23rd August 2014
The Mason & Guests Show
Discussing fiery issues
After Andrew’s absence from the show (in St Kitts for the CPL), he returned to the host’s swivel chair which I’d kept warm for a week:
AM: “So much is happening! Ottis Gibson apparently fired. We’re hearing the rumours. My understanding is he’s back in Barbados talking to a lawyer. The situation is not good. I understand the job is going to be given to Mickey Arthur. We’re trying to get the information – but everyone’s phone is turned off!”
Our guests in the studio were former talk show host and WI Manager, Tony Marshall and CCC Manager, Steven Leslie. Andrew as usual made reference to his guests’ attire. Steven was wearing a bright, white shirt:
SL: “I chose white because of the fiery issues under discussion this evening.”
DO: “No shades of grey?”
AM: “And no red!”
I was resplendent in my James Whitaker benefit season tie:
DO: “In honour of England’s Chairman of Selectors. England’s win long overdue!”
Andrew turned first to Tony Marshall to comment on the Ottis Gibson news. Tony felt there was an emerging Leewards bias in the WI administration, and expected Curtly Ambrose to take temporary charge.
Steven Leslie felt Gibson hadn’t done anything sufficiently bad in the last 3 months to merit his sacking. Possibly, but defeat to New Zealand must surely have come pretty close? Steven did point out that whoever succeeded Gibson would doubtless bring in his own backroom team, and the current support staff , Leeward Islanders or not, would be replaced.
AM: “Have you heard the name Mickey Arthur being mentioned – recommended by Richard Pybus I understand?”
SL: “I want to wait, Andrew. Richard Pybus has come in and we’ve seen significant changes, including the removal of the CCC from the first-class structure. I see Mr Pybus communicating and executing a particular vision of persons within the hierachy of West Indies cricket, and Ottis is clearly not in their plans.”
AM: “And Sammy was not in their plans either.”
DO: “Or Butts.”
SL: “We also have a different development programme for West Indies cricket. The High Performance Centre will be going in a new direction. A lot of the old guard is being sieved out one by one. Of course we will still win the series v Bangladesh comfortably. But it’ll be interesting to see what the new coach does after that.”
Andrew asked me to list West Indies’ results under Ottis Gibson. They were as follows:
Tests overall: Won 9, Lost 16, Drawn 11. Test series: Won 4, Lost 8, Drawn 2.
ODIs overall: Won 36, Lost 48, NR 6. ODI series: Won 7, Lost 14, Drawn 2.
T20s overall: Won 23, Lost 21, NR 1. T20 series: Won 7, Lost 9, Drawn 4.
AM: “How do you assess that, Tony?”
TM: “It’s not brilliant. But I don’t believe it’s a lot worse than any of the other coaches we’ve had. But I had concerns from the time he was appointed. I didn’t expect him to last very long. We need to have a lot more faith in our people. I’d like to see more of the stars of our successful era assuming leadership. We don’t need to have as much foreign injection. I’m not against it per se, but we seem to be blind to the skills, success and knowledge of our former stars. When you bring the major people from cultures that are alien to our own you are highly likely to get some friction in the day-to-day operations of the team. National pride is at stake.”
Andrew invited me to give an opinion:
DO: “Tony said it – culture. I’m an outsider. I know I can never understand the culture and intrinsic values of the Caribbean and its love for cricket in the same way. My concern is will the culture be respected and will it be developed and harnessed? The changes have been happening since Dave Cameron came in – we’ve had him come in, Richard Pybus, Ramdin for Sammy, the Chairman of the Selectors gone, and now it seems the Head Coach gone, and possibly Mickey Arthur coming in. My first question is ‘who’s pulling the strings?’ and ‘who is going to be pulling the strings?’ Everything has been agreed in the Pybus Report, so it seems he is pulling the strings. The chatter is that Gibson’s gone because he’s fallen out with Pybus – they haven’t seen eye to eye. Speculation is that Mickey Arthur will come in. He has a history of great success but then went ignominiously, as a South African, as the Manager of Australia over the whole ‘homeworkgate’ saga. There was a belief that he didn’t understand, as a South African, Australian cricketing culture. I think Mr Pybus is doing a good job running West Indies cricket. But he’s an outsider. If Mickey Arthur comes in he will be an outsider. Will the culture be respected, will they understand it, or will they try to change it? Is this evolution, or revolution?”
With that Andrew opened the phone lines for a while then turned to Tony to comment on the CPL:
TM: “Fundamentally, I don’t like it. I don’t think it has anything in it for the development of West Indies cricket. Its plusses are fielding, throwing… and nothing else. This cricket appeals to the television and the young ladies. You’ll not find people who are students of the game really relishing this. I don’t think it suits West Indies cricket.”
SL: “We are now learning how to play T20 cricket. We have to learn the art. I think CPL 2 came off better than CPL no. 1.”
DO: “You think so?”
SL: “I think the pitches were better, and from a preparation perspective.”
DO: “There were some positives in CPL 2. There were other positives in CPL 1 which we lost out on. The opening in Barbados in the first was marvelous. In the second in Grenada it was rubbish. To be honest, until the last moments of the final this year I thought the CPL had been a qualified success. With the farce of that ending I think it was a qualified failure. In the first year they nearly got the start times right – they were slightly too late, games were sometimes finishing beyond midnight. But the atmosphere was there. But whether the tournament is owned by Digicel or the WICB, the WICB have still said this is a domestic tournament. A domestic tournament should be played for its domestic audience, not an international audience – and kicking off games at 4pm midweek was an insult to the people of the Caribbean. Those grounds were empty. But bless them, people still turned up to see a third or a quarter of a game, and were probably still charged full prices, to see the closing moments of some really good games. The cricket that was played was good. The organisation was a disaster.”
We were joined on the line by James Wynne from Digicel. He was really pleased with the tournament, but acknowledged the negative reaction re the start times and hoped to find a future happy medium – but TV is rarely a happy medium where international scheduling is concerned.
Further dissatisfaction was aired by Tony Marshall on St Kitts hosting 9 matches, when Barbados had 3, and some territories none at all. It was clear that St Kitts had had a private agreement with Digicel.
Steven Leslie asked for clarification of who ultimately owned the CPL?
JW: “It’s Digicel. There’s no secret about that. The benefit for the region is significant. It makes sense for Digicel, and the economic help of the region matters to Digicel. Digicel has been investing in cricket for over ten years now and it felt like a natural next step.”
Steven then asked who was responsible as the tournament’s technical committee to deal with Guyana’s protest, and also to consider disciplining Denesh Ramdin for his petulant bat throwing in the final. James informed him it was P.J. Patterson.
I expressed concern to James at the lack of Caribbean voices commentating on the games for TV:
DO: “We had Danny Morrison who’s an enthusiast but not everyone’s cup of tea; Graeme Swann was okay; and Darren Gough, frankly was dreadful. Absolutely abominable. Where were all the Caribbean commentators on the TV for a domestic Caribbean tournament?”
JW: “IMG are the TV producers so they select the commentators. Our brief to them was to reflect that it’s a truly international event. If it’s your view that the company went too far in the direction of international representation then that’s something we’ll look at.”
AM: “James, you’ve got a lot to look at!”
Steven asked James if a purely domestic T20 competition was something of the past now that the CPL was here?
JW: “That’s a question for the WICB.”
SL: “So they can be held at a different time of the year if the WICB wants it?”
JW: “Certainly, although the calendar is very difficult to navigate. That’s something for the top people within cricket.”
Which contradicts the WICB who’ve said they aren’t permitted to stage a domestic T20 tournament in addition to the CPL.
It was time for a break, and ‘Around the World in 2.’
After the interval, Steve Leslie wanted to revisit Ramdin’s conduct from the CPL final, and he wondered what the impact of the incident would have on impressionable viewers.
AM: “Do you think he should be disciplined?”
SL: “Ramdin has been given the opportunity to captain the West Indies, But for Ramdin to throw his bat like that is not only distasteful, I think he should be disciplined, made to apologise to the officials and admit he overreacted.”
Steven recalled Ramdin’s suspension for unfairly claiming a catch during the Champions Trophy last year, but glossed over his infamous ‘Yea Viv Talk Nah’ outburst. Ramdin’s message then had as much value as the scrap it was scrawled upon, and ultimately had no more relevance than the note held aloft by Chamberlain when he returned from Munich.
SL: “Ramdin does not have a lot to stand on. I’m hoping that he what he did will never be repeated again and will also be a factor for how he asks people to be under his leadership, because a leader also has to set the example. What Dinesh did there does not auger well.”
With only a few minutes left of the show, the WICB’s Corporate Communications Manager, Imran Khan joined us on the line to read the official statement confirming Ottis Gibson’s departure. Imran was unable to reply to specific questions regarding the decision and separation agreement. I asked him when he might anticipate having more information forthcoming?
IK: “I’m not able to say whether and when another release will be forthcoming with any further details. As soon as that time arises we’ll be certain to send that information out.”
And with that, Andrew bade the listeners good night, leaving us all ‘hoping for a brighter tomorrow!’