May 26, 2006
A nation’s pride


Events of the past week have brought much pride and joy to citizens of the Caribbean region and in the diaspora.

As a unifying force, there is nothing to compare with the pulling power of the game of cricket, which accords some semblance of nationhood to cognate beings dwelling in separate island communities that border the Caribbean Sea. We put aside insular prejudices to applaud the regional team’s success with such gusto when, only weeks earlier, following prolonged periods of frustration and depression, the team was being described time and again as lacking the killer instinct and the ability to press home an advantage. {{more}} Two consecutive wins over India in the Digicel ODI series have however given a ray of hope for the future.

West Indies cricket has been in the doldrums for some time with very little light seeming to emerge at the end of the tunnel. But our situation has parallels in history, which we can discover when we take our minds back for a while to the nineteenth century when technological advance was driven by scientific discovery. Bessemer, who invented the blast furnace, never knew the chemistry that led to his invention. He just fiddled around until something worked for him. To capitalize on this new ability, educational systems had to change to generate large numbers of scientists, engineers, technicians, etc. Culture had to be rebuilt to accept rapid technical change. The old leader, Great Britain, could not make the necessary social change and fell behind. In the first quarter of the twentieth century as economic leadership was passing from Britain to Germany and the US, research and development expenditure was several times higher in those two countries than it was in Britain. Britain was slow to adapt to the new environment and built an educational system that would generate the necessary skills to allow for systematic research and development.

Here we see a close analogy to West Indies cricket. Like Bessemer and others of his generation who depended on natural ability to tinker and produce technological advance that was not based on scientific knowledge, so organizers of West Indies cricket continued to rely on natural talent and the individual brilliance of their players. They were slow to adapt to the new cricketing revolution that was taking place elsewhere. The scientific approach that had been adopted in some countries was used to good effect to transform the modern game into a more technical and strategic endeavour. Like Britain in the industrial era, which fell behind Germany and the US, so organizers of West Indies cricket were not seized of the sea of change taking place elsewhere in the game. A little tinkering here and a little tinkering there could not address the fundamental inadequacies in our approach to the game; consequently we too have been left standing by those who have become part of the new revolution and it has taken us time to adapt to the new situation.

Speaking on the eve of the third Digicel ODI in St. Kitts, coach Bennett King remarked that we have four or five players who are among the quickest over the ground in the world. Dwayne Smith he described as a once-in-a-lifetime athlete who has no equal and he is only 21-22. He remarked that the side has got some talent that can move the place forward. What they need to work on are the discipline of cricket, training mechanisms and consistency of approach to training and playing. All of this was stated before the team’s victory in St. Kitts. Bennett King’s comments would seem to suggest that we are beginning to turn the corner.

Heartiest congratulations are in order as we encourage the team to be the best that they can be and in the process bring pride and joy to the people of the region.