In the 1970s and 80s, West Indies cricket was revered for their dominant performance in world cricket, across Tests and ODIs. They had the batting and bowling line-up to instill fear in the opposition’s camp. They won two consecutive World Cups in 1975 and 1979 before losing the third title in 1983 World Cup to Kapil Dev and his men.
They, however, continued to be a force to reckon in both the formats in those days. They had heroes in Sir Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, among others who inspired a generation of players in Brian Lara, Shivanarine Chanderpaul who continued the legacy forward.
But over the last couple of decades, West Indies cricket has been on a continuous decline, with just falling short of an embarrassment. Although they have not done badly in limited-overs cricket so far, winning two World T20 titles, they have been saddled with many issues that have cut short their progress and growth in world cricket.
Cricwizz takes a look at possible reasons for the decline of West Indies cricket.
Infighting between players and West Indies cricket board
West Indies players and their board have been fighting for long over contracts. It has also affected players’ commitment to the national team so much that they have refused to play on tours and even went to the extent of withdrawing from the series midway.
In 2014, West Indies cut short their tour of India due to pay dispute with the board. Before that, seven players had missed a Test match against South Africa due to contractual row.
Although West Indies cricket board has time and again mentioned they will sort out the contractual woes, the players seemingly are not happy with the money offered to them. Certain reports say that they have been offered less than Ranji players in Indian cricket.
Darren Sammy, who led West Indies to second World T20 title in 2016 in India, poured his heart out against the unfair treatment and injustices meted out by the boards to its players. Sammy has not played a single international match for West Indies since then.
Better offers from domestic T20 events
In the wake of the financial dispute with the West Indies cricket board, the players get lured by the money offered by the cash-rich T20 events. And the players feel best to ply their trade for these domestic T20 tournaments and secure their future financially rather than get entangled in the contractual row with the board and the inadequate compensation offered by them.
Hence, the likes of Chris Gayle plays for T20 teams across the cricketing world, while a second-string West Indian side battles tough opponents away. And the second-string side produces farce cricket with Test matches involving West Indies getting wrapped up inside two to three days.
West Indies are a group of islands, national patriotism is missing
If the contractual row or the T20 tournaments are not luring the players away, the lack of national unity is missing among the Caribbean players. West Indies are made up of a group of islands which boasts of different culture and customs.
Uniting them to play for a common team and cause is not an easy task and hence, they lack the national fervour when playing for West Indies. Earlier, they were leaders such as Clive Lloyd who kept the team together, but the West Indies have stopped producing fine talent and leaders to keep the flock together.
Hence, you see no guilt involved when West Indies cricketers play for IPL, BPL, when their national teams plunge into one humiliation to another.
Poor first-class infrastructure
It’s a truth that West Indies have stopped producing exceptional talents that went on to rule the cricketing world. After the Laras and Chanderpauls, there have not been any extra-ordinary batsmen to rule the batting charts. And their fast bowling stocks have diminished post the retirement of Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose.
What they are producing now is T20 format cricketers who enjoy the lucrative T20 offers, the adulation and the instant gratification of the shortest format of the game.
They are no longer interested in grafting it out or have a stomach for a fight in more testing ODIs and Test cricket.
The lack of a proper first-class infrastructure has also contributed in producing technically poor West Indian cricketers. With visa regulations being strict to play in county cricket, it has added to the decline of West Indies cricket.
Other financially-better sports in the Carribean
There was a time when cricket was the top sport in the Caribbean, but not anymore. Although there have been few followers of West Indies cricket even now, the numbers have diminished to the extent that Amercian sports such as baseball, basketball have taken over cricket. They offer better financial incentives than cricket in the Caribbean.
It’s sad to see that the nation which produced greats such as Lloyds, Richards is struggling to produce a decent cricketer in the international circuit.