Larry Gomes, a veteran of 60 Tests for West Indies during the late seventies and the early eighties, has lamented the fall of the once insurmountable Test team. West Indies were demolished within three days in all their previous four Tests in the sub-continent (against India and Bangladesh), with the latest mauling being by an innings and 184 runs, by lowly-ranked Bangladesh, on Sunday (December 2).
The 65-year old left-handed batsman, who played during the era of fearsome West Indian domination was speaking as a guest at the Past Cricketers Society dinner and award function at the Queen’s Park Oval, St. Clair, on November 24. An annual function, Gomes was honoured by the society along with legendary West Indian fast bowler, Sir Wes Hall, in 2017 and this year’s recipient of the honour was Sir Garfield Sobers.
Speaking about the recent struggle of West Indies, particularly in the red-ball format of the game, Gomes attributed it to the lack of exposure to county cricket in England. “In our time, most of the guys played county cricket,” said Gomes, who played for Middlesex from 1973-76. “Since (the English and Wales Cricket Board) limited the overseas players, that sort of pushed us out the window. Our players don’t get that opportunity to play in England like before. You were more professional, playing day-in, day-out. Unfortunately, our players don’t have that experience or exposure of playing in England,” he added.
Expressing sadness at the downfall of West Indies in Tests, Gomes though refused to blame the ascent of Twenty20 cricket for the team’s current sorry plight, instead asking the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to take steps and ensure that the standards are met in the longer format of the game. “T20 is more entertainment. You can’t really blame the players. The lifespan of a cricketer is short, so they have to look after themselves. (Cricket West Indies) will have to try and do something to compensate the players if you want them to play the longer version of the game.”
He added, “We have to find a way to try to get our best players to play the five-day version. We wouldn’t have our best team at any (given) time, whether it’s the T20 or the 50-overs or the Test matches.” Speaking about the current crop of players, Gomes lamented the inability of them to concentrate and stay focused for long periods of time, a basic requirement for success in Test cricket. “It’s sad,” he admitted.
“It’s a different era now. Test cricket, I wouldn’t say, is dying, but is not as popular as the other formats of the game. “It’s sad to see where we were at one time to just fall so far down in the rankings. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the T20s why players are not applying themselves, concentrating longer and thinking about the longer version of the game.
“We can play with more heart and (show) more pride in the performances… and think about the West Indian people.
It’s sad to see but it’s a changing world. The players of today are focusing, I think, mostly on the shorter versions of the game,” Gomes concluded.