Switching Channels to the Only Cricket Show

31st January 2014

The Mason & Guests Show

Tuning in and tuning out

The ICC’s coup was very much this week’s hot potato, and it hadn’t cooled down in the week since we’d last discussed the issues and implications with Curtly Ambrose.

Andrew opened the show by ruefully observing that, looking back on West Indies’ great days of supremacy, “we were strong on the field, but we were never strong in the boardroom.” Did he imply that this was a missed opportunity?

I wonder if the WICB had had a little more strategy and business sense in the mid-1980s, whether they (had they been in the same position as India finds itself now, as a colossus of cricket) would have been as strong-armed off the field as they were on it?

An hour before we went on air the WICB had released its response document to the ICC draft proposal. I hadn’t had time to read it as yet, so as I provided Andrew and the listeners with an update of the latest positions taken up by other international boards, Pearson Bovell read the document swiftly, ready to give us an analysis.

He gave us his comments on the WICB’s reaction, and we discussed the wider implications of their response. Our interpretation of the position it left West Indies cricket in within the world game and structure was widely divergent to the board’s assessment.

Pre-recorded comments were provided by the South African journalist, Neil Manthorp who added another voice of doom and gloom as he outlined where all the negotiations left South Africa at the moment.

We were joined on the line by Andy Roberts. He shared our sense of pessimism. This was not going to be as jokey and happy a show as last week’s!

Andy was most concerned by the potential relegation issue, and threat to West Indies’ Test status, rather than by the new proposed division of finances. He felt, financially, that the WI should reap what they sow. But the possibility of demotion was an insult to all proud West Indian cricketers and spectators:

AR: “Not so long ago West Indies was king of the hill; now we’re bottom of the ladder.”

AM: “When you were playing this would’ve been unthinkable. Do you think this could be the end of the West Indies in Test cricket?”

AR: “If we don’t produce great players we’ll fall off the ladder. But we’re not there yet.”

AM: “Does this all bring a tear to your eye?”

AR: “No. When this sort of thing happens I tune out. I switch channels.”

Pearson Bovell decried the lack of a developmental plan in the great days of WI cricket, when “we were at our pinnacle”. Pearson also felt there was already an unofficial 2-tier Test system, but that nonetheless the West Indies must use its existing earnings wisely and build for tomorrow:

PB: “We must invest any money we now get into our future. We must be prepared for a worst case scenario in our planning.” Pearson added that the WICB had historically failed to capitalise on the team’s commercial aspect. Andy Roberts also looked back and regretted the inability to cash in on the great West Indies’ marketability at the time:

AR: “When we were at our peak we toured Australia & England regularly because we were a drawcard.” Therefore the blame for the financial decline he squarely placed at the feet of subsequent inferior players.

AR: “The players are the main culprit in not advancing their cause.”

Colin Borde, former manager of Trinidad & Tobago and WI U19, joined us and bemoaned the fact that “information was coming out in dribbles”. It was unclear, for example, if the 2-tier system also encompassed ODIs & T20s?

CB: “What does this proposal mean to West Indies cricket?”

I drew Colin’s attention to remarks he had made in an article by Vinode Mamchan in The Trinidad Guardian, that ‘this proposal as it is, from what is revealed so far, cannot work for the betterment of cricket and would surely lead to the death of West Indies cricket.’ I asked him if he really felt it was that serious? Potentially yes, he felt, if the West Indies were forced to play in 2nd tier cricket.

CB: “Where are we going to get the hard revenue from? It comes from playing the bigger countries. The ultimate goal should be for all Test nations to play at a high level – not have people dropping to lesser levels, with lesser interest.” Andrew asked Andy what was required to get back to playing ‘tier one’ cricket:

AM: “Andy, what do we have to do to get back to the top?”

AR: “We need players devoted to the cause. The ‘superstars’ are reluctant to put in the work at the top level, and show an example to the younger players coming through. The senior players set a bad example.” Colin weighed in:

CB: “It’s not just the senior players, it’s the clubs too. The standard of coaching has fallen too, all the way back to junior level. But at the top level the players have to be the beacon. We have had players with experience, but as a unit we don’t perform. The future is in the young players coming up, and the strength of the local clubs.” Colin went on to look at the lack of financial incentives to raise the level of coaching.

AM: “Andy, will we ever get back to the top? What does the board have to do to get West Indies back to the top?”

AR: “Yes, but it’ll take a lot of investment and planning. I’d get 30-40 players aged between 15-20 and focus on them, and hope good players emerge from that group.”

AM: “Andy, should there therefore be more focus on the CCC and HPC?”

Andy didn’t think so. He felt the CCC was too Bajan oriented, and wasn’t reflective of all the excellent young players in the region. Colin didn’t agree with Andy’s implication that CCC was a Barbados 2nd XI, and saw no reason not to combine the HPC and CCC as a developmental team.

With many young players about to be on view in the Nagico Super50 tournament beginning on Thursday, it was natural to turn our attention towards that. Colin was particularly looking forward to the T&T v Barbados game on Sunday.

I felt that despite it missing Gayle, Sammy, Samuels and a couple of others that it should be a strong competition. Colin was pleased to be seeing lots of new captains, and the opportunity being given to groom future leaders. This stirred Andrew to poke the hornet’s nest with one of his favourite questions:

AM: “Who would you go for as the next captain if Sammy goes?”

CB: “Hmnn. A good question! Sammy has done well, and carried himself well, but he doesn’t give us enough as he should as a player when he is captain. Ramdin, Kirk Edwards, Gayle, Powell, Dwayne Bravo – all of these are possible captains. But has Dwayne been playing enough 1st-class cricket? I’d like to see it be Dwayne, but we need to see his level of commitment.”

Colin was on his way, and Andrew promised to hook up with him when he travelled across to cover the tournament later in the week:

AM: “Let’s have a roti together when I see you in Trinidad & Tobago this weekend!” Andrew made ready to bade Andy farewell too, and wished him a happy birthday for the next day:

AM: “Andy, how will you be spending your birthday? Fishing? Do you still fish?”

AR: “As long as I’m alive I’ll fish! And have batsmen fishing outside the off-stump too!”

AM: “How old are you going to be tomorrow?”

AR: “36! Let’s hope our cricket has some better days ahead.”

After some further discussion amongst ourselves, and calls from the listeners, I asked Andrew and Pearson to nominate their favourites for the Nagico Super 50. Neither liked to stick their neck out, but I firmly backed my judgement: Ireland would be underestimated, and come and win the tournament.

Andrew reminded the listeners that he would be off to T&T to cover the competition, as part of a commentary team including Tony Cozier and Reds Perreira, with expert summaries from Colin Croft, Tony Gray and Philo Wallace. The Caribbean superstation would be carrying the commentaries, and would be available on the radio in some Caribbean countries, and available via the internet throughout the region, on yourcss.net.

Richard Purcell, Head of CSS broadcast, confirmed the news:

RP: “We’ve put together an excellent commentary team!”

AM: “I’m glad I’ve made selection!”

Finally, Andrew notified the listeners that with him away, Mason & Guests would have me in the hot seat as the guest host for the next fortnight.

Blimey.

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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