Professor Sir Hilary Beckles’ new book examines what went wrong with WI Test Cricket and how to fix it.

It was an intellectually exciting event; the launch of Professor Hilary Beckles’ latest book, “Cricket Without a Cause: The Fall and Rise of the Mighty West Indian Test Cricketers” at The UWI St Augustine campus. Hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and chaired by Dr Hamid Ghany, the engaged audience participated in a robust discourse about the collapse of West Indian Test cricket from ‘awesome to awful’. The Brian Lara-Chris Gayle leadership era was subject to deep discussion, presented by the author as a period of transition in the fundamental nature of West Indies Test culture.

The author noted that he was deeply concerned with presenting a meaningful explanation for the catastrophe in West Indian society that should not be taken lightly as it reflects the capacity of West Indians to be competitive in all facets of life in this 21st century. The collapse, he said, speaks to more fundamental issues in Caribbean civilization at this time, with cricket being a mirror image of more substantive matters.

It was the disparaging report by English cricketer commentator in December 2015, he said, that finally provoked his determination to write. Nicholas is reported to have said that the success of the Clive Lloyd-Viv Richards generation was a ‘fluke’, like a comet across the sky, to be admired and pondered but never to be seen again.

The book sets out “Ten Theories of Decline” and speaks to the changing mentality of cricketers who wish be ‘stars’ and not ‘heroes’-the former fighting for Caribbean causes and the latter driven by individualism, and personal financial accumulation at the expense of national representation.

While avoiding casting blame to any one group or interest, he explains that the fault is collective, and speaks to deep development challenges facing Caribbean democracy, such as devalued citizenship, weakening regionalism, retreat from ideals in nation building, and the extreme policy vulnerability of the region to IMF anti-social policies that undermine the poor communities that are producing the cricketers. That only West Indian cricketers are abled to reject playing for country is telling, especially given that governments and civil society impose no penalties for the rejection.

The turning point in the consciousness of the West Indies Test team came in 1998 when the Brian Lara team, on its way to South Africa, stayed in London and demanded more cash, snubbing the Mandela regime that had rolled out the red carpet for the West Indian heroes. The team got the cash and went on to lose the test series 5-0.

The two critics of the book, academic Dr Roy McCree, and Mr Garth Wattley, Sports editor, blended deep critical observations with appreciation of the framework the author provided for explaining the performance collapse.

Neither McCree nor Wattley shared the author’s view that the Jason Holder team in seeking to break from the Lara-Gayle approach by seeking balance between playing Test for country and personal wealth accumulation within the T20 format of the game, will be successful in the current environment. While the author sees in Holder the intellectual comprehension of the problem of Test Cricket, and a willingness to lead in the right direction, critics were less optimistic about their performance capacity and enabling support from cricket officials.

It was agreed by all that when President Dave Cameron’s leadership did not rise to expand and consolidate the High Performance cricket academy, but pulled away from it, it dealt a damaging blow to the future and preparation of young cricketers. That West Indians are the only Test cricketers without an academy is telling, given their obvious need for technical support and mental preparation.

Finally, the author called for the adoption of the PJ Patterson report on governance that called for the President of CWI to report on his stewardship and performance to a council of stakeholders, mirroring the model used by The UWI where the Vice-Chancellor, as leader, reports annually to a stakeholder council chaired by a Chancellor. Meaningful accountability to stakeholders, the author said, would enhance the performance of the President and the board.

Photo caption: Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles presents a copy of his book, Cricket Without a Cause: Fall and Rise of the Mighty West Indian Test Cricketers to Mr Daren Ganga, former West Indies and Trinidad and Tobago cricketer, executive chairman of the Daren Ganga Foundation (DGF) and sports ambassador. More photo available via Flickr.