15th December 2014
Patrolling the Boundary – a view from the outfield
The blame game has been played out in Caribbean cricket with some aplomb for sometime. Ever since the powers of the magnificent Windies of the 80s and 90s waned and were surpassed by the great and powerful Aus, there has been a desire to point an accusing finger in varying directions.
In their time, skippers Richie Richardson, Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy and a handful of others had an angry fist shaken at them by an increasingly frustrated West Indian public. And in that time the WICB has come in for an equally justifiable level of fury.
But it seems that it is neither the players nor the administrators who are fault.
In an interview given recently to Grenadian sports journalist, Michael Bascombe, the WICB’s incumbent president, Dave Cameron has successfully identified the culprit: it is Tony Cozier.
As with the ongoing investigation into the WI ODI teams’ strike in India, it appears that we can’t reasonably hold either the players or the Board responsible and call them to account for the mess. The real villains in the region are the Machiavellian, malevolent media.
In that interview, which you can listen to here, Cameron expressed his dissatisfaction with Caribbean writers and broadcasters and their continual negative portrayal of West Indies cricket. It’s not that things are bad, he seems to suggest. No – it’s that the journalists and commentators are misrepresenting the progress and successes of West Indian cricket – presumably in order to further their own agenda of undermining the current WICB regime?
Hmmn. Sounds like a touch of presidential siege mentality to me.
Dave Cameron didn’t specifically identify any individual journalist in his condemnation of the media – but the Caribbean’s greatest living cricket writer and broadcaster has not been shy and remained in the shadows away from the President’s comments.
Writing yesterday in the Barbados Nation Tony Cozier came forward and directly identified himself with Mr Cameron’s comments. You can read his fascinating response to the accusations here.
I asked Tony sometime ago if he had ‘retired from broadcasting, or that they had retired him?’
‘The latter’ he replied.
The Jamaica Gleaner’s highly respected writer, Tony Becca was also moved to respond to Dave Cameron’s comments, which you can read here.
I find it staggering that at a time when the very foundations of West Indian cricket are subsiding, when there is a potential ‘For Sale’ sign hanging over the property, that those in authority prioritise throwing brickbats rather than putting their house in order.
I sent an email to several admired members of the Caribbean cricket media, including Tonys Cozier and Becca – who would probably be identified by Mr Cameron as among his critics – to offer my opinion, and support:
Michael Bascombe’s interview is a fascinating listen!
Dave Cameron’s opinions on ‘commentators/writers’ are particularly enlightening.
It’s incredible that he seems to suggest that many of West Indies’ cricket’s problems stem not from the WICB, but how they are depicted by the media!
And he suggests that this is not done elsewhere (I suggest he looks more closely at the regular criticisms of the ECB in the UK).
His implication is that the media should ‘tow the line’ in promoting all that is good and positive about Caribbean cricket. From my objective standpoint, I think the media does so when it can – it just has very little to be positive about!
President Cameron’s insistence that the media emphasise the good, rather than focusing on the bad, is the worst form of spin doctoring – and both undermines the principles of impartial journalism, and is disingenuous about the current state of West Indies cricket.
In his actions thus far (and possible future intentions) to restrict, withdraw, marginalise those in the media that do not buy into his (blinkered) vision he is misrepresenting to the people of the Caribbean the parlous state of West Indies cricket (both on and off the field) – and wishes to do the same with the image the Caribbean game projects to the outside world.
He seems to overlook, or be unaware that, outside the Caribbean, news of what is occurring here is gained through three main mediums – via what the TV commentators say when West Indies games are given exposure in the wider world on television; through the personal opinions of friends from the Caribbean community (e.g. Mike Atherton will call Michael Holding if he wants to know what’s going on); or via the ESPN Cricinfo articles of Tony Cozier, (and to a far lesser degree, the Wisden India pieces by Michael Holding – though he rarely addresses West Indies issues).
(As an aside, Cricinfo needs to employ a Cricket News reporter for the region for it to have value to the outside world – its current coverage of the Caribbean is a joke – aside, of course from Tony’s articles – and this otherwise excellent website does the Caribbean a massive disservice. Perhaps someone can have a word with Sambit Bal??? It is not enough for Tony’s articles to be the only worthy cricket writing to reach the outside world.)
Within all of this, there is an irony – without proper international coverage here in the region by Cricinfo, other farcical episodes of mismanagement in the Caribbean have not had a wider exposure: e.g. the BCA CEO fiasco over the appointment of Jefferson Miller; the current suspension of cricket at the Kensington Oval and endangerment of the May Test Match v England; the fact that the much-vaunted PCL has only ONE player representing a different territory to his own; and of course the thousands of column inches in the Caribbean that were dedicated to the India tour strike.
Many of us have voiced various different opinions and reactions, and pointed fingers of blame in different directions – the WICB, WIPA, the ODI team (all valid) – and yet the outside world only heard Tony’s voice of experience. His opinions, highly respected, are of course not a lone voice reflecting the views of all the Caribbean cricket media.
But if Mr. Cameron is concerned that Tony’s views are reflecting West Indies cricket and the WICB (and more to the point, Dave Cameron) in a poor light, then firstly, he should do more to impress upon Cricinfo to employ a WI correspondent; but more importantly do his utmost to ensure there is not so much inept mismanagement by the Board. (To be fair to him and them, the India tour aside, I do think they have been heading in the right direction – but there is still a mountain to climb).
I have absolutely no doubt that in the last 12 months Tony Cozier, and all others could have written far, far, far more damaging and injurious things about the WICB; have delved more deeply publicly into the ongoing disharmony within the Board itself; and forced the resignation, through ceaseless campaigning, of several parties over the India Tour Strike humiliation.
The fact that they have not demonstrates that all those mature and responsible cricket writers have far more respect for West Indies cricket, and the bigger picture of the future prosperity and redevelopment of Caribbean cricket, than they have disrespect for the current incumbents of the WICB – scoring easy victories over soft targets would ultimately not help things much.
Of course it is scandalous that it looks increasingly likely that the whole Indian Strike scandal will be brushed under the carpet as though nothing had happened (a mere misunderstanding!) and everyone continues in their position as though nothing had happened. No discrimination? No victimisation? This seems to apply not just to Dwayne Bravo, but to Wavell Hinds and Dave Cameron as well. To my mind, all three should go – collective responsibility (‘all for one, and one for all!) – but perhaps there is an argument that a fudge outcome that maintains the prevailing wobbly status quo will allow things to get back on track. It is an argument I’m unconvinced by, and still doesn’t answer who/how/what/when is paying the USD$42m bill?
All of the above subjects could, perhaps should, be being discussed and played out in an international written media forum – but they aren’t. Good luck for Mr Cameron! They are widely discussed in the Caribbean – but the man in the street has a pretty good idea how bad things are here, even if it’s a long, long time since he’s had any desire to go and watch any of the poor stuff that masquerades for what was once the great West Indian game of cricket down at Sabina or Kensington or Queen’s Park these days.
Personally, I think Tony Cozier and everyone else has shown admirable restraint.
But if Mr President really thinks the ‘medium is the message’ in ‘accentuating the positive’ and getting across his uplifting, anesthetised vision of West Indies cricket to everybody, then he could do worse than consult a history book or two.
Some of those European leaders back in the 1930s really knew how to get their point across.
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.