ONE of the greatest cricketers to ever represent the West Indies has had his say on what has brought cricket in the Caribbean to its knees – and what can be done to fix it.For decades cricket fans have yearned for a return to the glory years of West Indies cricket, when the Caribbean was the epicentre of cricketing greatness.
But this tendency to look back rather than forward has, according to legendary batsman Brian Lara, pervaded at administrative level for far too long and helped bring West Indies cricket to its knees.
Speaking on Fox Sports’ Inside Cricket, Lara summed up the biggest woe that has befallen the Windies in just two words.
“Bad governance,” Lara said when asked why the Calypso Kings have fallen so far over the past 20 years.
“I think the West Indies Cricket Board has faltered over the years. We’ve had the same sort of thinking from the 70s right through ‘til now. There’s nothing new going on in West Indies cricket, especially at administrative level.”
While many believe the explosion of money available in Twenty20 tournaments like the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash League has decimated the Windies at the elite level, Lara actually has a different take on T20’s impact.
“T20 has done something very good for cricket in the West Indies,” Lara said. “Obviously everybody wants to be the next Chris Gayle or Dwayne Bravo or something like that.”
Rather than blaming external influences like short-form tournaments abroad, Lara believes the biggest change has to come from within.
“What you’re talking about is a badly run cricket board,” Lara said. “Player relationship with board members is not very good, so you’re going to head in a direction where you feel comfortable and that’s simply what’s happening.
“The guys don’t trust the board anymore – they actually don’t trust the players association. So what choice do they have?”
While Lara was reluctant to suggest some of his ex-teammates were simply taking the biggest amount of money available to them, former Australia captain Allan Border painted a stark picture.
“The reality is you’ve got an offer of $2 million here, and $100,000 there – I mean what decision are you going to make?” Border said.
“You might not play for your country, yes, but that is just poles apart (when you look at) the different offers available now.
“We’ve got to try work out some sort of compromise. It (should be) country first, and franchise cricket second.”
So what does Lara think is the key to get West Indies cricket back on track? When asked what the one thing is that he would do to turn things around, the man known as the Prince of Trinidad said a focus on youth was essential.
“I think I would definitely have to put in some academies,” Lara said. “I would marry the game with education.
“You’ve got a lot of guys coming through just playing cricket – their self-esteem is very low, they cannot achieve anything in any other field. I would try as much as possible to get the youngsters thinking not just cricket, but thinking about their life in general.
“I’d check the age of players – anybody under 25, you still have quite a bit of time and you could change their mindset around.
“Above 25 and onwards, they’re looking at the exit door and it’s very difficult as they’re already set in their way of thinking. A lot of them are thinking IPL and other major leagues they can make money out of.”