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Media Monitor: Cricket coverage in the time of Covid; is the CWI media officer friend or foe?

Covid-19 has forced the postponement of the ODI half of the West Indies’ 2021 six-match Pakistan tour, six players and three team officials being required to withdraw into quarantine.

We know eight names: Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Kyle Mayers, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Justin Greaves, assistant coach Roddy Estwick and team physician Dr Akshai Mansingh.

Photo: Leg-spinner Akeal Hosein was the West Indies’ most economical bowler in Pakistan.

Did I just miss the ninth or is there some valid reason why his identity has been withheld?

Anyway, the novel coronavirus is an invisible opponent that works in insidious ways. So, we have to ask ourselves, is the greatest danger deriving from the disease indeed the direct damage attested to by positive tests?

Perhaps not…

KFC Munch Pack

At 1pm on Monday 13 December, Wired868 Editor-in-chief Lasana Liburd posted this question to the CWI Media chat, which is curated by the cricket board’s media officer, Dario Barthley: ‘Were Bravo, Walsh and Motie omitted for tactical reasons today? Or something else?’

At 1.21pm, back from the media officer came this curious response: ‘As indicated many times in the past, this is not a West Indies Cricket chat group, but rather an avenue for CWI Media to provide updates to the Caribbean media/journalist pool.

‘This question could easily have been sent to myself as a private message and I would have replied accordingly.’

Photo: CWI media officer Dario Barthley.

I’m on thin ice here. I know. But I could not help noticing that, on Instagram, Barthley is @kingDario8 and, on Twitter, @KingDario8. The handles bespeak precisely the kind of humility that a media officer needs.

“Please refrain,” King Dario tartly pulled the Wired868 CEO up, “from similar actions in the future.”

He stopped short of adding, Or else!

Unbidden, a few pertinent questions sprang into my head.

Are the ‘updates’ the media officer says the chat is designed to provide to the Caribbean media/journalist pool determined exclusively by the media officer and CWI or are media personnel permitted to request same?

Is the media officer not grossly overestimating his own importance in assuming that the answer to the first part of that question is in the affirmative, that the media officer gets to decide which questions get answered and which not?

Photo: West Indies batsman Darren Bravo opensup the leg-side against Sri Lanka during the first ODI in Colombo on 22 February 2020.
Bravo missed the first two T20Is in Pakistan but CWI was slow to explain why.
(Copyright AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Besides, was the question being addressed to the media officer or through the media officer?

And finally, is what matters where the question was sent and not what is the substance of the inquiry?

King Dario’s response to Liburd suggests to me that he has got completely the wrong impression of who the media officer is in the grand scheme of things. Not sure he has got the memo.

It is time he be set straight.

The media officer is servant, not master. Agent, not player. Appendage, not mainstay. Clearing house, not collection agency. Conduit, not destination. Facilitator, not obstructionist. Subordinate, not principal. Supporting cast, not star of the show.

Peewat, not big sawatee. Commoner, not king.

Photo: CWI press officer Dario Barthley (centre).
(via Nevis Pages)

For all of those reasons, the media officer is expendable. Eminently so. For years, West Indies cricket has proceeded uninterrupted in his absence. There is no reason to believe that that will change permanently, Covid or no Covid.

At 1.28pm on the same December day, the media officer posted this: ‘Unfortunately, I will not be at the stadium for the T20 series and (at least) the first match of the ODI series. Therefore, coverage will be slightly different from usual. However, I will aspire to make things as seamless and provide as close to the expected quality as possible.’

Ah! Got ya! Thanks for telling us. Your absence won’t significantly affect the coverage of the first two games. Only slightly. The televiewers and the listening public and the newspaper readers will be relieved to find that out. We are all so dependent on the presence and the contribution of the media officer.

And grateful! Especially the so-called ‘reporters’—some of us who are but transcribers and would have nothing to report without the media conferences that we people. Which perhaps explains why we fall over ourselves to ingratiate ourselves with the media officer.

Hard questions are few and far between. Obsequiousness abounds.

Image: A satirical take on self-censorship.

Obsequiousness is anathema to Liburd; hard questions are his stock in trade. Wired868 readers will remember when his presence at a media conference so upset national coach Terry Fenwick that he reportedly moved to personally and publicly punish media officer Sean Fuentes for extending the invitation to the Wired868 Managing Director.

But that’s football. Who does Liburd think he is? In my media conferences, he does not get to decide what questions are asked

Problem is, it’s not just Liburd. Another journalist sent this question for answer by Evin Lewis:

‘You have proven beyond doubt that you are capable of dominating international bowling. Do you have any plans to try to make the Test team given the current challenge we have at the top of the order?’

Thanking him for it, the media officer informed him that he won’t be using this question, though. Rather focus on the win and positives.’

Photo: West Indies opener Evin Lewis get up on his toes to force a ball through the off-side off the backfoot during the Third ODI against Australia at Kensington Oval, Barbados on 26 July 2021.
(via CWI Media)

A third journalist submitted this question, on a day when Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite was the selected responder:

‘During television commentary on the recent World Cup, Daren Sammy claimed that head coach Phil Simmons is very much in charge during the Test matches but that he pretty much gives the senior players their head when the colour of the ball is white.

‘Would Kraigg care to comment?’

The media officer nixed the question on the absurd grounds that Brathwaite only plays Test cricket so he is in no position to answer such a question.

Really? Three formats and three teams, it is true; but they are all representing West Indies cricket, a multi-faceted beast. If the Test captain is genuinely ignorant of what happens in the shorter formats, that hardly flatters him.

Photo: West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite (left) and coach Phil Simmons show off the spoils of their 2021 Test series win away to Bangladesh.
(via CWI Media)

Or CWI, especially as, from format to format, the coaching staff remains unchanged.

If those in charge have no view of the whole, I ask, if we’re operating in silos, aren’t we ultimately spinning top in mud?

But there may be a more sobering truth.

It is that it may NOT be at all true that the Test captain is in no position to answer a question pertaining to other formats. The truth may be that the media officer deems it inconvenient to have the Test captain answer the question because the media officer prefers to focus on the (…) positives’.

And thus, alas! has Covid possibly allowed the tail to wag the dog.

To our cost!

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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