25th October 2014
Patrolling the Boundary – a view from the outfield
Dragging the net for the truth
Marlon Samuels yesterday rejected the notion that the strike by West Indies’ ODI team was unanimous. He may not be the last member of the returned tour party to reveal that he wanted to ‘play on’. In response, Dwayne Bravo has published his latest missive, in which he insists that he was unaware of Samuels’ position, but that he was the ONLY squad member not wholly supportive of the strike stance. This may be news to the likes of Jason Holder and Leon Johnson, who would have been understandably quiet, submissive and compliant in the circumstances.
It does appear that Dwayne Bravo is the main antagonist on behalf of the players (though several people have commented to me that his epistles have the heavy whiff in language and style of Wavell Hinds’ predecessor at the helm of WIPA – if not his literal signature or fingerprints) – although Bravo has reminded people that all three West Indies captains were on the India tour, and were fully cooperative parties in opting to take strike action.
With a great deal of opinion in the Caribbean being critical of the players, pushing for punishment, punitive action and a scapegoat or two to string up, it was predictable that Bravo would put into effect the ‘it wasn’t just me, guv’ defence. The Jamaica Observer in an editorial today said: “It’s difficult to see how Dwayne Bravo and the other ring leaders in the appalling decision to withdraw from the tour will continue to represent the West Indies.”
Many observers counsel conciliation in the crisis, but it’s entirely possible we may yet see some heads on pikestaffs. Bravo is insistent it shouldn’t be just his paraded outside the city gates. Dwayne is not built of the stuff of which martyrs are made.
Tweets by Ramdin and Sammy both during and after the tour seem to support his position. However, if that was the case, why on Earth didn’t they present themselves as a united triumvirate at the time? This would have given them far more authority, credibility and credence.
Personally, I believe Ramdin as Test Captain was a little more nervous about the collective stance, and has aspirations to hang onto the mantle – and thus has left himself a little wriggle room to fall back on plausible deniability – especially with an existing track record of petulant outbursts (‘yea Viv, talk nah’) and dubious sporting ideals (that claimed catch in the Champions Trophy).
Sammy, meanwhile having been unceremoniously dumped by the WICB as Test skipper earlier this year probably feels he’s done his fair duty to the greater good of the Caribbean cause, and owes no further debt of allegiance. Despite leading WI to a T20 World Cup, and 6 consecutive Test victories – instead of getting the plaudits and rewards that were his just desserts, he got less than a handshake and a carriage clock for the mantelpiece – he got the boot on the eve of that same Champions Trophy in which Ramdin was suspended for cheating.
I genuinely believe that if the WICB hadn’t misguidedly relieved Sammy of the ODI captaincy at that time in favour of Bravo a lot of the current calamities would have been avoided. Bravo was not the man capable to lead the team with the essential ‘all for one, and one for all’ attitude that’s needed. He is renowned as an ‘every man for himself’ (and his bank balance) character.
As for Sammy, he found himself in a similar position to Mike Gatting some 25 years ago. Sacked as skipper for ‘impropriety’ a few months after the Shakoor Rana affair, he led the rebel tour to South Africa in 1989 less as an act of political protest, or statement of financial independence, but as a ‘bollocks to you’ two-fingered gesture to the authorities that had shat on him.
I suspect that is exactly how Sammy feels right now. Gatting has recovered from that ignominy to be a beloved establishment figure, and I very much hope Sammy can still be too if he can distance himself from this mess.
Earlier this year I and my brother Keith chatted to Sammy at a British High Commission function in Barbados (they’d struck up an amused acquaintance and mutual understanding after finding they had a coinciding urinal visiting-time disposition). After the latest burst of relief we three talked for a while, and I urged Sammy to ‘hang on in there’ as Captain, as I felt he was the single most important contemporary figure in West Indian cricket – in his role as the great unifier, entrusted with the baton passed down from the late Sir Frank Worrell. He said he would do everything in his power to do so.
He has never captained West Indies in a Test Match since. He was sacked before the home series v New Zealand (which under Ramdin was lost 2-1), two years after they’d been beaten by Sammy’s team 2-0 in the Caribbean. The influence of Sammy the leader has been deeply missed on, and even more importantly, off the field in Test and ODI cricket.
As an ambassador and diplomat, Sammy had the necessary qualities to unite West Indies cricket in the Worrell or Clive Lloyd manner, and I still believe he can do the same off the field in the future if he can extricate himself from this imbroglio.
It is no coincidence that the current tragedy has unfolded at a time when West Indies cricket is bereft of strong leadership. In the past 12 months the WICB has dispensed with its ODI Captain, its Test Captain, its Chairman of Selectors and selection panel, and its Coach (Ottis Gibson confirming that he was indeed sacked, not ‘separated’ by mutual agreement). Is it surprising therefore that they seem also to have dispensed with international player contracts, and maybe soon international cricket too?
Would the cowardly withdrawal of the troops from India have been permitted under Ottis’ stewardship? He was just as much identified as Sammy in promoting the ‘one-team’ ethic within the WI side. Without either of them rallying the team, the players have headed in a separate direction, with wholly separate, and separating ideals.
Instead of Gibson, Sammy and the ‘one-team’ ethic, the recent tour party had as its mentors an interim coach, a bowling coach (two of the three recently knighted Antiguans, Sir Richie Richardson and Sir Curtly Ambrose) and the newly installed ‘Convener’ of Selectors, ‘Sir’ (he isn’t knighted – why not?) Clive Lloyd.
Lloyd earlier this year preached and practiced a ‘West Indies first’ policy, which Sunil Narine fell foul of when not back in time from the IPL to take part in pre-series training ahead of the NZ Tests. The latest ‘foul’ by which Narine was ‘felled’ ahead of the India tour must have contributed towards the discord and disharmony in the tourists’ dressing room. Certainly, any notion of ‘West Indies first’ was entirely rejected by the players.
Clearly, however much gravitas Lloyd, Ambrose and Richardson had personally, their positions were either too new or too fragile to carry enough weight to influence the players into seeing the bigger picture and making an informed choice to keep playing, ‘for the greater good’. I honestly believe that the far less personally respected former Coach and Captain would have carried the day with their professional respect and authority if they’d still been in those roles. And whose fault is it that they weren’t? You cannot blame anybody other than the misguided, incompetent and petty WICB for that one.
Despite a significant amount of time having elapsed since the cancellation of the tour, little of significance has occurred. On Tuesday of this week the WICB issued a portentous press release, after several hours of Board-member bickering, that was as informative and definitive as a classic office ‘holding’ email. At least someone somewhere within the organisation has done some basic corporate training. But beyond Bravo’s latest letter, which to me smacks of ‘methinks the lady doth protest too much’, there’s been no progress.
Bravo gibbers on about ‘the facts’ coming to light – a phrase that has been unconvincingly banded about by both the ECB and Kevin Pietersen throughout 2014, and I’m still none the wiser. Why is it so many people in conflict situations confuse ‘opinions’ and ‘points of view’ as ‘facts’? This sort of loud self-justification does tend to turn me against the protester.
The question has been raised whether there ‘was any thought to promoting a load of second stringers for the remaining fixtures?’ This is a point that needs some clarification from both the WICB and the BCCI.
In the press on the day of the strike it was widely reported that a replacement WI team had been mooted, and rejected as ‘impossible’. This was universally interpreted as being the response the BCCI made to a request by the WICB to provide new players.
I have not seen it confirmed anywhere that is what actually happened. It is possible that the WICB felt that providing a replacement team was either logistically or financially ‘impossible’, and so could not entertain the notion in a practical sense. However, it may very well be a fact that such an idea was rejected by the Indian board, and that they were the ones who considered India playing a West Indies 2nd XI as an ‘impossibility’. If so, why?
On this week’s Mason & Guests show, Dr Don Marshall asked us to consider that exact scenario. If, for whatever reason, the West Indies Cricket Board presents a team to their hosts, declaring them to be ‘our chosen XI’, what right do they have (or do they think they have) to reject it?
Don made this observation to Cricinfo’s George Dobell, and he conceded that Dr Marshall was making a very good point. Does a host nation have any right whatsoever to interfere in the selection of a touring team’s nominated players and then refuse them? Was this not the very point upon which MCC’s 1968 tour of South Africa was cancelled? And if the BCCI did indeed make such a refusal, do they not then share some of the blame for the cancellation of the tour? Are their hands as unsullied in this dirty affair as they would claim?
I’d be interested to know which Board it was that said ‘no’ to the involvement of back-up players. I’d also like to know exactly when the BCCI began negotiations for Sri Lanka’s fall-back 5-match ODI series. That was put into place ever so quickly and smoothly!
There are still a lot of unanswered questions out there, and a lot of guilty people.
David Oram is the resident ‘statto’, and sometime presenter of ‘Mason & Guests’ – Voice of Barbados’ weekly cricket talk show, the leading cricket radio show in the West Indies – hosted by the Caribbean’s principal radio commentator, Andrew Mason. You can tweet me at DavidOram@colblimp1983.