Another case of the foot in the mouth
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has never been averse to seeking the headlines. Indeed, on most occasions he is the headline. Now, he has called for regional governments to pressure West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron out of office.
We submit that not only is he woefully out of line, but that he should also be reminded of the fact that inasmuch as he benefited from proper process a few years ago, when many in St Vincent and the Grenadines were calling too for his scalp over certain delicate accusations, Mr Cameron should not simply be dumped or be denied due process because the Vincentian leader seeks to be the news item of the week.
There is sensible reason why most sporting governing bodies are at pains to insist that politicians and politics be kept far away from their sport. Agencies such as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) are perhaps consciously aware that most, if not all, of what comes out of the mouths of politicians is self-serving. Mr Cameron came to office by virtue of a specific cricketing process, and no government leader should be seeking to orchestrate his removal.
We have had the embarrassment of the Guyana Cricket Board and Interim Management Committee imbroglio, occasioned by the interference of politicians. On most occasions when politicians divert their attention from not fulfilling the mandate of their voters to meddle in sports, they more often than not create greater problems. And almost to cue, Dr Gonsalves has rushed in where angels have not yet trod.
From this distance, and from all reports, Mr Cameron has brought a greater business model to the management of West Indies cricket than before and is deserving of praise for this. The India debacle, for which some would have him fall on anyone’s sword, has been occasioned primarily by players whose awareness of history, sense of timing, and commitment to the region went through the door long before India. Money, and money alone, has become their principal motivating factor. But that is a discourse for another occasion.
The fact that lawlessness now seems to permeate much of Caribbean life, from Kingston in Jamaica to Kingstown in St Vincent, and beyond, is understandable when one considers the educated folly spewed by Mr Gonsalves with respect to the now untouchable Mr Chris Gayle.
At age 35, likely a millionaire, with skills waning, and his nearing retirement, Gayle has little to lose through berating the West Indies Cricket Board. As the world’s premier Twenty20 player, he has an avenue for a livelihood outside of any considerations for West Indies cricket. That he can openly thrash the West Indies Cricket Board in, of all places, South Africa, and find support from Dr Gonsalves is a tragedy.
The late Tom Adams is perhaps uttering: “I told you so!” –– from the great beyond.
Here is a situation where a player of more than 15 years’ international experience, cognizant of the rules governing his employment –– contract worker or otherwise –– wilfully breaches them in full glare of the world’s media and Dr Gonsalves
Would Dr Gonsalves have been so blasé about this act of indiscipline if his Minister of Health Clayton Burgin had questioned the police investigation into his legal problems a few years ago? Or, had Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis gone before the media and questioned his leadership of the Unity Labour Party, would Dr Gonsalves be so dismissive of that occurrence in a situation where, in this instance, the right to criticize is not barred by any rules?
What we would agree on is that if the WICB now fails to discipline Mr Gayle for this his umpteenth act of recalcitrance, then heads should indeed roll.
West Indies cricket finds itself in a mire because of this type of indiscipline that has been the hallmark of our modern players, some of whom an IQ test and a refresher course on West Indies cricket history should be mandatory before being allowed near a West Indies dressing room.
Players now run to attorneys-at-law when they are dropped from the West Indies side, as though one of the criteria for playing is abject failure. And lawyers speak from both sides of their mouths in their defence, offering legalese that really should also include statistics of their clients’ failures.
Mr Cameron’s tenure in office so far has been marked by a number of positives, inclusive of a return of private sector sponsorship to regional cricket; the advent of the Caribbean Premier League; increased focus and inputs into junior cricket across the region; a greater spread of the financial pie to more players; and a generally better relationship between the board and the players’ representative, the West Indies Players Association. And all this while the West Indies international players have got richer while their performances have got poorer.
We acknowledge that cricket in the Caribbean belongs to its people; and Mr Gonsalves, as a Caribbean man, qualifies to have his say. But Dr Gonsalves, the politician, should perhaps concentrate on encouraging an environment where some cricketing official from his beautiful island equip himself or herself with the tools necessary to challenge Mr Cameron for the presidency via the structures in place within the WICB.
That would be a decidedly better venture than putting his foot once again into his mouth.