The West Indies played the opening game of the T20 series against South Africa to their optimum mental and physical capacity. In the four other games, they slinked back into their underachieving self, lacking in vitality and unable to summon the pride and panache, their legacy from previous generations.
Historian, Prof Hilary Beckles identifies the failures of West Indian society to recapture that spirit of nationhood which was the lifeblood of the Worrell, Sobers, Lloyd and Richards eras as being at the core of the precipitous decline of West Indian cricket.
Richards once said he was prepared to die on the pitch in the name of West Indian civilisation rather than back down from a contest against Lillee, Thompson and others. Hall bowled through the lunch and post-lunch period in England; Marshall with one arm did not give into the pain he was feeling; and when Tony Grieg made that remark of making West Indians “grovel”, West Indian pride and personhood were offended; the result was a demolition of Grieg and his team.
This columnist wrote at the start of the 20-plus year decline, that in the circumstances of the time when West Indian society is overcome with under-achievement, cultural dissonance and widespread deviance of the youth, there is the need for the administrators of West Indies cricket to intervene in a knowingly creative manner.
The creation of a sub-culture of excellence should be nurtured, I advocated. To use today’s terminology, our cricketers and cricket, not only at the Test and international levels but at the core of cricket organisation across the region, is in need of the creation of a socio-cultural “bubble” to avoid a COVID-19-like virus enveloping our cricket.
In the first game against South Africa, the West Indian spirit shone through in bowling, fielding and confident dominant batting. The impact intimidated the South Africans. Their team members felt what it must have been like for England, Australia, India, Pakistan and New Zealand during the period of West Indian dominance.
In the second game though, the South Africans realised what they experienced in the first T20 was a flash of brilliance that was not embedded deep in the character and culture of their opponents. They realised that if they held still while a storm raged, the storm would blow itself out. And so they did.
The Australians will be even more ruthless in discerning and exploiting the mental weaknesses and dispiritedness of this West Indian enfeebled brigade. While it is important for the West Indies to come out of the series with a good result, what coach Simmons must be hoping for is consistent performances in which the team can realise its potential in batting, bowling and fielding.
The fact is though that the underlying causes of the continuing failures of Hetmyer and Pooran and others is a socio-mental malady that needs to be cured with prolonged and professional treatment.
Contemplate how the two young batsmen got out in the last game. They did not know how to approach the chase; they had no self-discipline and know-how to conquer the situation, so they simply gave in to impulses circulating in their emotional make-up.
Cricket West Indies, with the understanding and support of all of us, need to create a bubble of Self-Realisation and Cultural Transformation.
In moments over the last 20 years, that champion West Indian self has emerged.
Faced with the challenge of making the 19 runs in the last over to win the T20 Championships in 2016 in India, Braithwaite and Samuels, with the urging of Sammy and the rest of the team in the pavilion, summoned the spirits of their ancestors.
Samuels, the senior batsman at the non-strikers’ end told Braithwaite to aim for the stands. After the first hit for six, he received an injection of West Indian greatness coursing through his veins. After the third six, Ben Stokes at the bowling crease slumped to his knees and conceded defeat. The last six was for the taking, England had surrendered to the West Indian juggernaut.
The point I am making here is that West Indian nationalism, assurance of self and the understanding that players have the talent to conquer the world shows themselves only too fleetingly. The need is for a re-assertion of self-confidence and what Gordon Greenidge once referred to as West Indian “pride” of accomplishment to overcome all teams. How is that to be achieved when all is descending into chaos?
I shall continue.