by Lingham Samuel
It has been a long time since cricket fans in the Caribbean have had so much to celebrate; all in one day. April 3rd was indeed memorable as the West Indies Senior (male and female) Twenty20 teams won the World Cup in that format.
Across the region smiling faces savoured the victory as cold beers flowed and vintage Caribbean rums were available in abundance. This writer considers that the real credit must go to the WI One-Day squad which hoisted the Under- 19 World Cup. The youngsters’ display of grit, determination and patriotism was so profound that the senior squad may have been shamed to perform.
The euphoria of the moment wandered into heady indiscretion as Darren Sammy proceeded to lambast the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
The erstwhile affable Sammy, widely regarded as a “Board Boy” seem to have mustered enough spunk to engage in this ugly public spectacle. It seems that lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) contracts have emboldened Mr. Sammy who became captain of the test squad when he could barely command a place on the side.
Be that as it may, he seems blissfully unaware of the damage inflicted on the IMAGE of WI cricket when the players abandoned the Indian Tour in midstream, leaving the hapless WICB with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). To apportion blame at this juncture is irrelevant but one thing is certain, the image of WI cricket is in tatters, notwithstanding the back to back victories.
I am pretty sure that Sobers, Lloyd, Richards and Lara, to name a few, had their share of issues with the WICB. Somehow these legends respected the legacy of WI cricket and managed to temper their public pronouncements.
Regional cricket has always been poorly resourced. Recently Ian Chappell commented that when he enquired of Joel Garner if WI was still producing cricketing talent, the latter responded to the affirmative; the problem is money.
The administration of WI cricket faces some daunting challenges. The WICB is an elected entity. Most islands have a national cricket association. In turn, these associations are represented at the regional level. The sad truth is that the WICB has compromised its moral authority to govern as a string of appointments, disappointments and decisions has been less than optimal. Sectoral interests, insularity and incompetence have had a corrosive effect on the exercise of the basic tenets of good management i.e. mutual respect, professionalism and fairness.
The acrimonious relationship with West Indies Players Association (WIPA) has not helped. The frequent strikes and threats driven by contract fees only served to accentuate an unhealthy situation. Meanwhile, WI fans and the wider cricketing world watched in dismay as the Test and One-Day ratings found neighbours in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. We watched helplessly as the team lost its pride; many times snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Many advisory structures, task forces and committees have weighed in an effort to find solutions. Regional governments got into the fray and a Prime Minister’s sub-committee was established. Muted calls for the replacement by undemocratic means of the present Board, only served to create unnecessary tension. However, complete overhaul of cricket administration, in the region, is now an urgent necessity.
Regional governments have done precious little to invest in grass roots programs but instead erected huge stadia (built largely by foreign assistance) which smacks more of political grandstanding than a genuine commitment to help regional cricket. The irony is that these same politicians are unable to solve the nagging issues they were elected to solve; unsustainable public debt, escalating levels of crime and deteriorating living standards.
WI cricket must be managed in a transparent, democratic and professional manner far removed from political shenanigans and their cohorts.
Cricket is a gentleman’s game and conflict mitigation must be done in a civilized manner that is why the use of a world stage to wash dirty linen is so distasteful. The inappropriate public rebuke of Sir Vivian Richards by Denesh Ramdin suggests that discipline has gone into hiding.
We need to invoke the elegance of Sir Frank Worrell, the genius of Sir Garfield Sobers, the mastery of Sir Vivian Richards, the work ethic and humility of Sir Curtly Ambrose back into the fabric of regional cricket.
The WICB must take the lions’ share of the blame for the present situation but two wrongs don’t make a right. We must not forget that it is the individual responsibility of each player to justify his place in the squad. No one better exemplifies that than Shiv Chanderpaul.