Warner: Cricket Is Still In The Wilderness

Audley Boyd
Date Published: 
Jamaica Gleaner

WHEN FIFA vice-president Austin "Jack" Warner talks about cricket, you get the impression he does not like the game. But when you listen to what others in the Caribbean say about the sport which brought great pride to the people of this region, you realise there is not much difference in their meaning.

Much of it is owing to the poor performances of the once all-conquering West Indies cricket team which Warner says has lost its way through a lack of professionalism and failure to plan.

Warner said: "All the politics and histrionics and so on remain because cricket is still in the wilderness and no amount of cosmetic planning will change cricket until cricket changes itself."

He added: "I'm not here to knock any sport but the fact simply is that cricket must professionalise itself both at the level of the player and the official. The age of rank amateurism is over.

"Even your own Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), if you were to turn the clock back four years ago you would see that it's chalk and cheese. What the JFF is today and what it was four years ago tells you something.

"It tells you the JFF was forced to come to terms with the realities of professionalism on and off the field, in administration and outside of administration," Warner said of Jamaica's football which scaled historical heights with first time qualification for a West Indian country to a World Cup finals in France last year.

"Cricket must take a cue from this. You've to sit down and look at the thing, do some introspection, soul-searching and Brian Lara is not the issue. Lara is only, of course, in my humble view ... the object at this time because he is bad. But that is only giving an excuse."

Lara and Warner share at least one thing in common. They are Trinidadian. And even though Lara, who is the captain of the West Indies team, is alleged to have committed several acts that go contrary to team rules, Warner said the problem is paradoxical.

Warner said: "You cannot have an indisciplined team playing a disciplined sport. That's the bottom line. You have an indisciplined team, you knew it was indisciplined before-hand and we in football say the things happening in cricket will never happen in football.

"You could never see players leave a team and go back to England and Captain Burrell (Horace, JFF president) fly up and talk to them. You crazy. Even as an amateur you couldn't do that, far more of course as a professional."

The West Indies were beaten 5-0 in Tests, the first series whitewash ever for the regional team, and 6-1 in the one-day series, in a just concluded tour of South Africa.

Instead of going to South Africa for pre-tour training, the players, led by Lara and vice-captain Carl Hooper, stayed in London and challenged the WICB for increased wages and some of the players who had already gone to South Africa, returned to London to participate in the 11th hour bargaining process.

"So you begin to see the whole reason why we are where we are," Warner said. "And we are also where we are because we're not building from the bottom up. Your Under-17 team is playing a tournament here. Your Under-20 team played in Guatemala. You've a nursery.

"We don't have this in cricket so when these guys have left, Viv Richards and so on, we're hoping that some fellow upstairs will produce another Richards, another so and so, another Desmond Haynes, another Greemdge (Gordon). What plans do we have? What programmes do we have? How consistent are we?" Warner said while reflecting of the greats associated with West Indies dominance throughout the 1970s and 80s.

"Cricket is at the crossroads and will be for a long time. If they win a Test match or two, and that of course is trying to be ultra optimistic, that still wouldn't save the day," he remarked about the West Indies' upcoming four-Test home series against world champions Australia.

"You have to sit down to do some fundamental introspection for the sport to regain its former glory," Warner said.