In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Fazeer writes about the West Indies' shocking failure to qualify for the 2023 World Cup and opines that the signs of this decline have been evident for a long time.
By Fazeer Mohammed (2nd July, 2023)
For those who weren’t joining the dots over the last few years, West Indies’ historic failure to qualify for the 2023 Cricket World Cup would obviously come as a shock.
Yet all the evidence was there of a major accident waiting to happen. It’s just that pinpointing exactly when the big crash would unfold was difficult to predict. Well, now we know, because on July 1, 2023 in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, the winners of the first two editions of the 50 over-a-side World Cup and the team universally admired for generations was summarily brushed side by Scotland to ensure that even with two games still to play against Oman and Sri Lanka in the qualifying tournament, they would not be going to India in October for the seven-week showpiece.
For many, a World Cup without the West Indies is the cricketing equivalent of the football World Cup without Brazil, the only nation to appear at every single edition of the biggest stage of the world’s most popular sport since Uruguay hosted the first tournament in 1930. But while the Brazilians have almost always been among the contenders for the big prize, the West Indies ceased to be a major factor in this format some time ago.
Their last appearance in a final was that stunning upset administered by India in 1983 when Clive Lloyd’s seemingly invincible team appeared destined for a hat-trick of titles at Lord’s. Since then, though, their best showing was getting to the semi-finals in 1996 and in the two tournaments following that agonising five-run loss to Australia in Mohali, they failed to get past the preliminary group stage.
Let’s look at more recent history though to lay bare why this latest abysmal showing was merely a continuation of an accelerating decline by the team which is still held by many as historically the ultimate standard for excellence in the sport.
Since Carlos Brathwaite’s four consecutive sixes off England’s Ben Stokes in the last over of the 2016 World T20 final in Kolkata lifted the West Indies to a second title in the format, this is the story of the Caribbean team in major competitions:
So, while the performances in Zimbabwe 2023 will be forensically examined – the atrocious fielding and catching being particularly glaring – the wheels have been coming off the West Indies team for some time, in all formats.
A look at the players’ individual records will, with a couple of exceptions, betray a level of mediocrity far removed from the standards which made the West Indies not just the envy of the cricketing world for generations but an inspiration to millions beyond the boundary as to what could be achieved by tiny nations against bigger, richer opponents.
As has become the norm following every failed campaign in recent times, the usual ill-informed explanations – lack of exposure on the English county circuit, influence of American sports etc – will be rolled out by those outside of the West Indies. Others, again betraying their complete ignorance of the region, will suggest that the individual territories like Jamaica and Barbados should go it alone because the West Indies model in cricket is no longer viable.
For those looking for easy scapegoats in the players, new head coach Daren Sammy, the selection panel headed by Desmond Haynes or the Cricket West Indies administration itself, all are deserving of varying degrees of criticism, even condemnation. However, the harsh and painful truth of West Indies cricket is the failure to heed the warning signs of impending decline and therefore act decisively to avert what now feels not so much as a slide downhill but a plummet off a precipice.
We, the people of the West Indies, have been the architects of this cricketing disaster and it is only when we summon the will and find a way beyond the inter-territorial bickering, backstabbing and corrosive politics will we get anywhere close to reclaiming the incomparable dominance we once took for granted.