By Zaheer E. Clarke
(Published Monday, June 29, 2015)
My editor-in-chief said nothing. However, what my heart said was thunderous and comprehendible. Though unmortgaged as to what I should write, I felt over the past few weeks, I somehow shirked my duty to my beloved, my first love.
I spoke effortlessly about Track and Field, Horse Racing, Basketball, and Football (2 articles at that). My editors and the loyal followers of my column, blog, and social media page, seemingly revelled in the novelty and depth I brought to these other sporting sects of import.
However, no glorification bestowed sufficed, or became the balm for the West Indian infliction that staked my cricket-loving heart. This slacking or goldbricking by me went unnoticed like a nonentity checking himself into rehab. Yes, rehab, all because of West Indies cricket. Nevertheless, a jailbreak or therapy was well needed if my sanity was to stay intact, yet free from West Indies cricket.
Though many of you would like to deny it, you shared similar experiences over the past two months. In therapy or rehab we are told, “Acknowledging the depths of the problem is the first step on the climb to recovery.” If no one is brave enough to step up to the microphone and acknowledge who they are, and how they have avoided dealing with this problem – some of you now for years – then I’ll be the first in this West Indian Fanaholics Anonymous meeting to speak up. “My name is Zaheer, and I’m a West Indian Fanaholic…”
Over the past two months, especially for Jamaicans, the resurgence of the phoenix, Asafa Powell quelled our hearts regarding the rightful or wrongful entombment of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, by the West Indian selectors. Secondly, before we could acclimatize ourselves to the arrival of the Australians, FIFA’s Pandora’s box of bribery, fraud, money laundering, and racketeering indictments perfused every water cooler and curb side discussion. Lastly, as we were about to concede to how inept and lusterless our pitches and competitiveness in Test cricket had become, the advent of the Triple Crown King, American Pharaoh served as the perfect unction to a tiresomely hopeful generation.
These welcomed yet fly-by-night distractions – including basketball’s NBA Finals – allowed us to temporarily sever our emotions from our West Indian hearts. However, they never provided the perfect salve to our mental wounds. The venomous wound of no farewell tour, guard of honour, or meaningful recognition for Chanderpaul, who gave 21 years of his life tirelessly – now seemingly underappreciated to West Indies cricket – inflamed many hearts.
We, the fanaholics, were hopefully exuberant after the drawn English series. However, the Australians’ judicious, swift, and literally down-to-earth review of West Indies cricket ‘turning this eternal corner’ was submitted unequivocally and openly. The gaping wound of acceptance, and the ointment required to therapeutically heal our West Indian hearts were what we were left to embrace. As one writer and unbeknownst mentor of mine alluded months ago, we are experiencing the “Death of West Indies cricket!“
This comes as no surprise if we remember that in the past 15 years, West Indies has won only 16 Test matches of 134 played against the top-7 teams. Psychotically, only two wins came on overseas shores.
Even so, if what before us is an open valley of dry bones and death, can we like biblical Ezekiel, prophesy until a great West Indian army is resurrected from its grave, with new life that will return us to the promised land? For many of my fellow fanaholics, their hearts have dried up, they have lost all hope, and some have gone so far as amputating the West Indian aorta from their hearts. Nevertheless, miracles do happen, some fanaholics will say, not for West Indies.
Outwardly, based on raw talent and athleticism, our West Indian youngsters are considered the crème de la crème. Albeit advanced in these genetic and physical attributes, we seemingly grovel when it comes to the technological nourishment required to optimize such innate talents.
Far gone are the days when a youngster’s height could be correlated to his future bowling prowess. Or likewise, his batting elegance and aptitude, somehow coincided with his country of origin. In today’s world of sports, genetic, phenotypic, or geographical backgrounds have little influence on your sporting upside. In this globalized world, a combination of a cultural, economical, and technological edge, coupled with an unrelenting will and desire to improve, often determines one’s sporting and professional success.
This will and desire needs to be harnessed and developed in our West Indian youths through these intermixed advantages – cultural, economical, and technological. In football, Germany did it in the early 2000s with the right environment. In cricket, Australia implemented this after a decade of poor performances in the 1980s. Similarly, Jamaica has also inseminated this environment around athletics. With this approach, all three countries are currently reaping fruitful successes for over a decade in the respective sport.
This is where my unbeknown mentor and I agree, the development of this environment which promotes an unrelenting will and desire to win falls in the lap of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). The onus is on the board to germinate the right culture that rewards a cerebral approach, facilitates Arabian oil-type cash flow, and acquire the best backroom analytics experts to nurture these successes. But not them only, us fans must contribute in holding them accountable, and simultaneously help to rekindle the passion in the next generation.
However, as part of my therapy, I have come to grips that despite all the Governance and Cricket Reviews, WICB is not answerable to anyone. Nevertheless, my desire is not to remain in undue therapy forever over West Indies cricket. As such, like two guys in New York, my heart is preparing its own prisonbreak. The past few weeks may be a sign of things to come.
Who am I kidding? I’m madly in love with West Indies cricket. With all that acknowledged, “Doc, When is my next appointment?”
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, June 29, 2015)