Colin Croft

Colin Croft

Cricket Commentary by Colin EH Croft

If you are a young, upcoming, not fully matured or even fully tried but somewhat gifted budding West Indies cricketer from any island or from Guyana, especially those playing the WI Under-19 and U-15 competitions now being completed, you should be jumping and shouting with tremendous joy!

Meanwhile, Clive Lloyd, captain of West Indies when I started representing the Caribbean in 1976/77, his deputy Deryck Murray, and late great Sir Clyde Walcott too, should be raising a glass, several glasses even of rum, Chardonnay or Veuve, their preference, wherever they are, in massive celebration.

Yes, while it may not have altogether dawned on younger players yet as to what a momentous situation has developed, one extremely long in the making, things are now so better planned and organised for their cricketing future, financially, with recent news of almost universal central contracts, etc, that all that they really have to do now is to play relatively well and the rest will fall quite easily into place.

Opportunities abound and they will be relatively well paid for the blood, sweat, tears and successes too.

Nothing was more important to Lloyd and Murray, except winning, than the massive hope and undying thought that all cricketers in the Caribbean, not just those already representing internationally but all who play in regional competitions, men and women, could eventually be paid on central contracts.

God, it has been nearly 45 years since I first heard that suggestion, that “our cricketers need money from somewhere, a yearly income, so that they can really focus on their cricket at hand. If that were to become reality, then West Indies cricket teams would become so strong that no one will beat us, ever!”

That West Indies became a fantastic cricketing force early in its history, one that matured to beat the world between mid-1970s and mid-1990s, winning two ICC World Cups in that unprecedented period, is a big modern miracle. We have always fought way above our weight of seven million.

There have been many efforts to help players, not the Chris Gayles or the Kieron Pollards and others who have become so successful internationally, and therefore so well paid for their cricket, but for the younger, unheralded but maybe just as gifted players too, to be compensated for at least their efforts.

Many commercial companies, such as Banks DIH in Guyana, T&T Electricity Company, Goddard Industries in Barbados and in Jamaica, such as Shell Oil Company and Desnoes and Geddes have, over our time, contributed exceptionally well to the upkeep of several but only individual, not collective, cricketers while they plied their trade on the field. Their assistance was unreplaceable.

But never in our cricket’s history has financial undertakings for our cricketers been as universal as now.

As a Guyana U-19 cricketer, Sylvia, my mother, father dead by then, had to seek out loans on my behalf so that I could of gotten the necessary clothes and cricket shoes for cricket tours, to represent Guyana in 1970 and 1971. Had Royal Bank and Barclays Bank not allowed those loans, I would have been kaput!

Even when I first played for WI, like most of the rest of the team, those who did not play county cricket in England for a living, I had to have a full time job an assistant air traffic controller—simply to eat.

Managers at Timehri/Cheddi Jagan International Airport and Guyana’s Civil Aviation Department, late DCA Robert Roberts and Aubrey Alexander, Geoffrey “Reds” Murray, who also played cricket for Guyana as a wicket-keeper, and Anthony Moore, all senior ATCOs/aviation inspectors, had a great hand in my cricketing success. Without them, no one would have known of me as a cricketer.

I worked mostly at night, with relevant engineered shift changes (11 pm to 7 am), so that I could play and practice during the day for Guyana Sports Club or be at Bourda Cricket Ground for cricketing drills, courtesy of the likes of Joe Soloman, Sir Clyde and Basil Butcher.

Even at work I was training too, running many lengths of Runway 05-23—three or so miles long—every morning, circa 3 am, when international traffic eased, to get fitness.

I simply had to work, since the total fee for my first Test series, five Test matches, two ODIs, was TT$3,000, equivalent today to US$500. I still have a copy of that cheque.

With this new dispensation, our countries’ representatives, especially in first class rankings, will be paid a stipend—in T&T, about US$1,500 per month minimum—just to train and be ready.

That may not seem like much money to already established international players, but that is life-blood to younger, eager folks, poorer players who still travel by maxi taxis and reside in the countryside.

Now, cricketers like T&T’s Navin Stewart, who works in T&T’s oil industry, would have the pleasure of choosing if he wants to be fully professional cricketer or to continue his oil industry career, a win-win situation.

Miracles do still happen. This financial one has been a very long time coming but is finally here! Enjoy!

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