It is no secret just how long it has been since Trinidad and Tobago’s cricket team won the regional first-class tournament of the West Indies Cricket Board. It was in 2006 under the captaincy of Daren Ganga.
Before that was in 1985 under Rangy Nanan. Previous to Nanan’s victory, the Prince Bartholomew side shared the trophy with Barbados in 1976, only because the Barbados team was denied points when they refused to play against Guyana in Guyana hence tying with T&T by ending level on points. The reason for this unfortunate cricket circumstance was the refusal of the Guyana government to allow entry to one of the Bajan cricketers, Geoffrey Greenidge, after arriving at the airport, because he had played cricket in apartheid South Africa.
There were back-to-back wins in 1970/71 under Joey Carew. Those were the fourth and fifth seasons of the league-style, first-class competition which was staged in that particular format for the first time in 1966. In 1968, there was no competition. Shell sponsored the tournament in its infancy and there have been quite a few sponsors since.
However, the problem I’m putting forward here is that T&T, since 1971, has only won the West Indies first-class cricket competition THREE TIMES. In 48 years!! This is disgraceful, especially for a nation that has prided itself on being one of the top cricket countries in the region. T&T has not only provided many Test cricketers to the WICB since its inception, but also played an integral part in the formation of the Board with its eventual acceptance in 1928 by the Marylebone Cricket Club, (known worldwide as the MCC, the Cricket Authority of the day) as a first-class body with Test status!
Got the picture? This gigantic dilemma has manifested itself in the psyches of the national culture whereupon the average Trinidadian who loves sport and the part his countrymen play in it, has lost interest in the game. Only a few diehards remain, plus the love for cricket shown by the young who approach cricket with such passionate purpose that it is sad the administrators don’t take notice, or just do not have a clue on how to fix it.
The success of one’s national team is the basis for a bigger crowd participation. Supporters love success of their team and individualistic prowess. And although there is an increase of population over the years there is a lot more competition for people’s leisure hours. Nonetheless, once there is success and winning, there is always more positive media reporting, more sponsorship, many more fans wanting to identify with the team, it is a whole new outlook!
The public loves winners. That’s the name of the game. Success!! But how do we move from point A to point B? That is the question. How does one make winners out of losers?
In cricket, the answer lies in club cricket. In club cricket the desire is for one’s team to win so that one has a basic foundation on which to build, a main purpose, and that is to be victorious! The club cricketer, whether he is aware of it or not, is part of a team whose singular intention is to win games and if they can’t win then avoid losing.
I’m talking first-class cricket and not the limited overs game. In the latter, if one can’t avoid losing then every attempt must be made to lose by the least possible margin; but that’s another matter. I’m only concerned here with first-class cricket. This is the cricket where basic skills are developed and all the attributes of concentration, discipline and fitness are vital to success.
Club cricket in T&T therefore, has to be examined closely to identify just what is wrong. Again, I’m discussing two-inning cricket. In the characteristics of this format with formidable competition against one another, all clubs being well organised and professionally trained, the virtues of the cricketer develop. There are only two steps from club cricket to Test cricket—the national team then the Test team.
When one participates in club cricket and play as if one is involved in a Test match, that is the road to improvement. How do the administrators get their cricketers to think that way? By coaching them to understand the approach they require, and if they’re interested, then the qualities one must develop have to be acquired through discipline, and many hours of practice which will produce a tough mentality. It all falls into place with the right management of the club teams.
It is not difficult to do. Once the cricketer loves the game he would not find it hard work to play and practise every day. If he does, it means he was not really suited to playing tough, demanding and challenging professional cricket. However, to improve the cricketer’s capability, he certainly has to adhere to these principles to become a top-class player.