‘I fear for the future’ of West Indies cricket, says Tony Cozier

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“I don’t know if there is anything that can be done now”

Veteran cricket commentator Tony Cozier has admitted to being nervous about the future of West Indies cricket as he believes the country is not producing enough talented players, thanks to factors like the “militancy” of the West Indies Player’s Association and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) itself.

Speaking exclusively to PakPassion.net, Cozier said: “I don’t know if there is anything that can be done now. I fear for the future. We’ve now gone something like twenty years where it’s all been downhill without producing players for a variety of reasons. One of which is the weakness of the West Indies board itself and also the ‘militancy’ for some time of the player’s association which called the top players to strike on two occasions.

“The first was when we went on a tour to Sri Lanka, and next was here in the Caribbean just after the West Indies had won the Champion’s Trophy in England at the Oval in 2004. Within no time, the players had gone on strike with Bangladesh coming for a tour. It was very disruptive and there was a lot of suspicion between the board and the players and it did absolutely nothing but harm to West Indies cricket.”

Besides the West Indies Player’s Association and WICB, Cozier also blamed the pitches and local umpires for being part of the problem.

“In addition to which, the standard of pitches and umpires are all factors that have contributed toward this decline,” he said. “We’re talking here about countries which are minuscule islands with very small economies. For a Test match, or any match for that matter, you need to fill the stadium in let us say Antigua, which will hold about 20,000 and that’s in an island where the population is 80,000! You just don’t have the revenue coming in through the gates.”

The 73-year-old also noted that sponsors for the West Indies national team are retreating due to their poor performances during series against higher-ranked opponents like India, England and South Africa.

Due to the decline in sponsors, the WICB are losing out on revenue, which is exactly the last thing they, and the national team, need right now.

“Because of the fact that the West Indies are not doing well and have not done well for some time, you’re not attracting the sponsors,” Cozier said. “The board is not getting the kind of money that it needs to ensure that cricket development is pointed in the right direction. It needs, as with anything – money.

“When you compare England, Australia, India especially which are large economies with plenty of facilities and compare them with what West Indies has, to be honest, you’ve really got to be staggered to know how West Indies managed to become so strong in the first place! Now you can understand over the last 20 years why they have been in decline because they haven’t managed to get players into the county championship which was a big boost for the West Indies back in the ’70s.

“So many of the players had the opportunity of going to England and playing in different conditions against different opponents. Many of the counties had players from other countries and other teams – Australians, Pakistanis, Indians and so on. So that was really good grounding for younger players coming through. Now you just don’t get that. So it’s all sorts of things. The administration is very weak and divided and I think, you’ll have to say that it starts from there. Of course, anything starts from the top, whether its good or bad. I am afraid as far as we’re concerned, it’s bad. The administration has its own problems to solve.”

However, despite being nervous about the West Indies’ future, Cozier stated that there was still hope for the national team thanks to a “high quality first-class competition and club competition”.

“No, I think we still have the talent,” Cozier said when asked if the current West Indian squad is lacking talented players. “The talent is there but it was always nurtured by a high quality first-class competition and club competition. So you would play in club teams. In the stronger club teams, you would have a couple of Test players and certainly a few first-class players with a good reputation.

“The clubs in most of the territories were pretty strong and would be almost on a level with first-class teams anywhere. I remember playing at the Wanderers Club in Barbados when the English counties would come out on pre-season tours and we would constantly win. The Wanderers Club constantly beat the English county teams that would come up. Not only Wanderers, Empire was also a very strong team in Barbados – the club team of Worrell, Weekes, Griffiths and others. They would beat the English counties coming out to the West Indies. Nowadays you just wouldn’t get that because most of the players now don’t participate in the club system for one reason or another. So the club standard isn’t that high and of course that transmits itself to the first-class level.

But, on the other hand, Cozier added that he would like to see more star players within the national team participating in domestic matches instead of travelling around the world from one premier league to the next.

“You’ll find that the majority of those who play Test cricket or are leading players are not available for the first-class season,” he said. “They play one or two matches but they are playing in the Big Bash or the IPL or playing somewhere else across the world and not playing within the West Indies. Therefore that diminishes the standard of first-class games. That’s where you get your Test players and your international players from. That’s a big issue as well and I’m afraid its one that’s not easily solvable.”

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