Of cricket, change and the law
English author Charles Dickens once famously suggested that the law was an ass, and though he might have stopped short of suggesting that frequently some of its practitioners are even bigger versions, one is often presented with situations that could support both suppositions.
We must congratulate youthful Barbadian cricketer Jason Holder on his elevation to the captaincy of the West Indies senior One-Day International side and hope that those surrounding him give of their full support as he undertakes a most prestigious but unenviable task.
Of course, his destiny is very much in his own hands. He must silence discerning detractors and warm the hearts of ardent supporters by dint of hard work and performance. He will be judged on what transpires in the middle and by the results in the shortened form of the game achieved under his tenure. That alone will be his Damocles sword.
Holder takes over what is very much a poisoned chalice. West Indies’ cricket on the international stage has been a lesson in abject failure since 1995, with victories in the 2012 Twenty20 World Cup and 2004 Champions Trophy the only achievements of any note. Captains have come and gone over the past 19 years –– from the greats Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh, to Jimmy Adams, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle and Darren Sammy.
The state of West Indies cricket is at such a low that it puzzles when journalists, columnists, unionists, lawyers and even bricklayers actually spend significant time arguing the merits and demerits of retaining or axing players, whose bowling averages should really replace their batting averages and vice versa. In an era of offensive mediocrity barely average players have attained unearned stardom and fortuitous largesse.
The debacle that was the tour of India has been well documented and requires no regurgitation. That team was led by all-rounder Dwayne Bravo and included the likes of senior players Sammy, Kieron Pollard, and others, all with palpably mediocre records.
A quick glance at the records of these players make for interesting observation. Bravo has been a part of the West Indies team for the past ten years and in 164 One-Day Internationals has scraped together fewer than 3,000 runs at an average of 25.36. He has done better with the ball, taking 199 wickets in the same period at an average just under 30.
Pollard’s record is even poorer. He has 2,042 runs to show for 91 One-Day Internationals at an average of 25. Sammy, for all his stated and demonstrated commitment to regional cricket, averages 23.68 with the bat after 115 ODIs and has taken a meagre 79 wickets at an average of 44.25.
In any language, and under any circumstances, these are not figures to command a place in any international set-up. Indeed, the likes of Pollard, Bravo, Sammy, and others, should consider themselves fortunate that they are playing international cricket. Twenty-five to 30 years ago their chances would virtually be nil.
The West Indies Cricket Board’s decision to change the status quo, especially with the One-Day International side, comes against the background that the team has been in a rut for more than a decade and that something different had to be tried. As South Africa once successfully did with a youthful Graeme Smith, and Australia has now done with the young Steve Smith, the WICB has gone the way of youth with the 23-year-old Holder.
Clive Lloyd described his appointment thus: “Jason is one of the good, young players who we believe will form part of the long-term future of West Indies cricket. We expect him to be around for a very long time. He is a young man with a very bright future. We have invested in him. He was part of the High Performance Centre and he also played for the West Indies Under-19 team and the West Indies A team . . . . He has played ODIs for the West Indies before and has done well. We know he will continue to grow and demonstrate leadership.
“He has a very good cricketing brain and has the makings of a very good leader. The selectors decided that now is the time to make the transition and Jason will have people around him to help and guide him . . . .”
Of course, there have been skeptics. Some have suggested that the timing of Holder’s elevation is wrong and that Bravo’s demotion smacks of victimization. But “timing” is discretionary and one can find advantage or disadvantage for any time chosen to make any decision. On what basis can we truly seek to second-guess the regional selection panel for making changes at this juncture?
Cries from a local Queen’s Counsel that Bravo has been victimized instantly conjure up images of Dickens with pen in hand making assertions about the law and its practitioners. From one side of the mouth is the claim that Bravo and his colleagues are not employees of the WICB, and that they are independent contractors hiring out their services on a contractual basis to the board. Yet, from the other side is the suggestion that they are being victimized when not chosen.
Given the pronouncement so succinctly put forward by the esteemed Ralph Thorne, one wonders at what stage is the WICB under any obligation to continue a relationship with any independent contractor if it decides to go in a different direction? Mr Thorne cannot have it both ways.
The United States’ President Barack Obama, in explaining why he was attempting a different strategy in dealing with the Cuba situation, suggested that his country’s 53-year hard-line policy and isolation of our north Caribbean neighbour had not worked. It was time for change.
The WICB has been recycling failures for the past ten to 15 years, and losing to all and sundry. If they decide now to take fresh guard in the interest of West Indies cricket, they are deserving of acclaim not censure. To do otherwise, would be –– to borrow from Dickens –– to make regional cricket a bigger ass than the law.