Best: Pooran, Ambrose, big-money IPL contracts and WI; what sweet in goat mouth…

Toute vérité, we’ve been told, n’est pas bonne à dire. Even if is true, yuh doh have to say it…

But 26-year-old would-be West Indies white ball captain Nicholas Pooran wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that it’s really sweet when your dreams come true.

And 58-year-old former WI pacer Curtly Ambrose will also tell you off the bat that it’s sometimes only bitter-sweet when your predictions come true.

Photo: West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran drives elegantly through the covers during an ICC T20 World Cup match against Bangladesh at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on 29 October 2021 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
(Copyright Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

In 2013, the left-handed wicketkeeper/batsman blasted 54 off 24 balls—including six sixes—for the Red Steel against the Guyana Amazon Warriors.

Then in a post-match interview, he unabashedly told the listening—and admiring—world that his ambition was to earn an IPL contract. He was at the time just 17.

KFC Munch Pack

Last weekend, until his soon-to-be teammate Sunrisers Hyderabad Kane Williamson fetched a whopping US$2 million in the auction, Pooran’s US$1.4 million had been the highest price paid for an overseas player this year.

Right here on Wired868 on Sunday, Lasana Liburd reported that no fewer than 17 West Indians had successfully landed contracts in this year’s IPL auction. He did not, however, mention, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell and Akeal Hosein, who might justifiably have been expecting to be picked up, or Darren Bravo, Andre Fletcher and Chris Gayle whose only hope for a contract lay in Roger Harper calling the shots for one of the franchises.

Photo: West Indies leg spinner Akeal Hosein sends down another accurate delivery from round the wicket under teh watchful eye of Aleem Dar.

Actually, Liburd missed two more West Indians. The Chennai Super Kings bought Chris Jordan but we probably won’t see the other one in action this season.

The ECB has registered Jofra Archer for the auction with a view to potential participation in 2023 and 2024,” the IPL said in a release, “as due to his current injury it is unlikely that he can participate in IPL 2022.”

But next time either of the two Barbados-born bowlers has ball in hand, look for the tell-tale West Indian cricketing ID, the gold chain swinging left and right as he runs in to bowl.

I bring it up here because, a long time ago, in the guava season that was the Oughts, someone wrote that: “Brian Lara’s West Indians would do well to bear in mind that bling looks so much better on winners.”

WI winners? We’ll have to wait more than a while. Which brings us back to Ambrose.

Photo: West Indies pacer Curtly Ambrose celebrates energetically after trapping Australia’s Mark Waugh lbw at Melbourne in 1996. (Copyright Vince Caligiuri/ Reuters)

In May last year, the 6’7” former pace bowler with 98 Tests and 176 ODIs and 405 and 225 wickets respectively to his name said publicly that ‘those glory days, I don’t think we will see them again’.

It did not go down well with the fans. Toute vérité… We all have our illusions and our dreams that keep us warm and we don’t want anyone to pour the cold water of reality over them.

So when in his news story Liburd chose to focus on the 17 West Indians with 2022 IPL contracts, I imagine Ambrose, like me, went, ‘hmmmmmmmm’.

Firstly, there is the issue of the other countries. There were just about 600 players in the weekend auction. If we estimate conservatively that only 400 of them were Indian, that leaves some 200 for the other countries to split among themselves. Are there any countries that have more than 17? Are any of them second-tier teams like WI?

Secondly, a closer look shows three of India’s U19 World Cup stars in captain Yash Dhull, Raj Bawa and Rajvardhan Hangargekar snapped up on Sunday as well as South Africa’s 18-year-old allrounder Dewald Brevis, nicknamed ‘Baby AB’, whom Mumbai Indians bought for some US$430,000 on Saturday.

Photo: South Africa batsman Dewald Brevis uses the long handle during an ICC Men’s U-19 Cricket World Cup contest against Uganda at the Queen’s Park Oval on 18 January 2022.
Brevis top-scored with 108 runs.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

To highlight the chasm that yawns between the top-tier cricketing countries and ours, on that very Saturday, Liburd was lamenting the ‘lackadaisical fielding from West Indies Under-19 cricketer Teddy Bishop‘.

But most of all, of course, there is the issue of the expectations that the securing of 17 deals spawns in 1,700 minds back home. Remember Pooran a decade ago when he was 17? And remember that he was banned in 2016-17 for opting for the BPL over regional cricket?

So, yes, it’s true that every new contract signed by a West Indian is an achievement. But every new contract signed by a West Indian also creates another commitment to something that Cricket West Indies remains far, far, far from matching.

And it also creates an aspiration for emulation of that achievement which is more than unlikely to have a dampening effect on enthusiasm for Test cricket in West Indian cricketing hearts.

Photo: Guyanese middle-order batsman Sherfane Rutherford is ecstatic after reaching another milestone in his so-far-brief WI career.

Liburd does not help. First he points out this:

However, a contract for the likes of 23-year-old Guyanese batsman Sherfane Rutherford shows that there is more than one route into the IPL. Rutherford has not represented the West Indies in two years and his T20I record comprises six innings with no half-centuries and an average of 10.75.

Rutherford’s salary? US$133,000.

Then he notes that 25-year-old WI middle-order batsman Shimron Hetmyer, ‘was drafted for US$1.13m by the Rajasthan Royals’ despite being deemed unfit by the West Indies.

So, I ask this: even if in next month’s three-match series WI were somehow able to lengthen England’s long string of ordinary Test results in the Caribbean—no series win since 2003 and before that 1967-68—among the young cricketers in the region, would the overall impact of such a performance translate into desire to earn a place on the WI Test team?

Photo: West Indies players (from left) skipper Kraigg Brathwaite, Joshua Da Silva and Jason Holder find reason to be cheerful during a Test match against Pakistan.
(via CWI Media)

Would they even seriously notice? It is, however, a safe bet that the vast majority of them are acutely aware of what Aakash Chopra said about Odean Smith (‘I feel he has become a half-a-million-dollar player’ and ‘he will get a lot of horns blown’.)

And they are even more acutely aware that the 25-year-old allrounder was picked up by Punjab Kings for just over US$400,000 on Day 2 of the mega auction.

Smith, who hit the headlines during last year’s CPL, has only played three ODIs and seven T20Is for West Indies so far. And his salary is in the US$800,000 range.

So amid all the good news coming out of India on the weekend, there is this most sobering thought: what headway can 17 merry men in maroon make against a million making merry in Mumbai alone?

Photo: West Indies bowling allrounder Odean Smith prepares to release another of his thunderbolts.

Most importantly, what impact will the missed millions on offer in 2022 have on Hosein and Chase on Wednesday and in Games Two and Three?

And what impact will the millions potentially made in the just completed 2022 mega auction have on Romario Shepherd and Smith on Wednesday and in Games Two and Three?

Ambrose, lead selector Desmond Haynes and coach Phil Simmons all know that the moment foreign participation is perceived as imperilling Indian superiority, hey presto, the plug will be pulled.

And just as we talk nowadays about two 50-over World Cups in 1975 and 1979 but none in the 40-plus years since, so will WI perhaps be talking in 2058 about two T20 World Cups in 2012 and 2016, none in the 40-plus years since.

Really, what sweet in goat mouth can be bitter-sweet in he backside…


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About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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