Throughout the Caribbean, ‘respect’ is common usage instead of ‘thank you’ or ‘hello’. As you walk down the street, a stranger will nod at you or tip his baseball cap. Needless to say, they expect you to reciprocate, be it a nod or fist bump.
West Indies cricket, however, is at crossroads where people move on without bothering. Cricketers, former and present, say the interest in Test cricket is dwindling. The common man says there is no reason to watch it if they don’t respect the game enough to give serious competition. Winning or losing doesn’t matter, good cricket is appreciated, not abject surrender.
Playing for pride and consolation are clichés loosely associated with dead rubbers. West Indies need something more introspective, an inner call maybe that can fix the slide and put an end to the fans’ unease. They still exist in pockets, in the cities and countryside, asking for tickets in the hope of watching some good cricket. Taking heed is the least West Indies could do.
It is easier said than done. In a format where only proven players should play, many in the West Indies side are still in the process of learning. Grapevine has it that there is some unrest in the team on how some players are being treated on the basis of nationality. The average age of the squad is around 26. It’s led by a captain who is not even 25 and has to contend with questions over his ability to make it to the squad, let alone lead it, on a daily basis.
Jason Holder’s answers to criticism are so similar that anything different he might say could become news. There is a clear gap between what he promises and what his players, especially the seniors, deliver with the bat. Darren Bravo was guilty of negligence till St Lucia where he finally made a fifty after seven innings. Marlon Samuels showed his disregard with a dismissal so unworthy of a cricketer of his experience that it hinted at nonchalance.
Explanations border on excuses. Holder says players graduating from first-class to international cricket find the gap too huge to bridge. He is clearly uncomfortable answering questions on the senior players. “I can’t speak for every batsman and it is a situation where they need to cope,” he said after the crushing loss in the third Test. He speaks of improvement, but only in bowling, before the conversation veers to the difficulty in leading such a team.
Team manager Joel Garner is clear --- the players don’t work hard enough. “We always had promise. We always had the players. Most of the players are identified. The problem is they don’t work hard enough. If every player is prepared to work as hard as they need to, we can reach the top of world cricket,” he said on Tuesday. Lack of runs has been West Indies’ bane this series, but Garner’s advice is simple --- ‘spend time, it will become easier to bat’.
At the home of Brian Lara, West Indies have one last chance to show gumption with the bat. Having played India’s bowlers for over a month now, the hosts should have by now realised their mistakes. The fifth day in Jamaica was proof that they can learn from errors. But West Indies need more of that at the Queen’s Park Oval.
If not for a favourable result, at least for pride and respect.