularly since then, causing weakened teams to be fielded during the 2005 and 2009 against South Africa and Bangladesh respectively. The most drastic action came in 2014, when West Indies abandoned their tour of India in 2014 after playing four ODIs with the ODI series still underway and the Test series to come.

While this drastic action should have served as a wakeup call – albeit a long overdue one – that change was needed, the board continued to attempt to force an unaltered contract upon the players with no negotiation over the payment dispute. This led to many players accepting the contract in order to play in the T20 Cricket World Cup, since they did not want to miss out on such a tournament. West Indies would go on to win the tournament and immediately after the win, then-captain Darren Sammy blasted the board for disrespect of the players.

Since that tournament, major stars such as Darren Bravo, Chris Gayle and Darren Sammy have not played for the West Indies in ODIs due to the CWI’s rule that players must play in the regional tournament to be considered for selection. This is a major sticking point, as the West Indian regional season clashes with the IPL where many West Indies cricketers play for a much higher salary than they would get playing in the Caribbean. It would be irresponsible of them to trade in this higher salary to play in the West Indies and the idea that they should do so to represent their regional team is ridiculous.

There is little incentive for players to play for the West Indies, especially considering the issues with payment and the inflexibility of the board. The fans are facing the prospect of watching their team having to qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup since they are now ranked 9th in the ODI table just ahead of Afghanistan. They have already seen the team miss out on the recently concluded Champions Trophy, a tournament they won in 2004 and reached the final in 2006.

The talent is present and will continue to be available. The West Indies won the Under-19 World Cup last year and it is clear, despite being one of the poorer Test cricketing regions, that the quality of players is not lacking. The quality of administration, however, is far below the standard needed to raise West Indies cricket.

photo credit: Photosightfaces The Cricket Kid via photopin (license)

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About me: I currently work as an operations analyst with a focus on  supply chain. My interests are sports, foreign languages, travel and cooking. My studies in finance have also given me a fascination for currency markets and international trade.
My ambition is to be able to travel extensively and attempt to document and describe the intricacies of the many diverse sporting and culinary cultures across the world.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/
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