by Roger Sawh.
If there is one thing that is never in short supply in Caribbean cricket, it’s raw talent. Since inception, the little region has had lots of naturally gifted athletes that could make deliveries sing and shots scintillate while playing with unbridled enthusiasm. This blessed state of affairs led to a wondrous period of success when legendary batsmen and bowlers seemed to step forth off a production line.
The region’s riches seemed infinite. Like all good things, though, there came an ‘end’ of sorts, as more than a few years of ups and downs have checkered the recent history of West Indian cricket. There has been the need for an evolution of the game in these parts.
Over the past few weeks, a new phenomenon has been introduced to the Caribbean cricket milieu that could help develop the talent pool beyond their mere expression of God-given ability. In the form of the Limacol CPL, Caribbean regional cricket has, for the first time ever, involved the participation of foreign players among local cricketers. Guptill the Guyanese, Malik the Bajan and Iqbal the St. Lucian have been some of the examples of the integration of world-class talent on the regional stage, and the excitement that they have infused has been palpable. Indeed, with the recent arrivals of Sri Lanka’s ‘Big 4’ of Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Dilshan and Malinga, the impact of outsiders will be under the spotlight more than ever as the competition enters its playoff stages.
But just what effect will these stars have on West Indies cricket? What can be the expected (or at least desired) result of Ricky Ponting rubbing shoulders with Antiguan prospects, or Murali waxing philosophically over some jerk chicken with his fellow Tallawahs? I’d suggest that a “Pro-Am effect” is in action before our very eyes.
The Pro-Am term (which is short for Professional-Amateur) is most popularly seen in golf, as professional golfers pair with amateurs (usually celebrities) as partners for charitable tournaments. While the local talent involved in the CPL is hardly amateurish, many of the players are quintessentially West Indian cricketers – they ooze talent, but, for one reason or another, are not yet at the level at which they can perform successfully and consistently at the international level.
This is, in some ways, the dilemma of all cricketing nations, as many gifted young players tend to fall off the proverbial radar for varying reasons. The fundamental difference that many other countries have shown is that they have put systems in place to hone talent as much as possible – in the West Indies, the CPL might just be our long awaited diamond-polisher.
By infusing foreign professionals among our regional talent pool, there is a direct influence on all cricketers in the dressing room, from West Indian international players down to novices. The West Indies team players, for all their good intentions, are still among ‘the boys’ at the regional level, and may not have as prodigious an impact on their countrymen as foreign recruits.
Consider a young player like Adrian Barath of Trinidad – while his Trini teammates like Dwayne and Darren Bravo might have suggestions for his game, the sheer impact of a legend like Mahela Jayawardene, with thousands of runs on his resume, having a few words with him can be potentially career-changing. It’s an indication that regional cricket is no longer just informal and inconsequential – the CPL means business for all involved.
Evidence of the effectiveness of this sort of interaction can be seen in the Indian Premier League. The entrenchment of the IPL on the cricket scene has correlated with an explosion of India’s pool of talent (especially at the limited overs level), as more and more players seem to be cropping up and brimming with confidence from earlier in their careers. IPL stints are praised for the access they afford to legends of the sport, and young players cannot help but imbibe the knowledge that surrounds them. Will the effects of the IPL on Indian cricket be seen for West Indian cricket thanks to the CPL ?
Time, as always, will be the best judge of how West Indian cricketers approach their games post-CPL. Gains may not be immediate or entirely evident, but I am willing to bet that they will come sooner rather than later. The CPL has been quite a success in its first staging, but the legacy of the tournament will be judged by the performance of the international team in the long term. The West Indies will keep on polishing its finest gems; we will shine brightly once again.
About the writer R.K Sawh
BSc (Hons) from U of Toronto (2005-2009) in Human Biology, Health Studies and Bioethics, BA (hons) from York University (2010-2012) in Law and Society. Expected JD from Queen’s University Faculty of Law (2012-2015)Roger’s articles have appeared on Cricinfo & his blog http://wicricketgroup.blogspot.ca/2013/08/chris-gayles-needed-evolution.html
Views expressed are those of the writer, & not neccesarily those of American College Cricket