McWatt and ‘Reds’: ‘Tapegate’s’ troubling threat to Dr Shallow; Guyana’s noble schools cricket initiative

EPL Infrafred Sauna

“[…] We had intended to examine the probable damaging effects of ‘Tapegate’ on the reported future presidential aspirations of Cricket West Indies current vice-president, Dr Kishore Shallow.

“Within the past month, Dr Shallow has been the mouthpiece for CWI’s highly unsatisfactory public explanations of the unfortunate, unsavoury and as yet unfinished phenomenon we are calling Tapegate…”

The following guest column on West Indies cricket was submitted to Wired868 by Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt and veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira:

Photo: West Indies batsmen Odean Smith (left) and Romario Shepherd have a word during ODI action against Ireland in January 2022.
(via CWI Media)

This column’s subject matter was initially intended to be ‘Tapegate’. That is the name we have given to the rather unpleasant continuing saga involving the appearance in globally televised international matches of West Indies players clad in shirts that have the former team sponsor’s logo covered over with masking tape.

Having made its first appearance as far back as last year’s Sri Lanka Test series, it continued to be an issue as recently as in the just concluded West Indies vs Ireland ODI series.

We had intended to examine the probable damaging effects of Tapegate on the reported future presidential aspirations of Cricket West Indies current vice-president, Dr Kishore Shallow. Within the past month, Dr Shallow has been the mouthpiece for CWI’s highly unsatisfactory public explanations of this unfortunate, unsavoury and as yet unfinished phenomenon.

Perhaps luckily for Dr Shallow, however, our attention has now been duly diverted by the Guyana Cricket’s Board’s recent announcement of its intention to meet with the country’s Education Minister to discuss plans for the introduction of a new schools’ cricket initiative.

Photo: Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Ricky Skerritt (left) and vice-president Dr Kishore Shallow.

According to the GCB Release, ‘The Board plans to place emphasis on nursery, primary and secondary schools, with the nursery aspect being formally explored for the first time in the history of GCB’s cricket administration.

‘The nursery school’s main focus will be to introduce cricket-related skills to kids at an early age. These training and development activities will be carried out across all three counties of Guyana under the categories Nursery, Under-9, Under-11, Under-13, Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 and will feature key development areas for male and female cricketers.’

Maybe it’s just sheer coincidence and, if so, certainly a most welcome one. But we would like to think that the GCB’s announced initiative may have been inspired to some degree by the New Year’s Resolutions we had suggested in our 2 January article.

The first two of that article’s 15 provided suggestions were in fact directly related to the establishment of a competitive schools’ cricket programmes for those below the age of nine through to the Under-19 level. We had also suggested that West Indies cricket’s very rich history should also be made a part of the curriculum for both primary and secondary school students.

Photo: Sir Everton Weekes in action for West Indies against England.
(Copyright Skysports)

As such, we would hope that when the GCB President and the Education Minister do meet, their discussions will indeed include an examination of the possibilities for that suggested addition to the schools’ curriculum in time for the coming September semester.

The GCB’s plans for the implementation of its Schools’ Cricket initiative has set a most worthy example for CWI’s five remaining member boards to immediately follow.

A no less reputable person than legendary former fast bowling great Michael Holding has suggested that re-establishing cricket as the most popular outdoors activity among school-aged children throughout the Caribbean will be a necessary first step to restoring West Indies cricket to its now long-lost former glory.

Holding’s reasoning, with which we wholeheartedly agree, is that the more children there are playing cricket at the various age levels, the greater will be the numbers of those progressing to the very top of the competitive structure. That, in turn, will allow West Indies selectors of the future the luxury of having far more quality players available to choose from when charged with the task of picking the best possible teams.

Photo: West Indies bowler Shiva Sankar (far right) is congratulated by stand-in captain Giovonte Depeiza during the U-19 Cricket World Cup contest against Scotland on 17 January 2022.
(via CWI Media)

For West Indies Test cricket specifically, it will also provide a security blanket for the now inevitable non-availability of some players as a result of their conflicting commitments to the various T20 franchises across the globe.

In terms of youth cricket development, we had also suggested that qualified coaches should be seconded to as many schools as possible so that those who choose to pursue the sport can be taught the proper techniques for batting, bowling and fielding at a very early age.

One of the now most noticeable reasons for West Indies cricket’s continuous decline has been the tendency for far too many of our players, especially the batsmen, to reach the highest levels with glaringly obvious deficiencies in their techniques. Former national and West Indies players can be seconded, when and wherever necessary, to cover any shortfalls in the availability of qualified coaches.

As a means of providing as many competitive playing opportunities as possible for West Indies cricketers, particularly those in the U-23 age bracket, we had also suggested that CWI should this year revert to the previous ten-team format for their annual Regional Super50 Tournament.

Photo: West Indies batsman Matthew Nandu plays a shot during ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup action against Papua New Guinea at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex, Diego Martin on 26 January 2022.
Nandu top-scored with 128 runs.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice / Wired868)

CWI had promised that this year’s tournament would be held in its customary end of October-early November time-frame, and that the format would involve the same ten teams, including Canada and the US, that played in the 2018 competition. That would indeed be a most welcome development.

Among the readily obvious advantages such an expanded tournament would provide are the inherent opportunities for some of the younger, talented players to stake claims for consideration to be included in the West Indies squads that will be participating in qualification for next year’s India-hosted ICC ODI World Cup.

The inclusion of Canada and the US—playing as they did back in 2018 in different country-hosted zones—would also of course provide significant tourism potential opportunities for visits by the family and friends of the players, who may want to be present at the matches.

In that regard, we hope that CWI will learn from its far too often repeated failings of the past of not determining and announcing the tournament’s venues and match schedules in sufficient time as to allow the actual participation of as many interested individuals as possible.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots supporters enjoy the show during 2021 CPL action at Warner Park, Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The island allowed vaccinated persons to attend CPL matches.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Notwithstanding any possible Covid-related changes, there is now absolutely no reason why the venues and match schedules for this year’s Regional Super50 Tournament should not be determined and announced by the end of this coming May, some six months in advance of the competition’s commencement.

There’s much to look forward to in the weeks ahead. Particularly in terms of which of CWI’s remaining Member Boards will indeed now seek to follow GCB’s very worthwhile schools’ cricket initiative.

More immediately, all eyes, including ours, will be turned to the Barbados-hosted West Indies vs England 22 to 30 January five-match T20 series.

The series could well be the acid test for both the current West Indies white ball captain Kieron Pollard and the team’s head coach Phil Simmons. The performances of both gentlemen in their respective roles have come under increasing scrutiny of late.

Photo: West Indies coach Phil Simmons takes part in a training session.
(Copyright AFP)

An ever-increasing number of fans and followers now view Messrs Simmons and Pollard as primary causes of the West Indies’ very dismal and disappointing results in white ball cricket over the last two years.

From its very first match to the last, the West Indies vs England T20 Series will also provide tangible indications as to the status of the Tapegate saga.

Will it now be enduring into its fourth series or has the good Dr Shallow finally managed to salvage his reputation by bringing it to an end.

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