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Is West Indies’ loss of identity the main reason for their fall from grace?

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It’s hard to believe the once feared West Indies will not be at the Cricket World Cup. Sports writer Ongama Gcwabe looks at the Windies’ downfall.

The West Indies won’t be at the Cricket World Cup. File picture Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

FOR THE first time in history, the glamorous and often star-studded West Indies team will not feature in a Cricket World Cup, marking a new low in their hard-to-watch downfall.

Who would’ve thought? Probably no one.

How does a team with a fifteen-year long Test win streak fall from those heights to being ranked eighth in a 10-team list?

From two-time World Champions to not qualifying to this year’s 50-Over World Cup after losses to Zimbabwe, the Netherlands and Scotland.

The losses leave a scar but the nature of the losses, the lack of drive and pride, certainly turns those scars into infected wounds.

The question is, how did it all unfold?

The answer is in what the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley, wrote on his personal social media account this week following a spectacular loss to the Dutch in a Super Over.

“Today I saw THE WORST CRICKET MATCH ever played by the West Indies,” wrote Rowley.

“Playing for the West Indies must be a treasured privilege available only to the best that are prepared to show character in defence to our legacy and our pride.”

The biggest aspect about Clive Loyd’s team, and even Viv Richard’s team, was that cricket was more than just a sport and representing the West Indies meant a lot more.

In those days, the Windies were prepared to ‘die’ out in the middle, and it showed every time they had bat or ball in hand and it is because of this that the prime minister took to social media to air his thoughts on Windies Cricket.

Rowley, like Prof Hilary Beckles, former Windies Cricket board member and now VC at University of West Indies, know that legacy is what drove the past Windies generations to success.

Beckles consistently pushed for young cricketers to get taught about what it means to play cricket for the West Indies in order to embed in the cricketer’s minds and hearts what it means to represent the Caribbean islands.

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Beckles takes it an extra mile and says the stars of the past, the Michael Holdings and the Viv Richards, never got compensated for their heroics.

And because they were never compensated, the new generation struggles to see the legends’ legacy in materialistic things.

It might not be Holding or Richards in particular, but it is a widely known fact that most of the stars of the 70s, 80s and 90s are living in poverty or have passed on leaving their families in poverty.

To Beckles, this has created a massive divide between this new generation and that of the past. There is not point of relation.

When the new generation meets these legends, they almost always get a reminder to put themselves before their own country when making career decisions, hence they almost always choose the lucrative T20 leagues instead representing the Windies.

Now, watching the Windies is like watching a team lacking an identity. Rarely does this team achieve anything of substance these days.

Well, apart from the Test series win at home against England, what else have they achieved?

Keyword – IDENTITY.

If you are South African, you would’ve heard or read of this word more than once when writers, experts and commentators narrate what has been happening in SA cricket the past four years.

There has been a lack of identity in the South African teams for a host of different reasons, some the same as that of the Windies.

Players of the past can’t quite get through to this new generation of SA cricketers because the landscape has changed immensely.

What was thought a strong team culture in the 90s and early 2000s in SA cricket has been discovered to be narcissistic and discriminative to mostly players of colour.

Oh yes, the Social Justice and Nation Building Hearings happened, let’s not act like they didn’t.

So many players of the past came out and told their stories and as a country we realised this fact about the team cultures of the past.

This could be the reason behind the Proteas almost not qualifying for this year’s World Cup as well. Remember, we took the last automatic qualification spot a few months ago.

I mean, if we talk about the Windies having fallen deep into the cricket wilderness, then it has to mean something that the same team beat SA in an ODI match in East London a couple of months ago.

When it comes to team identity, the leadership of Rob Walter and Temba Bavuma are literally pioneers of this whole new movement, a movement to bring about an identity that best represents the rainbow nation.

Without it, IDENTITY, a downfall is an almost certainty as we have seen with West Indies Cricket.

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