Former West Indies captain Carl Hooper has said cash-rich T20 leagues, including the Indian Premier League (IPL), has hurt West Indies cricket with quality players preferring lucrative contracts over national duty.
The veteran of 102 Tests pointed out that the likes of Sunil Narine, Chris Gayle, Elvin Lewis, and Kieron Pollard are among the many to have curtailed their Test careers to become T20 globetrotters.
"We should have seen this coming. T20 cricket is here to stay. You got more leagues in play than what it was five years ago. It is crazy. It is going to affect us because, for most young West Indies players, the ultimate aim is signing a contract with an IPL side," Hooper said, as quoted by the Press Trust of India.
"The IPL is just a six-week window but we have had situations where we have had someone like Sunil Narine, who picked up six wickets in his last Test (in 2013), has not played for us again. Same goes for Gayle and Kieron Pollard. I am not saying they were finished products in the longest format but at 26-27, let's say if Pollard played Test cricket, who knows he could have developed as a good Test cricketer. But he stuck to the shorter formats," he added.
"So we are missing players. Evin Lewis just decided to push back on a central contract. He is good enough to play Test cricket. So the shorter versions of the game curtail our progress."
The West Indies cricket team, especially in the longer format, is a shadow of its former self that had dominated world cricket over a considerably long period of time. Jason Holder's men are languishing at the eighth spot on ICC Test rankings.
Issues player remunerations and payment dues have been constant fixtures of West Indies cricket and the player-board disputes over the years have been well documented.
The rise of T20 leagues across the globe only made the situation worse for Caribbean cricket as players have the option of making ends meet despite not having senior national contracts.
'Virat Kohli can stop playing if he wants to but West Indies players can't'
Hooper acknowledges that Cricket West Indies needs to be run better when it comes to having a proper structure at the junior age categories. The 51-year-old former all-rounder heaped praise at India's structure and pointed out players like Prithvi Shaw achieving success at the highest level is due to the strong domestic system.
Hooper had witnessed Shaw make like of the West Indies bowling line-up on the first day of the ongoing first Test in Rajkot. The 18-year-old brought up his first Test century as early as in his debut.
"It would be unfair to blame the players for making the choice (of playing IPL). We all want to be financially secure at the end of the day. I am not going to judge players who choose IPL for West Indies. You cannot be upset with a guy who doesn't want to sign a central contract as he wants to play in other leagues. It is a tough situation. Virat Kohli can stop playing today if he wants to but none of our guys can afford to do that," Hooper added.
"Corruption is everywhere man, not just in cricket. It is what is.
"But I am still optimistic. The board needs to implement policies that take the game in the right direction. Your first-class level is probably good enough and that is why you can test Prithvi Shaw at such a young age. But ours is failing and to revive that, a lot of work needs to be done at U-16 and U-19 level."
West Indies were comprehensively played out by India on the opening day as Shaw's century and half-centuries from captain Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara helped the hosts to 364 for 4, their highest-ever score in a day's play against the Caribbeans.