England pay price for West Indies’ decline

I don’t necessarily agree with that headline, but I am interested by the observation which Mihir Bose makes at the BBC:

England have been humiliated in the tournament and what is more the English team has no Afro-Caribbean cricketers, as they did in the 1980s. Their place in the main has been taken by Asian cricketers. There are complex reasons for this but interestingly one is the decline of West Indian cricket. This is certainly the view of David Morgan, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

He told me: “When immigration was peaking in the 60s and early 70s, we had 20 or 25 Afro-Caribbean cricketers playing in our county championship. It was also at a time when West Indian cricket was right at the top of the tree. But since then there has been a decline in the fortunes of the West Indian cricket team.”

Bose goes on to say, in a roundabout way, that England are paying the price for West Indies’ decline. Is this strictly accurate? Isn’t he underestimating the Afro-Caribbean population of Britain, the vast majority of whom would count themselves as British, regardless of where their grandparents hailed from? Or do people whose families once came from a different cricketing country look to the land of their forefathers as their primary inspiration?

Either way, the ever decreasing number of Afro-Caribbean players in the UK is certainly a shame when you look back at those who have represented England and what they offered. Gladstone Small, Norman Cowans and Devon Malcolm all had varying degrees of success (and pace) but I don’t believe that a sudden surge of Caribbean flair (a misleading statement in the current climate, anyway) into the Championship would benefit the national side in the short term.

It’s a fascinating concept: a player whose family originate from another country who wishes to emulate his heroes playing for England. While West Indians have been lacking from English cricket, the rapid rise in dominance of the subcontinental teams has seen a vast surge in Asians playing county cricket and for England.

Some interesting thoughts from Bose though, whether you agree with them or not. Of particular note is the realisation that, on Saturday, England and West Indies face off in an utterly meaningless encounter. The hosts, who dominated the first two World Cups in England 30 years ago, against England who have never looked like winning it. Ever.

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