Vaneisa: Mia Mottley, West Indies cricket and the public good

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Last Tuesday, Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, delivered the 22nd annual Sir Frank Worrell Memorial lecture at the Cave Hill campus.

I happened to come across the live broadcast quite by chance and, as usual, was riveted by her candour, relevance and fervour as she discussed the state of West Indies cricket in the context of Caribbean civilisation.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley (left) hugs West Indies cricket star Jason Holder.
Photo: CWI Media

Recounting childhood interactions with her beloved sport, she seamlessly wove those experiences into the development of an identity—one shared by many of her generation and preceding ones.

As I listened to the Barbados Prime Minister pitch her passion to the platform of what it means to be Caribbean, I could not help but compare her stately discourse with the petty petulance of what prevails within our local politics.

True, we are witnessing the bacchanalia that typically surrounds any kind of election, but the puerile manner is embarrassing at every level. There is no concern for rebuilding Trinidad and Tobago, far less a Caribbean civilisation—a concept I fear goes way over the heads of the participants in this tawdry spectacle being foisted upon us.

The extreme difference in the way regional politicians use their platforms is so stark that it makes it impossible not to think that if there should ever come a time when this moribund community should truly try to pull itself together again, Mia Mottley is the obvious choice for leadership.

She has a vision for true development, and she is decisive and intrepid, unafraid to chart new courses.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley poses at the World Bank in Washington DC.
Photo: Mia Mottley Page

When she was told by her Sports Minister on Tuesday morning that ticket sales for the first ODI between India and West Indies had only reached 600, she immediately declared that her government would foot the cost for around 1,500 schoolchildren to attend both games.

“I felt like crying,” she said, “and I said then even as bad as it may seem, go and buy tickets for the schoolchildren of this country and let them go in and they will see good cricket or bad cricket, but they will see cricket.”

Unfortunately, West Indies scored 114 runs, and India cantered towards victory so that the match was finished in just over 45 overs. But the children saw cricket. Which other prime minister has ever made such a spontaneous gesture?

West Indies players (from right to left) Jermaine Blackwood, Jomel Warrican and Kraigg Brathwaite.

“Foolery” was the word she used to describe what has been happening in the governance of West Indies cricket. Foolery. She said it just as I had tuned in and as the word rolled off her tongue, I could not help but smile. Such an apt noun.

Listing ways in which the current administration, Cricket West Indies, continuously falls short, she spoke about the use of technology; training that was not just about technical aspects, but included nutrition and mental preparation.

To be fair, I believe those elements are included within the existing framework.

She threw out the idea that perhaps it might be a good time to look at the idea of declaring West Indies cricket a public good. In the March 2015 issue of UWI TODAY—the paper I edited for a decade—a substantial portion was dedicated to cricket.

(In 1996, as features editor at the Trinidad Guardian, I had produced a similarly themed issue of the magazine, Lagniappe, where the late Michael Manley had asked the same question: Whither Windies?)

Photo: Then West Indies captain Brian Lara (left) meets with supporters during a lap of the stadium after facing England in the Super-Eight ICC World Cup match at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados on 21 April 2007.
Lara’s glittering international career ended in a cruel run out and an unfortunate one-wicket defeat in the World Cup Super Eights match against England.
(Copyright AFP 2017/ Prakash Singh)

In the 2015 publication, Dr Kusha Haraksingh examined the implications of a decision by the Supreme Court of India in relation to the BCCI, establishing guidelines for the private control of a public good.

I believed then, as I do now, that there is a case to be made for altering the ownership of West Indies cricket. I invoke these two publications because much that is relevant lies within their pages. I believe this is what PM Mottley was alluding to when she spoke.

She also made it clear that she did not think cricket should be run by politicians and prime ministers, but thought it should be run by experts in various fields, and should include a cricket advisory council.

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite (left) and teammate Tagenarine Chanderpaul chase runs during a Test contest with India in July 2023.
(Copyright AFP/ Getty)

“Cricket is the currency of our civilisation,” she said rather grandly, as she seemed to be exhorting the few cricketers in the audience to understand the magnitude of what they represent.

I believe they were inspired, but as the performance on Thursday demonstrated, it was not enough to wrench the best out of them.

I want to go back to the question of training and development that PM Mottley spoke about because from my observations over the years, it seems that there are several programmes in place in different areas. While it is true that there could be many more, it is not that they do not exist.

West Indies head coach Daren Sammy (centre, foreground) speaks to his team during the Cricket World Cup Qualifying tournament in Harare, Zimbabwe.
(Copyright ICC/ Getty)

It is more a matter that the players are not following them, not seeing them as critical parts of their evolution into professional players.

We yearn to instil a sense of pride into their psyches, but as I said last week, they have come up in the same miasma that festers in our societies. They have scarcely any reason to align themselves with the culture we want them to embrace. They don’t know it.

I had said I would continue from last week with a discussion on the way literacy and education was at the core of our poor mental stamina. I will get back to it, but I simply had to tell you what Mia said.

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About Vaneisa Baksh

Vaneisa Baksh is a columnist with the Trinidad Express, an editor and a cricket historian. She is currently working on a biography of Sir Frank Worrell.

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One comment

  1. I just adore Mia Mottley for all that she manifests and represents.

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