The death throes of West Indies cricket?

CatastrophesOur world has had to contend with some pretty big upheavals in its 4.5 billion year history — the Ice Age, the obliteration of dinosaurs, the fall of the Roman Empire.

Now we face the greatest cataclysm of all. No, I’m not talking about global warming. This is much more serious. I’m referring to the potential demise of West Indies cricket.

When the latest Calypso conflagration flared, it was comforting to know there was one team on the planet in deeper poo than the Wallabies.

In the pay dispute between the players, their association and the West Indies Cricket Board, there’s been plenty of finger pointing and not in a John Travolta Saturday Night Fever kind of way.

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It was all very entertaining for a while and a welcome distraction from Kurtley Beale’s text messages.

But then the West Indies players escalated things. Halfway through their tour of India, and before a Test ball had been bowled in anger, they literally took their bats and went home.

The Indians took it in their stride. No problem, they said. Here’s our $70-plus million bill for foregone revenue. Oh, and we won’t be playing with you again any time soon either.

Which probably set off a reaction in the West Indies dressing room a bit like this one.

Now there are doubts over whether the West Indies will ever tour again, including next year’s World Cup Down Under. People are wondering if we’re witnessing sport’s equivalent of the fall of Rome.

It’s a far cry from the glory days when every member of the team was a star and Clive Lloyd their Dumbledore, effortlessly conjuring victories across the planet. Viv Richards was just about the coolest cat ever to lay bat on ball. Then there was Michael Holding. I could watch him bowl and listen to him talk for the rest of my days.

They were the most gifted and entertaining players we’d ever clapped eyes on, cricket and groove coursing through their veins in equal measure. They were the epitome of laid back. They never looked like they did anything as pedestrian as training. Or sweating.

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In the one and only sports story of my journalism career, my editor, knowing my love of cricket, sent me off to interview Sir Garfield Sobers. At the time, he held the record for highest Test innings, 365 not out. It had stood for 35 years but on this day a young Brian Lara was slapping the ball all over the Sydney Cricket Ground and closing in on Sobers’ long-standing milestone.

With Lara then on 260-odd, I asked Sir Garfield how he felt. He smiled generously. I waited for a platitude about handing over the mantle.

“He’s still got more than a century to get,” he said. Sure enough, Lara was run out a few balls later. Sobers’ record survived the day. Lara claimed it the following year.

Today’s Caribbean crop, ranked a lowly eighth in the world in Tests and one dayers, is not in danger of breaking any records. Not any good ones, anyway.

About the only household name in the team is Chris Gayle, whose adoration of Chris Gayle knows no bounds. There is precious little about cricket in his Twitter feed. The guy seems to spend all his time eating, drinking, bonking and hanging out in his own sports bar.

He may find he has a whole lot more time for those pursuits now.

If you have any ideas on how to save West Indies cricket, let’s have ’em!

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