Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Has globalisation destroyed West Indies cricket?

They differ in outlook, temperament, background and world view. Yet for decades the West Indies made a great team — united not just against their opponents but for something, even if that something was only winning.

They dominated for many years and now all of that is gone. They are but a shadow of themselves, a weak squabbling group whose differences threaten their very existence.

Are their latest troubles just part of the cyclical decline and rebuilding process or is the problem terminal? Can West Indies cricket survive?

The team is an artificial construction, built from more than a dozen independent nations and dependencies, similar in their difference. They have been a team of unstable alliances, held together by success.

Now that success is disappearing. They look as if they won't win a game in the next few series. Globalisation has destroyed them.

Whereas cricket used to be a symbol and expression in the West Indies of the anti-colonial struggle and hence attracted a real following, today it is nothing more than an expression of gold digging individualism.

And the problem is the gold is fools' gold compared with what can be made in other sports. Again globalisation has undermined the system.

No longer do West Indies boys want to be Viv Richards or Brian Lara. They want to be Michael Jordan or Usain Bolt.

Basketball or athletics — two global sports — are challenging the social structures that gave rise to millions of Windies boys playing cricket. The pool of future test players is diminishing.

Cricket has responded with both establishment and commercial tournaments, but often the driver for these is the lucrative Indian market, and the benefits flow to the moguls who run cricket, not the grass roots of the game.

Ironically the response of Windies cricket — to embrace globalisation — has only legitimised the wider globalisation process and divorced the game for its original radical roots, roots that expressed a hope for a better society.

Indeed, economically, the West Indies countries have suffered as a result of globalisation. It has undermined the social relations that saw cricket predominate.

It is no use dreaming of the halcyon days and rejecting any change; change is engulfing the West Indies and with it the game. That change has no real place in its future for cricket in the the West Indies.

The decline of the West Indies as a cricketing behemoth is a result of forces that cannot be controlled unless by social revolution. A radical democratisation of society is not on the horizon in the West Indies.

Canute cannot role back the waves of change in West Indian society that will eventually see the game disappear in the region. Windies cricket is as doomed as the Liberal Party of Australia.

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