Political fingers in the cricket pie

In a style that the power-hitting sidelined West Indian opener would surely have applauded, President Bharrat Jagdeo has come out to bat for the hapless Chris Gayle and, it seems, for Caribbean cricket. Not only has Jagdeo placed himself firmly in the Gayle camp but he has also sent down some threatening short-pitched bowling in the direction of the WICB which now appears to surpass even our Caribbean cricket team itself in the extent of its ineptitude.

Jagdeo says that the WICB is treating West Indies cricket as if it were private property. He’s right, but what’s new. Isn’t that the way in which many Caribbean Governments treat with the countries which they get elected to govern. Jagdeo also says that the life of the WICB should not last until the current members depart for the great beyond. If Presidents can have term limits so too must WICB members.

If Chris Gayle’s fans across the region would welcome Mr. Jagdeo talking up for the swashbuckling opening batsman and one-time team captain you have to wonder why Mr. Jagdeo has not until now, made a similar decisive intervention in the chaotic affairs of local cricket where the struggle for power at the level of the local Cricket Board has now descended into a vulgar and unbearable confrontation among a bunch of squabbling incompetents in which ugly threats have been issued and some may even have been carried out and where some protagonists have made it clear that it is not the development of the local game but their own self-aggrandizement that is their real concern.

Of course, even if it is no secret that the WICB simply has to be stopped before it pushes Caribbean cricket to the level of a regional disaster, one can already hear an audible moan across the region at the thought that the problem is about to be placed in the hands of a group of CARICOM “wise men” appointed by CARICOM Heads and which might even include a certain soon-to-be-outgoing one of their own number. If Mr. Jagdeo may have turned over his arm or flashed a ‘blade’ made of a coconut branch at a fizzing tar ball delivery in the pastures of Unity he certainly would not have done it with the proficiency of a Shivnarine Chanderpaul; and if that does not render him altogether ineligible to take a tilt at trying to help rescue Caribbean cricket, the problem is that our Caribbean politicians have made a mess of so many other things that you have to be nervous about the prospect of placing the future of cricket in their hands.

The fear of course is that once our politicians get their hands on our cricket, the game would quickly disappear into a quagmire of Commissions and Boards of Enquiry run by bureaucrats who wouldn’t recognize a leg break from a water break and that solving the problems will take years of contemplation by ‘wise men’ whose wisdom hardly extends to the game itself and that some five-volume panacea named Caribbean Cricket: Its Problems and Its Solutions will make a brief appearance, be suitably anointed as a ‘bible’ for going forward then disappear down some black hole never to be seen again except as a reference paper in some other future academic treatise by Sir Hilary Beckles, Professor Norman Girvan or some other West Indian intellectual at some future regional forum of What To Do About West Indies Cricket.

The truth of the matter is that as much as the WICB has come to epitomize ineptitude and incompetence, CARICOM Governments themselves, at least some of them, must carry the can equally for the unmitigated disaster that our cricket has become. Some of us have simply refused to invest in the infrastructure and the human capital that is necessary to raise the standard of the game. Some of  us are saddled with local Sports Commissions which themselves epitomize incompetence and everything, from who serves as Treasurer of the Cricket Board to which youngster gets included or excluded from a touring team is decided by cricketing politicians for whom the whole thing is simply an exercise in the wielding of power. Over the years, by their disinterest in sport as an asset for the region, Caribbean Governments have simply undervalued our cricket. It is as if they had, in their folly, come to delude themselves into believing that the high standards that had been set in our cricketers of yesteryear would simply be reincarnated in today’s crop of youngsters. If the truth be told the ineptitude of Caribbean Governments as far as looking after the best interests of Caribbean cricket is concerned at least equals that of the WICB.

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