Kraigg Brathwaite embarrassed us all in the second innings of the Second Test in Sri Lanka last month but few seemed to notice.
The West Indies Test skipper finished with 1/11 in his five overs after ending a troublesome 51-run sixth wicket partnership by having Ramesh Mendis caught by Kemar Roach on the midwicket boundary. Brathwaite celebrated no less enthusiastically than Mitchell Starc did when he bowled Rory Burns round his legs with the first ball of the 2021 Ashes series.
But that was not the embarrassing part.
Having claimed the Mendis scalp, part-time spinner Brathwaite returned to serve up four more overs of tempting lollipops to Lasith Embuldeniya and Dhananjaya de Silva, who had come together in a defiant 100-plus ninth wicket partnership.
As Brathwaite clearly contrived to tempt both to go the same route as Mendis, De Silva made no attempt to conceal his complete contempt.
Red-faced. I should have liked to solicit the views of bowling coach Roddy Estwick on the issue. Did he approve of the tactics?
Estwick, also the assistant coach, had come out of his post-Day One media interview smelling of roses. Retroactively.
Talking to the media via Zoom, he noted that Veerasammy Permaul had begun well when first called up by his skipper to bowl. But then, Estwick explained, there had been a field change and the left-hand finger-spinner seemed to lose the plot. However, he added, he had had a talk with the bowler about it and expected that things would be sorted out on the morrow.
From their overnight 113 for 1, Sri Lanka managed a mere 204. Roston Chase had 1/64 off 14 overs, Jomel Warrican 4/50 off 18 and Permaul 5/35 off his 13.
For the post-Day Two conference, the media officer selected Permaul rather than Estwick. Were the media uninterested in the West Indian tactics, including, of course, Brathwaite’s lollipops?
Although Permaul and Chase had second innings figures of 40-4-106-3 and 27-2-82-2 respectively while Warrican’s read 29-5-76-0, we were never permitted to interview Estwick again.
It makes sense for the media officer to be responsible for determining the time and duration of the media sessions. And one assumes that it is he who determines, presumably in consultation with team authorities, just who will face the cameras on any given day.
But in what kind of sane system is it the prerogative of the media officer to determine, as CWI media officer Dario Barthley did on his birthday on Monday 13 December, that ‘there will be no post-match interview today’?
And to so announce without explanation or apology?
“Since then,” wrote one peeved journalist, “I have hardly wasted my time submitting questions.”
‘Then’ is the day the media officer decided that his question about Evin Lewis’ interest in playing for a West Indies Test spot was not positive enough for his liking and declined to forward it to the player for a response.
Expressing a view on KingDario’s refusal to have the West Indies captain answer a question about an alleged difference in the way coach Phil Simmons interacts with the on-the-field leadership of the white ball and the red ball teams, he had this to say:
“It’s for Kraigg to respond in that way if he prefers. Kraigg does not need to be protected. He handled himself quite well. Actually, most of the nonsense responses come from the chief selector (Roger Harper), (white ball captain Kieron) Pollard and Simmons.
“I find the players are okay.
“I wonder what he plans to do,” Mr Journalist ended, “when we resume face-to-face interviews?”
For a brief second, I found myself wondering if we will ever be permitted to resume face-to-face interviews. Limelightis, after all, is not easily cured.
But what the question really provoked was a reflection about Tony Cozier, the dean of West Indian cricket writers. I wondered how he would have coped had he in his time had to deal with an arrangement that put a media officer at the centre of proceedings.
And I recalled the tribute former West Indies captain and multiple world record-holder Brian Charles Lara paid to the Barbadian not long after he had departed this life in May 2016.
Cozier, the Prince of Port-of-Spain told the interviewer, ‘will never be forgotten’.
“We shared a very important moment in my career, which for me was a turning point. It happened after returning from South Africa in 1999 after a 5-0 drubbing and a First Test loss to Australia. I sought out the advice of Tony as I believed him to be the one person who had the first-hand experience to comment on where we were going wrong and what we could have done to arrest the painstaking slide.” (emphasis added)
Lara had the ear of Sir Garry Sobers, his boyhood hero. He had the ear of Rohan Kanhai, the first West Indies coach who had famously reminded him after his epic 277 in Sydney that ‘your next innings begins at zero’.
Unsympathetic though it might have been after the tense events that had preceded the South Africa tour, he should certainly have had the ear of Patrick Rousseau, the then WICB president,
But he opted to confide in Cozier, ‘the one person who had the first-hand experience to comment on where we were going’.
How did Cozier, I wondered, accumulate the wealth of first-hand experience with which Lara credits him? Certainly not thanks to any media officer!
It is certain that Cozier never failed to be guided by that cardinal rule for all journalists: go directly to the source, the person(s) whose responsibility it is to know the answer to your question.
Obviously such a direct approach requires a vast network of contacts at all levels. And merely maintaining an up-to-date directory of contacts is hard work. In today’s cell phone-infested world, ‘vast’ is very likely to be a major understatement.
How much easier is it to have someone else collect the information and pass it along at his/her convenience?
So whereas for the conscientious Cozier, any offer of assistance from any such official would have qualified as nothing short of overbearing obstructionism, for today’s transcribers/reporters, an overzealous media officer who organises frequent media conferences is a godsend.