It seems to be an odd quirk in cricket that the West Indies are united under a single banner for international cricket, similar in fact to east-European sports teams continuing to operate under a Yugoslavian banner. And however rich the cricketing tradition attached to the West Indies team, Coming to America puts it best when Prince Akeem says that “it is also tradition that times must and always do change.” It’s time that the West Indies changed.
Despite their good recent performances in the World Twenty20, the West Indies are far from a cricketing force these days. They regularly crumble against world-class opposition, and until Darren Sammy got everyone pulling in a similar direction, they went through a stage of struggling horribly for leadership, too. Despite this, there are still loud and respected voices calling for Sammy’s head with alarming regularity.
Allan Stanford claimed that a Twenty20 knockout could reinvigorate cricket in the West Indies. In reality, he was just adding window-dressing to a competition that was at best illicitly-funded, and at worst a money-laundering scheme. Not that anyone was to know that, although perhaps the hosting of every game at the Stanford Cricket Ground indicated that altruism was far from his top priority.
All the same, Stanford got things done, by fair means or foul. His first tournament included nineteen teams, and the second made room for two more, although Cuba never made it onto the field. The format of pitting nation against nation was widely acclaimed as a fantastic initiative, but when Stanford went down in flames, the format burned with him.
Barbados, for instance, have a bowling battery that includes Tino Best, Carlos Brathwaite, Miguel Cummings, Fidel Edwards, Jason Holder, Kevin McClean, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach and Javon Searles bowling seam, while Sulieman Benn, Ryan Hinds and Ashley Nurse spin the ball. When you add the batting ability of Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Kyle Corbin, Kirk Edwards, Omar Phillips and Kevin Stoute, then you get a good, if bowling-heavy, international team.
Guyana, too, showed against Ireland that they could mix it as an international team. Picking eleven out of Trevon Griffith, Shiv Chanderpaul, Assad Fudadin, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Narsingh Deonarine, Leon Johnson, Christopher Barnwell, Derwin Christian, Veerasammy Permaul, Devandra Bishoo, Paul Wintz and Ronsford Beaton gives you a well-balanced and powerful team. Of course, there is more talent also waiting in the wings. For decades, the Berbice-Demerara fixture used to hold first-class status.
Trinidad and Tobago, though, are the ones that everyone talks about, the ones who grab all the headlines, the ones who play Twenty20 best. Of course, when your player pool includes Adrian Barath, both Bravos, Lendl Simmons, Jason Mohammed, Dinesh Ramdin, Nicolas Pooran, Kieran Pollard, Shannon Gabriel and Rayad Emrit, perhaps this isn’t such a surprise. However, the real strength is in the spin department. As well as T20 trump cards Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree, T&T is also home to Ryan Austin, Yannick Cariah, Sherwin Ganga, Amit Jaggernauth, Kavesh Kantasingh, Imran Khan, Dave Mohammed and Yannick Ottley. On low, turning home surfaces, this is not a friendly proposition.
The same can be said of the other smaller nations, too. St Vincent would be represented by a deceptively strong team that would contain Sunil Ambris, Miles Bascombe, Romel Currency, Orlanzo Jackson, Delorn Johnson and Keon Peters, to name a few. Similarly, St Lucia could call on the likes of Johnson Charles, Craig Emmanuel, Keddy Lesporis, Darren Sammy and Garey Mathurin. Both of those sides compare favourably with some of the sides who impressed observers in the opening round of the World Twenty20.
So that they don't feel left out, I'll give Anguilla (Omari Banks, Chesney Hughes, Yannick Leonard), Dominica (Liam Sebastien, Shane Shillingford, Mervin Matthew), Grenada (Andre Fletcher, Devon Smith, Nelon Pascal), and St Kitts & Nevis (Kieran Powell, Shane Jeffers, Nelson Bolan) honourable mentions, too. That's eleven competitive nations. Add Bermuda, Canada and America to the mix, and any two other qualifiers into the mix (which could include Montserrat or St Maarten, also blanketed by the West Indies) and you have a spectacularly vibrant sixteen-team regional tournament.
A sixteen-team continental tournament. That brings it into line with the other major team sport, football   .
Aside from these quirks, it strikes me as absurd that most of the matches in this tournament are not even granted List-A status, while games between Afghanistan, Hong Kong and the UAE are granted full ODI status. So far in the tournament, Nepal have beaten the UAE, Oman have beaten Hong Kong, and Malaysia defeated Afghanistan. Are these teams really less prestigious than the Southern Rocks or Kalabagan Cricket Academy?
Football, however, has a 32-team World Cup and treats all members equally in its constitution, be they Brazil or Montserrat. Cricket, does have enough playing nations to fill a 32-team World Cup, and to maintain a decent standard, if only they could start treating nations as nations, rather than as second-class “Associates”, third-class “Affiliates”, domestic teams, or sub-levels within domestic teams.
Yes, this article is long, fanciful and unrealistic, but a man can dream, can’t he?