Legend Walsh laments Windies slide

THE CRICKETING summer began with the release of Fire in Babylon, a rousing film charting the exploits of the all-conquering West Indies team of the late 1970s and ‘80s. It will end this week at The Oval in the shape of two Twenty20 matches – the first today – crowbarred into an already packed schedule, between England and a Windies side far removed from the fearsome unit of old.

For Courtney Walsh, the legendary fast bowler whose retirement in 2001 was almost the precursor to a decade of decline, this week’s whistle-stop tour neatly encapsulates just how skewed the priorities of the West Indies Cricket Board have become.

“You have to wonder how some of the scheduling decisions are made,” Walsh told City A.M., referring to the recent home Test series against India, played in virtually empty stadia.

“We had six days of cricket in Jamaica this summer where the weekends were completely wasted because the Tests started on a Monday. You’re not going to get crowds in then. It has to be poor planning. It looked terrible.

“There is still a huge appetite for the game in the West Indies, no doubt. The pool of talent is still there – it’s just a case of nurturing it.”

Yet it’s not all doom and gloom. Only last week leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo was named international Emerging Player of the Year, while the Under-19 side is expected to perform well at next year’s World Cup. Whether the current board, in dispute with the Players’ Association, is capable of reviving the team is a matter of conjecture. Walsh, however, believes he and his former team-mates could do more to kick-start a Caribbean cricketing revolution.

“It’s a shame because we don’t have a senior figure capable of bringing it all together. A strong West Indies team would be good for the sport so it’s up to us ex-players to get involved and help where we can.” he added.

“I’d certainly jump at the chance to help in any way. We’ve had great leaders like Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and Brian Lara. There isn’t that father figure type of personality who can instil passion in the team now, so maybe it has to come from outside.”

Courtney Walsh was one of 23 of the world’s greatest living cricket legends attending a celebration of fast bowling hosted by The Lord’s Taverners, cricket’s number one charity.

TIMELINE | DECLINE OF A SUPERPOWER

1991: Sir Viv Richards follows the likes of Gordon Grenidge, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall into retirement.
1995: After 15 years unbeaten, Windies finally lose a Test series as Australia effectively end Richie Richardson’s career.
2005: War erupts between board and players chiefs over sponsorship rights leaving the tour to South Africa in chaos, with a shadow squad initially selected.
2008: Sir Allen Stanford’s Super Series, which looked set to bankroll Windies cricket for years, is dissolved in scandal.
2011: Chris Gayle, the highest-profile
current Windies player, remains barred from representing the national team due to his dispute with the board.