Vaneisa: It’s no wonder that citizens feel disrespected and disregarded

EPL Infrafred Sauna

Situations can inch up stealthily, creeping up so insidiously that we cannot pinpoint the moment when an aberration became the norm.

Allow me to return to the realm of cricket to illustrate what I mean about how a particular kind of leadership can damage the psyche of a people, and how we can be unwitting facilitators because we do not observe the patterns.

West Indies players walk off the field after their seven wicket loss to Scotland in a crucial World Cup Qualifier in Harare on 1 July 2023.
(Copyright ICC/ Getty)

Almost a hundred years ago, in 1926, the forerunner of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control was formed—primarily to plan the tour of England for its first Test match in 1928.

The relationship between the Board and players was not as antagonistic as it later became. But from the 1950s it was often adversarial, especially surrounding the questions of captaincy.

In more recent times, confrontations increased. A few cases might help to clarify what I mean.

Viv Richards was left out after playing his last Test at the Oval in England in 1991. In Hitting Across the Line, he wrote about the preceding series against Australia and the appalling state of the wicket at Sabina Park in Jamaica. He spoke of the Board’s incompetence, which made the team a “laughing stock.”

Iconic West Indies cricketer Sir Viv Richards (centre) is cheered by supporters during his heyday.
(via SkySports)

“I sit here, proud of the achievements of our players and, then I think… just what have the Board achieved? What, exactly, have they done? How are they mapping out the future of Caribbean cricket?”

Sir Viv is known for his forthright manner, and when he was shunted aside and excluded from participating in the development of our cricket, it was cruel, undeserved, and disrespectful.

We paid attention when someone as diplomatic as Daren Sammy vented against the WICB in 2016 after the World Cup win (when the West Indies scored a trifecta: men, women and U19 trophies), saying that the team felt disrespected by the Board.

Then West Indies’ captain Daren Sammy poses with the World T20 cricket trophy in Kolkata on 4 April 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2016/ Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Sammy said that Dave Cameron, the Board president, had not even contacted the team until the day of the finals. He had gone to India, but never visited the players.

Sammy lost the captaincy shortly after, with Cameron and the vice-president describing his statement as “inappropriate, irrelevant, demeaning, insulting and unfortunate”.

In 2017, delivering the MCC’s Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture, Brian Lara referred to the dysfunctional relationship between the West Indies Cricket Board and the players: the lack of respect and the cronyism that dictated agendas and decisions.

West Indian former cricketer Brian Lara during the Salute Sachin marathon broadcast by Aaj Tak Nehru Center in Mumbai on 12 November 2013.
Photo: IANS

Many other players either voiced their complaints about the Board’s treatment—mostly to no avail—or faced the axe for expressing their discontent. The public’s disenchantment over the past few decades as West Indies cricket slumped to unimaginable depths, and has seen numerous committees formed to try to work out what went wrong and how to fix it.

With the coming of the rebranded Cricket West Indies (CWI), some change has been discernible. But overall, the history of West Indies cricket has been plagued by the high-handedness of its Board.

Recommendations made by many committed souls have largely been ignored. The parochial nature of the power structure, with local boards making the decisions, led to an almost criminal negligence of the state of the game in the region.

CWI president Dr Kishore Shallow (left) and vice-president Azim Bassarath.
(via CWI Media)

Essentially, what has emerged is a general feeling of hopelessness—that there is nothing that anyone can do to repair anything because the controllers continuously disrespect the cricket community.

It has been going on for so long that what might have been an aberration once upon a time, has become accepted as an unacceptable way of life.

Can we put a finger on the moment when players lost their feeling of pride in representing the West Indies? Can we recall when that lack of spirit was an aberration and not the norm?

Photo: West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron (left) and cricketer Chris Gayle (right) during happier times.
(Courtesy WICB)

It is an important element of what is happening throughout the region. This is why I feel compelled to object loudly to the pattern of behaviour being presented as the norm by our politicians.

In many other places, T&T’s Minister of Education would have been removed from her position for her insensitive and callous remarks about soaring temperatures. She might have at least been asked to apologise.

But instead she continued on her merry way—and this is one of the galling aspects of the way we are expected to abide by unacceptable political behaviour.

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly applauds the talent on show during the NGC SSFL Super Cup at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 September 2023.
On 19 September, the SSFL announced that all Premier and Championship Division matches will kickoff at 4pm, rather than 3.30pm, in response to the high humidity.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Is it any wonder that citizens feel disrespected and disregarded as human beings?

Someone was suggesting that poverty was the primary cause of crime. I believe that it is far more than that. The feeling that nobody cares about you and your wellbeing breeds a sense of contempt and rage for the society that dismisses you into oblivion.

If you don’t care about me, why should I care about you?

A protest in La Brea.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian/ Rishi Ragoonath)

It is complex, of course, and it would be simplistic to try to attribute any one factor for the growing degree of malevolence in the violence that abounds. I keep thinking that there has to be some productive way to address the situation.

We already know that politicians are clueless, because they refuse to look past their own pappyshows.

Nobody buys into the current discourse; nobody believes that there is any genuine attempt to retrieve some measure of civility into our shattered society. Why is that?

A protester shows off her placard after the death of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt.

It is because we have been banging our heads against a wall, asking for recognition as citizens with rights, and the powers that be are brazenly indifferent, leaving us to think we are invisible.

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About Vaneisa Baksh

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

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