A Half-Empty Spectacle

11th December 2013

The Mason & Guests Show    

Garnering opinions and marshalling the facts

About 18 months ago I was extremely fortunate to appear on the weekly Voice of Barbados cricket talk show, Mason & Guests. The how and why I got on the programme is something I’ll write about another time. Suffice to say, I’ve been appearing regularly ever since – indeed next week’s edition will be my fiftieth. Time to retake guard and get my head down and build towards a hundred methinks.

So I thought it’d be fun to begin writing a brief review of each show, starting with last night’s:

My fellow guests were Stephen Leslie (manager of the Sagicor UWI team and assistant manager of the CCC regional team), Mike King (noted journalist and leader writer for the Barbados Daily Nation) and Clyde Mascoll (writer, columnist and former leader of Barbados’ Democratic Labour Party).

I like to refer to Mason & Guests as a show that garners opinions, and marshalls the facts. Holding court was our knowledgeable host, the popular commentator, Andrew Mason.

The studio panel was supplemented via telephone by former West Indies fast bowler, Wayne Daniel and Dr Christine Cummings (lecturer in Political Sociology at the UWI in Jamaica, and avid cricket fan).

Naturally the main topic of conversation was West Indies’ draw in the 1st Test Match v New Zealand – and the 2nd Test in Wellington had only just got under way as we went on air – so we carried regular updates on its progress. Early incursions into the NZ batting order after Sammy won the toss gave us great encouragement, and should have put us in a good, positive mood. (This soured a little when Kirk Edwards dropped Ross Taylor on 0!)

However, such is the long-standing disenchantment of many followers of the West Indies that many analysts, including members of tonight’s panel, were underwhelmed by the Bravo-inspired rear-guard action in Dunedin.

On the previous week’s show I had noted December is the wettest month of the year in that part of New Zealand, and suggested the rain may yet have a say in the outcome.

After Bravo and co.’s bravery I preferred to ascribe West Indies’ resultant draw to being more a gloriously successful act of escapology, rather than the unmerited reward of an act of God. One shouldn’t attribute the glorious retreat from Dunkirk as primarily a triumph of becalmed channel-crossing waters, and neither should Dunedin be dismissed as merely the intervention of defeat-averting nimbi.

But, those with glasses half-empty, and there are many such here among the Caribbean cognoscenti (and who am I to argue?) weren’t enthused by the performance.

It is a recurrent theme of the show for Andrew Mason to posit “are we turning a corner?” or “is there light at the end of the tunnel?” Interestingly, the first question is also asked of New Zealand, and was discussed by former captains, Jeremy Coney and Glenn Turner on NZB national radio, which I found on the internet. Their conclusion after the drawn 1st Test? A resounding “no!”

My fellow panel members focused upon the poor first innings batting, and bemoaned the dreadful bowling. Wayne Daniel explained the bowlers had uniformly pitched too short – whereas the home side had bowled a far fuller, and far more profitable length.

Mike King reminded us this was a match pitting the 8th team in the world against the 6th – so a draw was not something to get too excited about. I try to take the positive indications from each performance – hoping to see ‘the shoots of recovery’ in West Indian cricket.

While I am firmly in the glass half-full camp, I suspect the problem all of us have in assessing current performances is our pint mugs and glasses are all rose-tinted. We only really focus when we look backwards and reflect upon the spectacle and strength which was West Indian cricket.

Clyde Mascoll wanted to look forward to the WI Test team on the horizon – one that doesn’t feature Darren Sammy. He was candid in wishing Sammy had not been fit so the side could begin right now to re-build for the future – starting with a captain worthy of a place in the team. Mike King echoed Clyde’s pre-match hope the skipper had stayed on the physiotherapist’s table.

I said I understood their position, and didn’t disagree it was nigh on time Sammy had to go – though I did suggest this was not the moment: with the team 8,000 miles from home and in the middle of a three-match Test series. This was a time to focus upon the here and now.

The theme of renewal of the side was also picked up by Dr Cummings, who called for the dropping of Chanderpaul, whom she had identified as falling over in his crease and being at the mercy of repeated LBW dismissals. This was why he failed in this match, she said. I reminded her Chanderpaul had made 79 in the first innings, so hardly a failure. But she maintained he has been falling and failing for sometime. I read back his ten most recent scores, which amounted to 698 runs at 87.25.

But apparently Chanderpaul was not alone amongst the dead wood needing the chop: the injured Gayle too is past his sell by date we were told. He may well be; though I’d be amazed if he exits the Test arena with 99 matches as his final tally.

Dr Cummings did of course sanction the call from some members of the panel for the immediate sacking of Sammy, of whom she has never been a fan:

Andrew Mason: “People say you are anti-Sammy?”

Dr Cummings: “No – I’m pro-West Indies”.

I wasn’t aware these positions are mutually exclusive.

We took a moment in the show for Mike King to pay brief homage to Nelson Mandela, who returned to the celestial pavilion this week, and we all endorsed his assessment of the man’s achievements. Mike put him up there with Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. That’s an incredibly impressive top order.

In my Around the Cricket World in 2 minutes round up I observed the 80th birthday that day of my cricketing cousin, Gren Alabaster, who scored over 3000 first-class runs and took over 200 wickets. Happy birthday, Gren!

The week’s question to the listeners was answered (not for the first time) immediately by an excited fellow panellist:

David Oram: “In South Africa’s first match after re-admittance after over twenty years without Test cricket, which South African was NOT making his Test Match debut?”

Stephen Leslie: “Kepler Wessels! He’d played for Australia before!!”

Thank you Stephen!

The Mason & Guests show is broadcast live on Tuesday’s from 6.15-8pm ECT (10.15-midnight GMT)  on Voice of Barbados 92.9fm and can be heard via numerous internet tune-in services.

David Oram

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