Bringing Back the Windies


I am going to Day Three of the Boxing Day test.

As a person who is rather enthusiastic about cricket and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, this will be the second day I have attended this test[1], and if the game can make it to day four, I’ll be there too. This is in stark contrast to almost everyone outside the most parochial Australian cricket fans. Disappointment and anger emanate from every conversation about the game like the smell of the discarded prawn carcases in most Australian bins this week.

Australians are cranky that the West Indies are not very good. It’s understandable given the vast chasm between the sides with both bat and ball.

The Windies of before
Nostalgia for the old Windies is rife

Many express this sadness in the form of a nostalgia for the old days, when scoring a century against the West Indies was enough to define a career, let alone keep a place in the side. We harken back to a unique time when a mish-mash of undeveloped nations managed to dominate a world sport. Some express this as anger towards Cricket Australia – how could they schedule the West Indies for Boxing Day? More importantly in my view, why are they signing up to the BCCI’s approach to strengthen the coffers of the major nations at the expense of nations like the West Indies?

The fall of the West Indies is something that has been dwelled on by smarter and more interesting people than your humble correspondent. A unique talent glut, often refined and developed in the English county system, will never be able to be replicated. Competition for players is now with multiple sports – most notably soccer and basketball. And money and professionalism in sport make the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ more profound than ever.

While not pretending to understand the intricacies of inter-island politics, it is clear the administration of the side is broken and must be fixed. And pay and conditions for the players must be improved – if only to ensure that players can develop and refine their skills playing  first class cricket, rather than becoming travelling mercenaries for the various T20 competitions. These are things that must be addressed within the Caribbean nations.

At best, Australia has been a passive bystander in this collapse, happy to engage the West Indies’ dominance until it dissipated, and then abandoning them, barely playing them over the last 10 years. So now what can Australia do to help?

Creating a more equitable way to divide the world’s cricket money-pot is a good start. The money needed to be competitive in professional sport is massive, let alone to ensure the gap between the massive economies of the ‘Big Three’, and those of the West Indies can be bridged. Australia and India have far and away the strongest commercial environments in which cricket operates. More money for the rich isn’t an intelligent way to ensure sustainable cricket competition. While playing each other seems appealing in the short term, in the long term the health of the game needs sides beyond them and England. A healthy West Indies can be part of this, but it will need a fair monetary share of the world cricket ‘pie’.

The West Indies also need to get better, and more opportunities, to play the ‘big nations’. Rather than a token 2 test series here and there, it’s important the West Indies are continued to not only be played by nations like Australia, but also given prominent tests, such as Boxing Day. And that means more tests like this one, where Australia dominates a weaker side on a prominent stage because it’s a development opportunity (and a financial one) for the other side.

Providing a mechanism to allow West Indian cricketers a way to play steady, well-paid, first class cricket will also aid individual player development. Country cricket is traditionally where this occurred. Perhaps Cricket Australia should consider giving opportunities in the Sheffield Shield as development opportunities? [2]

Spreading both the wealth and the coverage of test cricket beyond the ‘Big Three’ and, hopefully, beyond the existing test teams is something we should encourage. Creating pathways for West Indian cricketers to develop must be part of this. And then maybe we might end up complaining a little less.



[1] Went Day 1. Stupid family got in the way of Day 2.

[2] Although this is rife with potential problems such as removing spots for the development of Australian cricketers.

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