In order to understand the present and the future, it is important to study the past. The West Indies team, throughout time, has metamorphosed from a multi-racial team made up of predominately of white players to a team made up mainly of men of African and Indian descent. The team was led from the early 1960s onwards by the intellectual Sir Frank Worrell, seen by many as a man of great vision. He led the West Indies, affectionately known as the ‘Windies’ on many successful tours. He would eventually appoint Garfield Sobers, arguably the greatest all-rounder to play the game, as the new captain of the Caribbean eleven. Despite early successes, the West Indies suffered another downward spiral under the captaincy of Sir Garry Sobers and Rohan Kanhai in the late sixties and early seventies. The mid-seventies onwards became a great period of dominance with the Windies winning the World Cup twice, one in 1975 and the other in 1979. According to Ray Goble & Keith A.P Sandiford in their text, 75 Years of West Indies Cricket 1928-2003, “From 1980 to 1995 the West Indies dominated International cricket in a most spectacular fashion, going undefeated in an unprecedented 29 consecutive series. They played 115 Test matches during this phenomenal streak and only lost 15 of them. They won 59 and were often prevented by the weather from doing likewise in the majority of the 41 remaining Tests that were left drawn. Clive
Lloyd, Viv Richards and Richie Richardson all won more than 45 percent of their games as captain, while losing 25 percent or fewer, and Richards retired in 1991 with the enviable distinction of never having captained the West Indies in a losing series. After 1995 the Windies have seen different captains come and go, but none seeming able to return the Windies to its glory days. Recently there have been clashes between the West Indies Players Association and the Board over player’s contracts and right to play cricket in high paying leagues. Support goes down while losing goes up. Many blame the players on the team as not being committed to the game. The only arena where the English speaking Caribbean performs together and do well is playing cricket as a team. It transcends island divisions and politics. Some would even go as far as to say the chaos in cricket is reflected in the way CARICOM has failed to unite islands to become a stronger body in the age of globalization. After the failure of the federation in 1962 it was important that West Indies cricket step up and fill the void needed in uniting our people and nations. Today Caribbean Unity is under threat in the same way as Caribbean cricket. The excellence of the past has disappeared as leaders are blamed for not empowering youngsters. The only way the drive can return to West Indies cricket is if the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the Caribbean academic community as a whole educate citizens about the struggles of the past. There is much writing on Caribbean cricket by CLR James, Clem Seecharan,
Sir Hilary Beckles and Christine Cummings to name a few, so there is definitely no shortage of literature. This is one way of bringing back the motivation, encouragement and empowerment needed to return the West Indies to glory. Many of our young people need to be educated about the politics of the 1970s and 1980s in the backdrop of the Black Power movement, race riots in England and the struggles against Apartheid. They need to understand that to be the best means playing hard and working even harder. Richards, Holding and Sobers lived by these principles. In the face of all the problems West Indies cricket faces it is important to look at the past and embrace the legacy left by our great players, understand what it means to be a winning team once more and be proud of who we are.