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Where do we go from here?

By Tony Deyal

When in my PAHO (The Pan American Health Organization) days, I was holding a training session on Dengue in Spanish Town, I found out from one of the late-comers that in Jamaica, “Time’ is a foreign magazine.

In Barbados, the birthplace of my two youngest children, and Guyana, my wife’s home, “Banks” is an alcoholic beverage. Also in Guyana, “Unity” is a village. When the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) hired me as its corporate secretary and communications manager, the “Sun” was a newspaper, not just in Antigua where I worked but also in St Kitts and Nevis. It only set when Stanford and his empire ended in total darkness. But none of them can rival Trinidad and Tobago in the duality and even plurality of its Englistic linguistics.

Trinidad and Tobago is the only place where “Elite” is a brand of shirt and “Republic” is a bank. “Moral” is a game played with a ball by children but it is not “cricket”, which is an insect. In the “lifestyle” of Trinidad and Tobago (which, by the way, is a car dealership), “priority” is a bus-route; “Chutney” is not a condiment but something you dance to; “lime” is a get-together or telecommunications provider; “Unity” is a hamlet in the south of Trinidad; “Reform” is a village; “Police and Thief” was a child’s game that disappeared when both sides became indistinguishable; and “Maracas” is a beach and not a rattle. Even more interesting is that if Trinidad and Tobago ever decided to dedicate an entire twenty-four-hour period in celebration of its national instrument, it will have the name of a former prime minister- “Panday”.

This is why, when the West Indies cricket team failed to make it into the final twelve for the T20 World Cup and the coach resigned, many of us were very upset because our worst expectations had come to pass. I suppose that unlike us the people in charge thought that changing the name of the organisation from “West Indies Cricket Board” (WICB) to “Cricket West Indies” (CWI) would make the dramatic difference, the “bolt” from the blue that would instantly create success from years of continuous failure. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking was more insane that Usain.

From the moment Julien Hunte came in and was followed by Dave Cameron, whenever the CWI won an occasional game, we heard about light in the darkness which inevitably, and very speedily, turned out to be from a magnetically levitated juggernaut travelling at 600 miles an hour to lick them up and bounce them out.

It is sad that from “Cricket, Lovely Cricket” at Lords in 1950 we have come to the 1980 calypso by Winston “Joker” Des Visgnes which is still unanswered in 2022, not just for our cricket but our Caribbean, “Where do we go from here?” Is it that placing our cricket and future in the “hands of unscrupulous men” has blocked our progress and raised the prices beyond our reach?

I was glad when Richard “Ricky” Skerrit decided to put his “cap” in the ring. Knowing that he would not go off “dunce-capped” like Hunte or “skull-capped” like Cameron, I was glad to support his campaign. I knew that he had once given up as the Cricket Team Manager when after the West Indies lost a match in Jamaica, many of the players went and partied in the stands. I admired his resignation on the grounds that despite his best efforts, he was “unable to instil in the entire team the fullest understanding of their obligations on and off the field to the people of the West Indies.”

Unfortunately, that has not changed. From early on it was clear that Skerritt was not brave enough to proceed with the financial forensic audit he had promised, or deal with the many structural problems make it impossible for any improvements to take place.

My son Zubin, a cricketer since he was five, identified some of what he believes are vital deterrents. They include political problems within islands and between territories; corruption which reduces the money that should go to cricket; poor coaching so batting technique (in particular) suffers and continues to the highest levels of the game; poor facilities especially low-quality pitches; and the number of cricket opportunities, or “quantity”, made worse by the high cost of inter-island travel. Talking about money, immediately after the 2007 World Cup, the president, Ken Gordon, shared US$16million among the six territorial associations. It is widely believed that two of those associations never reported this to their Boards or put it in their books. This is why the forensic audit will never happen.

Eventually, all the recent “Presidents”, with the exception of Ken Gordon, gave up the functions of the job and clung by hook, crook, tooth and nail to the “office” because that is where the fame, fortune and travel opportunities are ripe for the plucking. In a way, I am sorry for Skerrit. His side-kick, Dr Kishore Swallow, seems to have bitten off much more than he can chew – or Swallow – and appears not just to have vanished into thin air but varnished into thin ears where people from whom he initially sought advice were ignored from the day after he won. I understand that Skerrit is not going for a second term and that Swallow will be. When that happens, I will put on my last will and testament that I want to be buried at sea and, as a former corporate secretary of the WICB, request that all its board members, including Swallow if he’s still around, to carry my casket.

The most unknown or “hidden” fact is that we, the people of the Caribbean, and even the CARICOM-mess that we have in common, have no say in what happens to West Indies Cricket. The ownership, the first and final say, the money, whether any, penny or many, all belong and go to the six cricket boards that own our cricket.

This is why when I heard some people who should know better, including a few Cricket-Board managers and members, and many of the fans, blaming the coach for the failure of the team to make the final twelve in the T20, I saw it as comic relief. “Simmons” might be a bed or mattress in Trinidad and the wider world, but this Simmons, the coach, is a fighter and not someone to jump up on and play children’s games. An ESPN headline on October 24, 2022 announced: “Simmons quits as West Indies coach after ‘unfathomable’ World Cup exit.” This is why I want my pall-bearers to know exactly what “unfathomable” means since they don’t seem to give a fathom or even a whiff of what West Indies Cricket means to us.

As Simmons found out, dealing with the Cricket Board or the players is no bed of roses. In fact, it is not only the Cricket Board we have to worry about. We have to know whether the reason the players constantly miss the boat, or the plane, is a matter of no-balls.

*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that because of the many countries in the region and the deliberately limited few who “pick” the team, the greatest opponents the players face are the coaches and selectors.



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