Why is West Indian cricket so bad? Here's a theory - only a partial, tentative explanation. But it's an overlooked possibility.
It's because the players' names are unusual.
Take the current side: Chris, Daren, Devon, Runiko, Shivnarine, Dwayne, Danesh, Darren, Jerome, Corey, Fidel. Five of these names are pretty rare, and only two are older, common ones: Darren and Chris.
Compare the side that blackwashed England in 1984: Gordon, Des, Larry, Viv, Clive, Jeff, Malcolm, Eldine, Roger, Michael and Joel. Only one name is really unusual, and most are old, common names.
This matters for a simple reason. If a boy has a common name, he'll think: "I'm nothing special. I'm going to have to work to make a name for myself." So Michaels, Malcolms and Roys practice harder. But if a boy has an unusual name, he'll think: "I'm special, unique. I can be me." He'll not practice so hard, thinking that talent and self-expression are sufficient.
The upshot is that people with common names will be more likely - at the margin and with exceptions - to put in the hard work necessary to succeed.
This is just a hunch based upon one data set. But there's more evidence. This paper (pdf) says:
More popular names are associated with better lifetime outcomes: that is, more education, occupational prestige and income, and a reduced likelihood of having a child before 25.
And teachers apparently think kids with unusual names are less likely to do well at school than ones with commoner names - an expectation that might be self-fulfilling.
So, maybe names matter.