It brought Garry Sobers to the verge of public tears in Sri Lanka in 2015. Wherever Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards are in the world, it is almost certain to bring them to private tears. And it will make cricketing knights Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott turn thousands of times in their graves; it might even send Sir Everton Weekes, who turned 92 last weekend, prematurely to his.
CLR James and Tony Cozier will certainly look down on it. However, I don’t expect the late Joey Carew and Alloy Lequay, not nearly open-minded enough about it, to make the link and have their peace disturbed.
Hear 21-year-old Trinidad and Tobago wicketkeeper/batsman Nicholas Pooran on Monday of last week shortly after he discovered that he had been selected by the Mumbai Indians to play in the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League, which runs from April 5 to May 21.
“This,” he unabashedly, unapologetically told local media, “is what every cricketer dream$ about.”
Last week too, the Kolkata Knight Riders bought Darren Bravo who, in the words of Express Sports Editor Garth Wattley, has so far been “willing to ignore the T20 millions on offer and dedicate himself to restoring (sic) the West Indies reputation in Test cricket.” The 28-year-old Lara clone has now, still in Wattley’s words, “decided to try his hand in the Indian Premier League again.”
Bravo, for those who aren’t certain, is from Trinidad. Laraland.
As is—fittingly, I daresay—the talented left-hander Pooran, whose succinct seven-word statement so neatly encapsulates a truth that few have been willing to concede.
Enter Hilary Beckles, academic, historian and cricket scribe par excellence. Lloyd and Richards and Ambrose and Walsh, he tells us in Liberation Cricket, I think, were the last of the cricketing amateurs, those who played the game for love of country and love of the sport. The arrival of Brian Charles Lara on the Test cricket scene in the 1990s, he points out, ushered in the Age of the Mercenary, the heyday of those for whom cricket is first and foremost about making money.
Who can forget how, despite a lengthening list of “indiscretions,” the Prince of Port-of-Spain was promoted—to the lusty cheers of T&T’s media and cricketing leaders—to premature pre-eminence in the West Indian hierarchy?
And that among his first acts as captain was the pre-emptive London strike over better pay?
Holed up in a hotel in England’s capital city, en route to South Africa for his first overseas assignment in charge, BCL forced West Indies Cricket Board President Pat Rousseau to fly to London to discuss players’ pay issues.
Nelson Mandela sent a personal letter to the protesting players; Lara declined, subsequent reports revealed, to even read it. The tour remained on hold until the matter was resolved.
The Barbados Nation commented hopefully: “The lessons of the last week, an experience which might well have led to the death of the spirit of West Indian cricket at the highest level, will be salutary…”
It is perhaps not irrelevant that Lara’s West Indians were whitewashed. And that his three stints as West Indies captain were marked by, in his own words, “Moderate success, devastating failure.”
Fast forward to October 2014 and the West Indies’ scheduled 5-ODI’s, 3-Tests and 1-T20 series against India. The team captain now is Darren Sammy of St Lucia but the team spokesman—the team leader, some contend—is indisputably Dwayne Bravo. His very vocal second-in-command is Kieron Pollard.
Bravo’s home country? Laraland.
Their demands are that the WIBC renegotiate the tour contracts directly with the players; WIPA, with whom the Board publicly insists on dealing, does not speak for us.
Presidential intransigence leads to the tour being aborted and a US$41m bill landing on the WICB’s desk.
The tour is never resumed but the bill is unpaid, thanks, it is said, to protracted behind-the-scenes negotiations—some prefer a more derogatory term—by President Cameron.
In a scathing subsequent attack on the WICB during a Skype interview with CNC3, Bravo the Elder, whose brother Darren is a cousin of Lara’s, calls the WICB “most unprofessional,” denounces Cameron for being at “personal war” with the WI players and deems him “arrogant,” immature” and “small-minded.”
If DJB has subsequently apologised for these comments, I am completely unaware of it. And it has not visibly affected his marketability.
The last episode that must detain us dates from November 2016. Cameron’s WICB offers batting mainstay Bravo the Younger a C contract while far less successful, far less deserving, the player seems to think, squad members are offered more lucrative contracts. Presidential error puts into the public domain that the younger Bravo had not been consistent enough to merit the offer of another A contract.
Not unlike what happened with his sibling, the player’s reaction flatters neither him nor the President.
“You hav been failing 4 d last 4yrs,” he tweets. “Y don’t u resign and FYI I’ve neva been given an A contract. Big idiot @davec51.”
Salutary lessons? Take a side, Barbados Nation. The death of the spirit of West Indian cricket at the highest level? Take a bow, Professor Beckles. All the Prince of Port-of-Spain’s chickens, it seems, are coming home to roost.
Meanwhile, the poultry having long flown the coop, the Prince himself has recently been “batting for positive community vibes” (Page 62, Trinidad Guardian, Feb. 17).
It seems BCL is troubled by the number of “youngsters who are experiencing a lot of hardships and are turning to alternative things to do.”
“If we could affect two or three youngsters in any particular community,” he told the listening media, “it would be wonderful.”
In that same week, Chief Selector Courtney Browne was telling the region that “We are now seeing players who are hungry for cricket, who want to play cricket and enough can’t be said about how our young players are shaping up.”
And President Cameron had already told the Trinidad and Tobago media that, “We have set up West Indies cricket with the commercial side and corporate side and in very short time we would like to give everyone here an opportunity to own a little piece of West Indies cricket.”
Discerning people don’t expect the Guardian’s itinerant reporter to rock the cricket boat. And although the Express Sports Editor has a direct line to the WICB President, he seems to have neglected to ask him for details about setting up the cricket side.
But Wattley neither made suggestions to Cameron nor challenged Browne’s claim about positive developments. Nor did he respond to Pooran, who is still on suspension for a deliberate breach of contract. Or to Lara. Not publicly anyway.
He did, however, presumably wearing his poker face, offer this piece of pusillanimous advice to the younger Bravo: “Darren, it’s time to stop betting against the house. Time to fold.”
The local media may someday do their job of making necessary links and calling people to account in West Indies cricket so we can turn things around.
But for now, they just keep right on mediaing…
I must say, I was highly offended by this article. How can Brian Lara be blamed for the ills of West Indies cricket? The cricketers on this islands cannot be expected to play for nothing. Firstly, as Kerry Packer always said that cricketers were the world’s most poorly paid professional sportsmen. In the West Indies that is still true. Secondly, the legends of the 80s were as professional as cricket allowed at the time. If Ambrose was an amateur or Richards was, then Imran Khan Niazi and Javed Miandad were all amateurs. Last time I checked, Imran Khan did not take his Oxford law degree and worked as a barrister and play cricket when he got the opportunity. He was a full time cricketer and four three seasons in WSC together with the first world beating West indians, a well paid one. Secondly, the euphoria and optimism of the post independence period has long gone by the 90s when the real world caught up to the Caribbean, a period when almost every Caribbean country was either heavily in debt or in the jaws of the dreaded IMF. Under those circumstances, it clearly was totally unreasonable to expect Lara to be this super patriot. Nationalism don’t full bellies. The author does realize that the WICB is the only Board that consistently has pay disputes with their players. Every Board that had players participating in WSC learnt their lesson. Their players even as in Pakistan’s case aren’t highly paid, the pay is reasonable and in line with hate receipts. In the 80s cricket in the West Indies was the social event of the year. Everyone, even if you did not like the sport or you disagreed with methods the West Indies used to defeat their opponents understood the social and even political importance of WI cricket. As a result test matches were always full in the WI, even in bankrupt Jamaica. The West Indies players were still then among the world’s worst paid professional sportsmen. Why do you think over 35 young cricketers went to apartheid South Africa? You could not expect Brian Lara to not cash in on his celebrity and demand the same for his players. Brian did not need that money for the S.A. tour. He had sponsorship deals worth millions. People like Adams, Walsh, Ambrose et al needed it though. A similar situation this time with sponsorship occurred three times within a fifteen year period. If the same company is constantly having problems with their employees, even when the roster of workers changes, then that says something about management, not the workers. Bravo was committed to the WI cause bro. He’s fed up and rightfully securing his financial future. Pooran ditto. And there have been players who were not part of the scandscandal who have been axed too. Ravi Ramps up, up until this year, the best fast bowler in the Caribbean. Denesh Ramdin was dropped after three half centuries in four innings in the Australia tour.
I see I have touched a raw nerve. I shall, however, point out three things
(1) For me, Sparrow’s Kerry Packer puts the issue of the COMPLETEY UNACCEPTABLE relationship between the WICB and its players into proper perspective. Go give it a listen if you don’t already know it.
(2) You sort of bring grist to my mill by citing four recent examples. Did you notice that they are ALL Trinidadians? Hmmmmmmm….
(3) I am not BLAMING Lara for anything; I am merely trying to make it clear that none of this is happening in a vacuum, which is one of the points you make. I don’t know if Lara’s standing up for his men has made things better in WI cricket; what I know is that attitudes have been different on the player side since he came along.
Why do you think I disagree(d) with Wattley’s position that Darren should put his tail between his legs, eat humble pie and apologise? Has cameron ever got off his high horse? Will he if nobody stands up to him? But will anybody ever successfully stand up to him if the public, (i.e. the media) do not?
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jus wasting alluh time on WI cricket
Pooran’s “truth”is not restricted to “Laraland” though. Is there really a comparison between making a living playing the sport you love and aspiring to play for the WICB executive for comparative peanuts? Would you view with pride your grandchild wearing test whites just to get embarrassed and lambasted by the media for four days, while you know in your heart they only made it because the better players were ignored for off the field issues?
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with the man plying his trade wherever there’s good money to be made for so doing.
But to tell me that that’s what you and every other cricketer your age dreams of is to pour a dam of cold water on everything I have believed about playing for country and for WI. THAT’S my beef!
Brilliant perspective on the mercenary nature that International cricket has evolved into.
You made reference to Sir Hilary Beckles’ declaration of BCL starting that ultraprofessional class of cricketers. What do you think then of Lara’s predecessors who for the ‘filthy lucre’, in the era of Kerry Packer’s brand of professional cricket, went a whoring after Apartheid South African Cricket?
Earl, you make me chuckle…”Discerning people don’t expect the Guardian’s itinerant reporter to rock the cricket boat.”
Is that your own professional disclaimer to the whole exercise of ‘mediaing’? Or are you doing like your fellow journalist and being ‘pusillanimous’ in your offering? ?
I have a view which I prefer not to share publicly because I have a friend who chose to go “a-whoring,” to use your no-punches-pulled term. I prefer merely to say that Vivian Richards became a hero for me when he said that he could not accept South Africa’s generous offer – they gave him a blank cheque – because he had to get up in the morning and look his children in the eye.
Some friendships are too old and too valuable to be put in jeopardy unnecessarily.
Thanks for your responses Earl.
I think that one needs to be more empathetic towards Darren Bravo. This ‘Lara clone’ as you have described him has , in my view, been trying to remove himself from the negative connotations of the Laraesque shadow that he had put himself under. Let’s be real, Earl! Would you have erred down a different path to Darren if you grew up like him. talented, Santa Cruz boy, like his cousin Brian, constantly being compared to your hero and icon? The article lacked that fairness in showing the other side to Darren vis a vis the WICB and their gross mismanagement of their most precious resource – the young talents to whom they pay lip service.
Richards was also financially secure by the time the S.A. offer came along, which is why I don’t rate his decision not to go as highly as I rate Maco’s decision since Marshall was a fringe player and could not get a look in because Croft was still in the team. Larry Gomes’ is another gentleman worthy of admiration because he was dropped and was actually on the Tarmac when he deciddecided the money was not worth the betrayal and subsequent humiliation
As for the Guardian’s reporter, have you ever seen him produce a story that has the potential to cause officialdom an awkward moment?
I am completely colour-blind and not a betting man but I’d be willing to put a not-too-little wager on the colour of some media tongues.
Maybe the writer’s next assignment and article may be about why Lara and ppl from ‘Laraland’ chose to ‘rock the wicb boat when they did. May reveal a lot to have us looking quite ignorant.
I would certainly write that if I knew the reasons. Do you know them? I could give you a call…
Or you could give me a call and tell where I can find the information; I don’t have a clue.
WOW! Imagine blaming Lara for the ineptitude of the WICB and it hooligans. The undemocratic approach to cricket and the lack of vision and planning by the various boards are the reason why we continue to fail at all levels of cricket. Notice that we only win in the shorter version of the game. Why? that is the version our players play when outside of the Caribbean so they are better coached and prepared. The days of West Indian Dominance were coupled with our players playing the majority of their time in England where they were able to really hone their skills. It is this lack of proper coaching and a lack of a proper league that has caused the fall of West Indies cricket. Not our hero Richard Lara
I beg your pardon? I’m blaming Lara – Brian, not Richard – for what?
Sorry, sir. I have blamed BCL for a lot of things but WICB incompetence and highhandedness and lack of vision and planning and an undemocratic approach to administration is among them.
I do blame him for EXCESSIVE emphasis on rewards for effort and for undermining discipline in Richie Richardson’s team but I’m willing to concede that he was misled, not to say encouraged, by the two people I named in one of the three first paragraphs.
Please re-read the top of the story if you have the time…and any interest in accuracy and fairness