Lloyd: ‘We became thoughtless’

Lloyd in his pomp

West Indies are in a period of transition. They have been for a decade and will be for at least another ten years. Clive Lloyd, in his biography, insists that a restoration to work ethic is instrumental to their fortunes if they are to rise again. Extract stolen from The Times.

After Packer and World Series Cricket, Clive Lloyd returned to captain the West Indies in 1979. From that time until his retirement, the team were beaten in only three of the 47 Test matches in which they played, a loss rate of 6.4 per cent. In the next six years, when Vivian Richards was captain, that figure rose to 18.9 per cent, and under successive captains it has risen and risen till the wins and losses are almost a mirror image of what they were in Clive’s years.

“The greatest reason for the decline of West Indian cricket is that we became thoughtless,” says Clive. “Too many people assumed that we had a right to go on being great for ever. It was as if they believed that West Indians would always produce great cricket in the way that France is famed for its fine wine – a never-ending national institution. But life has changed for people in the West Indies, cricket has changed in the rest of the world, and we failed to appreciate those changes.

“To put it simply, the West Indies have lost for so long because there are not enough great players. That’s obvious. But great players don’t just turn up, they have to be shaped. What very few people seem to realise is that the Test team I had in 1975-76 was really no different from the one that there is today in terms of its potential. Fidel Edwards and Daren Powell can both bowl at 90 miles per hour. [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul and [Ramnaresh] Sarwan are both world-class batsmen.

Our cricketers are free-flowing men. Early on, Viv Richards was a free-flowing guy, he got forties and never made big scores. But you knew once he had harnessed his talent and got the mental side of his game right, then he was going to be a class player. Gordon Greenidge took some time to get going, same with Michael Holding. All those guys came in and worked at their game.

“The great West Indies sides were shaped, just as this one could be. The problems we are having now are the consequence of a decade of letting the fruit wither on the vine. There have been big cultural changes in the West Indies. The regional cricket competition is not what it was. Our cricketers no longer play county cricket. The board has not used its authority wisely. The players’ expectations, what they want from the game, what they want from life, have changed.

Above all, we neglected to plan for the future.

“When people speak about the demise of West Indian cricket, the influence of America is never very far from their lips. I disagree. I think the real sporting distraction has not come from basketball or the other American sports, but from football. It’s true that in some of the islands, the first thing that a politician does is put up a basketball court; it’s much smaller and cheaper than a cricket ground, but I don’t believe that a lot of kids go on to play professionally.”

In the summer of 2007, Garry Sobers was in England and told an audience about the problems facing cricket in the Caribbean: “If someone said to me that soccer is the reason for West Indian cricket falling so low, I might think about it. But the real problem, and it is a problem for sport around the world, is television.”

Lloyd in his pomp

Sir Garry mentioned his own boys, both fine sports players, whom he believed had suffered because of the distractions of modern life. “When they got home from school they would not go outside and play, they would sit in front of a video. That’s your real culprit. Kids do not organise games of cricket by themselves, playing outside morning, noon and night. Today, if it is not organised, nobody leaves home. They wait for you to pick them up, take them to the ground, give them the best cricket attire. The natural flow of the game has gone.”

“It’s true that kids have many more things to do with their time,” says Clive. “If you want to improve at your sport, you have to be dedicated, do little else, train hard and that’s less likely to happen when there are so many distractions. And if they have a job that pays a decent wage, they’ll be saying, ‘Why the hell should I go through all this?’ In my time there wasn’t much to do. Now you can fill your day doing all sorts. You can watch DVDs all day long if you want. That is why it is so important to catch them early. We must inculcate the right things in these children before they go down the wrong lane. We must get the structure to life there early enough.

“The main thing is to get the talent, get the people who can impart the knowledge and bring the players to fruition. I know it is an uphill task, but cricket is so important to people in the West Indies; it’s one of the main ingredients of the glue that keeps us together.”

He pauses for a moment. “I think about today’s players and my overwhelming emotion towards them is not anger that they have been unsuccessful but concern,” he says. “We did so well that everybody expects the West Indies teams to be like those of the 1970s and 1980s, but it cannot happen without hard work, attention to detail and respect for the game.

“These players have been burdened with what the West Indies have done in the past and I think that’s probably wrong. This is a new era, it’s their time and it’s up to them to go out and show people what they’re capable of. A lot of people are backing them to do well, including myself.”

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