For West Indies cricket to get back to being a dominant force, Chairman of selectors and former West Indies bowler, Roger Harper believes changes need to be made from the ground up.

According to Harper, all the blame for West Indies’ performance woes cannot be put at the feet of Cricket West Indies and that individual territories need to take responsibility for the cricketers they produce.

"I think a lot of buck-passing has been done. We are very proud to say when a Brian Lara is breaking all those records that he is from Trinidad but when a player is not doing well, you say what the West Indies cricket board is doing,” said Harper.

The former off-spinner who ended his career with 100 ODI wickets from 105 games and 46 Test wickets from 25 matches, believes that when the Caribbean was in its hay day, the territories were much stronger on their own.

“I think there is some inconsistency and we need to get back what we were doing in the past and take the responsibility of developing quality, world-class players," he said.

In terms of creating more world-class players, Harper believes the players in the region need to be more ambitious as well.

According to Harper, who was speaking on T&T radio station i9555, the goal shouldn’t just be to get into the senior team, but to be dominant, because without more than just a few world-class players, consistent top performances won’t exist.

“We need to have world-class players in the West Indies team. That's how our cricket and our team will get to the top, if we have a number of world-class players in the team giving us world-class performances on a consistent basis,” he said.

“[…] We have to encourage our players to do: think bigger, aim higher, think of putting in world-class performances and raise their standards to be match-winning world-class players,” said Harper.

"If you are just making 30s, and the press is slamming that he deserves a strike... I would like my job to be that I don't have to pick somebody. If you are making 30, we have a person who is making 31, then I have to decide which one to select.

"But if you are averaging in the 60s or 70s, all I have to do is write your name down, you pick yourself.

Harper said the players can compete with the rest of the world at the U19 level but then there is an issue transitioning. While the other teams have players who make the leap to the big stage.

"We have to ensure our guys can make that leap as well. A lot of it has to do with their thinking and maturity in terms of cricket. We have to help them along by developing their mental skills and tactical awareness, and help them apply their skills better."

Sir Vivian Richards, Legendary West Indian batsman and former captain, has had many instances when his greatness was on show for all the world to see, however, there was one, in particular, that stands out in my mind.

Apartheid South Africa had been banished from the world of sport and while the two, politics and sport, should never meet, it was widely agreed that those sanctions were the right thing to do.

South African cricket was decimated by the sanctions, which started in 1971, and they needed to revive it.

The country hashed a plan to play unsanctioned international cricket inside South Africa, which while frowned upon, could not be stopped.

In all, South Africa would host seven tours to the country, dubbed Rebel Tours, between 1982 and 1990.

A precedence had been set in 1981 with England’s Graham Gooch going to South Africa with eleven other players. They world wholeheartedly bashed them for their actions, labelling the group the “the Dirty Dozen” in England’s Houses of Parliament.

The rebels were banned for three years, including Geoffrey Boycott, who was the world’s leading Test run-scorer at the time. Most of their careers, except for Gooch’s and John  Emburey’s, was ended by the ban.

But in 1982, the South Africans were back at it, inviting Sri Lanka this time, with 14 of their players convinced into making the trip. The players were banned for life by the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka. Only Flavian Aponso would play again, turning out for the Netherlands in the 1996 World Cup at the age of 43.

Fast forward to 1982 and South Africa came calling in the Caribbean. For the first time, the South African side would get real competition because the West Indies, kings of cricket at the time, could afford to field at least two world-beating teams.

At the time, first-class cricketers in the West Indies weren’t paid at all and had to live off employment outside of cricket. In fact, the majority of those who played for the West Indies had jobs outside of cricket and so South Africa made sure to make an offer that would mean they could become financially independent.

For the first time the unofficial games had some real legitimacy as the South Africans had a West Indies team that could compete with them.

But even while the Lawrence Rowe-led team that included real talent like that of Richard Austin, Herbert Chang, Sylvester Clarke, Colin Croft, Bernard Julien, Alvin Kallicharan, Collis King, Everton Mattis, Ezra Moseley, and David Murray, was brilliant in its own right, it still needed some real star power to make it more legitimate.

There was no greater star in World cricket at the time than Viv Richards.

Viv played a swashbuckling brand of cricket few dared to attempt or had the talent to pull off for that matter.

South Africa wanted him.

In the critically acclaimed documentary ‘Fire in Babylon,’  Viv opens up about being offered a blank cheque from the South African cricket board.

To prove that the ravages of Apartheid would never impact him, or the other cricketers in South Africa, those agreeing to the tour would be called ‘Honorary White’.

Viv would never have to work again.

Then he reacted in a way that cemented his place, at least in my mind, as West Indies cricket’s greatest hero, by simply saying no, when many others would have said different.

He didn’t hit a ball out of the park, challenge an Australian quick, he simply said ‘no’.

And for that, I will be eternally grateful as it has shaped, in large part, my attitude towards racism.

 Just recently, Sir Viv was asked if he had regrets about not taking the offer and living the rest of his life in the lap of luxury.

“No sir, that has never even come to mind and I am one of those individuals that when I make my mind up in terms of the decision making and all that, then that’s it and that, to me, was worth much more than money,” he said.

Of course, Viv saying ‘no’ had the knock-on effect of making sure that nobody else, outside of Croft, would say otherwise.

Sir Viv’s ‘no’, had the knock-on effect of ensuring that the West Indies’ great legacy of the 1980s was created.

Without it, West Indies’ tour to England in 1984 where they won the Test series 5-0, would not have happened. There would have been no ‘Whitewash’.

And, of course, not losing a single Test series between 1980 and 1995 would probably not have happened.

Sir Viv’s moment may just have saved what turned out to be the greatest sporting achievement in the history of sport.

Because now, saying ‘no’ was markedly easier for Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd, Jeffrey Dujon, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Michael Holding.  

And Viv had to say ‘no’ again, the following year. He did and the rest is history.

Apartheid would come to an end in 1994.

Out-of-favour T20 all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite has recalled one of his favourite memories was being treated like Chris Gayle when he turned up for an IPL spell in India with Delhi Daredevils, shortly after his success at the 2016 World Cup.

The giant West Indian rocketed to fame after swatting away four straight sixes off England’s Ben Stokes, to lift the Caribbean team to the 2016 T20 World Cup title.  Those types of exploits were of course very much like another big West Indian's, Chris Gayle, who has often thrilled IPL crowds with his match-winning, big-hitting exploits in India.

“Cricket is a religion in India. I remember I was filming Chris (Gayle) being mobbed at the airport. But after the World Cup when I came to play for Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals), the same thing was happening to me,” the 31-year old said in a recent Delhi radio show.

Brathwaite has not quite followed up on the promise of those big heaves over the boundary, in recent years, losing both the captaincy of the West Indies and dropped from the squad.  He was also not selected during the 2020 IPL auctions held late last year, but still hopes to play some part in the tournament.

“Hopefully I will be in IPL in some capacity maybe replacement player or in commentary,” he added.

Due to ongoing global fight with the COVID-19 pandemic the tournament was, however, postponed until further notice.

 

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy believes his contemporary, white ball skipper, Kieron Pollard is right for the job but needs time to get his team going.

According to Sammy, Pollard always wants to win and that is the mindset that is needed from the leader of a team if it is to be successful.

“I think what Pollard will bring is that attacking mindset,” said Sammy.

“I think his mindset is always geared towards winning and I think that’s what a leader’s mindset should be,” he said.

However, the mindset alone will not be enough to give the West Indies the edge they need to successfully defend their T20 World Cup set for November.

“He needs time. They need time to learn as a playing group,” said Sammy.

According to the only skipper to lead a team to two T20 World Cup titles, he benefitted from that time ahead of the team’s first World Cup title win.

“I am only talking from experience, from captaining in 2010. By the time 2012 came I knew so many of those guys, what situations to use them in and from constant dialogue, how I would go and who I would want to execute for me in different situations,” said Sammy.

While he is aware that his playing days with the West Indies are over, Sammy, who said he had a vision of being part of a successful T20 World Cup title defence, still wants to contribute to Pollard’s rise.

For decades, the very mention of the names Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh filled the hearts of Windies fans with delight and struck terror into the hearts of opposing batsmen.

Considered by many to be the last of the truly great West Indian bowlers the pair were cable of smothering even the best batting line-ups on their day. 

Ambrose and Walsh played 97 and 121 Tests respectively and a total of 94 Tests with each other. Ambrose appeared in only three Test matches in which Walsh, did not participate. Of those 94 Tests, the West Indies won 42 and lost 24.

 It was on their broad backs that the responsibility for their team's overall success often fell.  They reigned from 1988-2000, very few could claim to have such a big impact on their team’s results than Ambrose and Walsh.