Among the many points to be distilled from the West Indies’ Twenty20 victories is that the solution to any Caribbean problem often lies beyond the boundary of the problem as usually defined.
This is as true of our cricket as it is of our economy, politics or, indeed, any other aspect of our life.
The problems that manifest in each have their source in the wider condition of history which has shaped the structure and defined the culture of Caribbean society.
History is what gives our triumphs that epic quality because to win, we have to first defeat history.
Darren Sammy knew this when, with the deftness of a seasoned captain setting his field, he laid the trap for the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)—the last defiant expression of privileged colonial power, whose archaic and oppressive management has fuelled player dissatisfaction, promoted regional division and sunk West Indian morale.
Having engaged the WICB power system long enough, Captain Sammy has clearly concluded that this is not a system to be negotiated with.
Overthrow or be overthrown.
This is the story of the Caribbean and its undercurrent of revolution which surfaces from time to time in the most unexpected ways. It can be drawn in a straight line from the mightily improbable victory of the Haitian Revolution against Napoleon’s finest to the ancestral triumphs against the odds that have brought us to this day.
Throughout the Caribbean, this is the spirit to be summoned as we confront the mighty battles of our own time. This is why the economic challenges facing Trinidad and Tobago and fellow Caricom countries demand solutions beyond the boundary of economics.
In T&T, the economic problem is not merely a problem of foreign exchange shortage but the value system installed by history on which the structural base of the economy and society rests.
On Friday, as we in this corner of the West Indies faced up to the economic challenge of depressed oil and gas prices, the Minister of Finance urged us to cut our cloth to suit our measure in defending his strategies for bringing national spending more in line with reduced national income.
Minister Imbert is not alone in this response to the recession. All over the country, businesses are reducing expenditure either in response to or in anticipation of reduced income.
New hires are on halt as staff vacancies go unfilled, work extending into over-time is being shelved, investment in research and development—where such exists—is being cut to the bone. From the public to the private sector, the rhythm of our time is tax, tax, tax; cut, cut, cut.
Faced with recession, the entire country is going into retreat, one sector impacting on the other, one person on another.
With our hands in the lion’s mouth of recession, we have no choice but to admit that, having failed to do so, it is now too late to diversify the economic base to save ourselves this time around.
But, taking a cue from our cricketers, what if, instead of cutting our cloth to suit our measure, we were to cut our cloth to suit our imagination? We shouldn’t have to wait for all else to fail before we consider ways of coercing the collective imagination.
As the West Indies cricketers have also demonstrated, the road to rock bottom can be cruel, debilitating and relentless. Sunday’s victories were showers of rain along that hard, dry road.
Somehow, after their long season of despair, the players managed to find the combination of resources and strategy to break free of the albatross hung around their necks by the WICB. But the taste of victory could be short-lived if it is not carried all the way to transforming the management of cricket.
In the same vein, Minister Imbert’s budget revision amounts to a technician’s take on balancing our needs and wants, and income and expenditure.
In cricketing terms, cutting back and taxing forward is the economic equivalent of Carlos Brathwaite choosing to block the last over to save his wicket in a lost match. Good enough, but not to win.
While the debate will continue over this or that fiscal measure, even Minister Imbert would know that his efforts amount to stabilising the patient without inducing the lifestyle change required for getting the patient on her feet and keeping her there.
Persuasion to change is the work of leadership, the kind that rewarded Darren Sammy with his team’s trust when it mattered most. While the government has its leaders so, too, do the rest of us, in one capacity or another.
While keeping an eye on the economic scoreboard, we all have to strategise on ways to shift the dynamics, open up the field, change the rules and carry the outcome to a whole different level.
It is a risky business but, as proven from time to time, achievable with intelligence, commitment and united purpose.
In cricket, as in economics and politics, convention is a set of behaviour designed to keep us in our place. This is why we, above all, have to be wary of orthodoxy and more willing to engage the radical approaches that will surely test our capacity for political persuasion.
Just consider the prospects for change if Sammy had done as some have suggested and been gracious to the WICB in victory.
By eschewing convention he radicalised the moment and created an opportunity. As always, what happens next will depend on us.