Western Grandstand | Time for us to all talk about fixing WI cricket
As a youngster, cricket was my passion. I can remember sitting up late into the night with my late father, listening radio commentaries from England and Australia, with famous commentators like John Arlott describing the exploits of some of the great West Indies teams of the past.
While I was only good enough to play at the community and school levels, that never dampened my enthusiasm for the game, because I saw players like Sir Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd followed by Lawrence Rowe, Jeffrey Dujon and Michael Holding as idols worth emulating.
Like my father did, teaching me about the game as we listened to the various games together on radio, I tried to do the same with my own son. He got his first cricket bat when he was no more than a few inches taller than the bat. I took him to meet the great Brian Lara and video recorded the experience, hoping it would inspire him.
Unfortunately, my son never fell in love with the game as I did because, unlike in my childhood days, he grew up in an era when West Indies cricket was beginning its decline and other sports like football and basketball were coming to the fore and emerging as more entertaining options.
As I continue to watch the steady decline in the number of youngsters playing cricket in western Jamaica, to the extent that club cricket has all but become a thing of the past in St James, Hanover and the sugar belts in Westmoreland and Trelawny, which were once hotbeds for the sports in rural Jamaica, it is basically saying, like it or not, the game is dying in this part of the island.
For the first time in over 40 years, I did not feel like a traitor or less of a patriot when I decided to watch South Africa and Australia, instead of enduring the battering Virat Kohli and his marauding Indians were dishing out to a badly outclassed West Indies team, which so badly insulted our great heritage in the sport.
Within recent years, I was among those blaming Dave Cameron and the current crop of administrators for the embarrassing state of West Indies cricket, and while they might be some element of truth in that belief, we simply cannot escape that the warrior spirit has gone out of our players, who are seemingly more interested in money than in performing.
I can understand the players' desire to make as much money as possible, since the shelf life of the average cricketer is no longer than 20 to 15 years. However, unless they play enticing cricket to pull in the fans, they must consider themselves guilty of undermining the appeal of the sport and contributing to its demise.
Like South Africa did after the earth-shattering Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal, which all but destroyed their cricket, I believe the West Indies should consider rebuilding from scratch with the players who were the stars of our last successful under-19 team. Even if they start out struggling, I believe that with time and proper support, they will eventually come good once the attitude is right.
Personally, I believe if we continue to push promising youngsters like Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Shai Hope into the current mercenary atmosphere in West Indies cricket, chances are they will develop the same bad habits, which would cause a senior player to have qualms about bypassing a crucial ICC World Cup, qualifying tournament for the West Indies to go off and fill up their boots with 'curry goat-style' T20 cricket dollars.
I believe the time has come for a major Caribbean cricket summit, featuring the governments in the region, the Cricket West Indies, the West Indies Players' Association, past players and past administrators.