Every cricket lover of a certain age is in apparent mourning over this West Indies team.
Where you once had Sir Viv Richards masterfully playing across the line, you now have the Hopes missing straight ones and living up to everything apart from their name.
Where you once had Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh et al combining as the fastest fusillade in the business, now you have Miguel Cummins sending down deliveries that are all too wide and none too handsome.
The most surprising aspect of their demise is that people pretend to still be surprised. The Windies have not won a Test series over any team except Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since beating New Zealand in 2012.
Don’t forget, Sir Garfield Sobers started crying over the state of his beloved team in a press conference two years ago and, on the face of it, all of his tears were shed for nought.
Pay disputes, the rise of Twenty20 and the apathy over Tests, a bungling board and the loss of talent to other sports. The reasons are numerous but the solutions are few.
Or are they? Delve deeper than their pitiful display against Edgbaston, and the skin-deep analysis from the distraught and the nostalgic, and there is cause for optimism.
A new chief in town
Johnny Grave, an Englishman who was formerly the commercial director of the UK-based Professional Cricketers Association, was chosen to guide West Indian cricket into a brave new future after being appointed CEO of the board in January.
The initial reports are that he has been an even-keeled influence to a rocking Caribbean ship – and he has helped bring Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle back into the fold for the limited-overs games.
One of the mistakes the higher-ups made was to impose a draconian eligibility criteria on the national side, with those not appearing in the domestic 50-over competition unable to represent the side.
Bringing back the golden oldies for one last blast of course does not get to the heart of the Test problem but Grave, who is well-versed in player-board relations, is at least thawing some of those icy communication lines out.
Most promisingly, as Grave told the Jamaica Gleaner, the West Indies board has secured a $48 million increase on their funding from the ICC up to 2023 and much of that money will go towards establishing a high performance centre at the Stanford ground in Antigua.
The West Indies are also expected to announce the first of their flexible contracts next month in a bid to work around their global T20 commitments rather than demonise its rise.
“We want to incentivise our players to play Test cricket,” wrote Grave. “Our Test players will have less opportunities to play in and earn from the domesticT20 leagues, so we need to compensate them for that by giving them higher retainer contracts, and we also need to contract our white-ball cricketers in order to incentivise them to play ODI cricket, as our ODI schedule will also clash with some T20 leagues, too.”
Grave also talked about needing to be ‘the most efficient cricket board in the world’ – the WICB has fewer support staff on their books than Warwickshire, Edgbaston’s home county – but there is no shortage of quality to work with.
Tons of talent
Rishabh Pant is the heir apparent to MS Dhoni for India but, a little more than 18 months ago, he was skulking back to the pavilion sharpish after being dismissed for one in the Under-19 World Cup final.
His adversary? Alzarri Joseph, the 20-year-old whose fast bowling was widely panned at Edgbaston but looked like the brightest young thing on show in Bangladesh.
The Windies won that final by five wickets and it marked the first time they ever won the trophy – having only reached the semis when Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams were just two promising teenagers in 1988.
The mission now is to ensure this generation is not lost obscurity and poor regional coaching before they are ready for senior international cricket. It’s one thing looking good as a teenager, but no use at all if the pathway stalls for the next five years.
Though it would be unfair to write the current Test side off – by and large a clutch of players in their mid-20s – the Windies looked like they had landed in Mars instead of England so alien were the conditions. And that captain Jason Holder did not immediately take the new ball under the floodlights – it all smacks of woeful under-preparation.
The future of West Indian cricket will be relying on this generation and the next for inspiration. The ball is rolling – time will tell if it’s going somewhere or merely been dropped.