Sunday, February 25, 2018

Live, learn and laugh


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Psychiatry students were in their Emotional Extremes class. "Let's set some parameters," the professor said. "What's the opposite of joy?" he asked one student. "Sadness," the student replied. "The opposite of depression?" he asked another student. "Elation," the young lady replied. "The opposite of woe?" the professor asked a young man from Texas. The Texan replied, "Sir, I believe that would be giddyup."

We live, we learn and sometimes we laugh. It does not pay to get angry as so many people did when, in August 1966, John Lennon claimed that the Beatles were "more popular than God". There is the story of the visitor to the asylum who, walking past the "cells" in which the inmates were housed, met a man who claimed vociferously and repeatedly to be Jesus Christ. The visitor then responded, "I understand what you're saying but let me ask you, who made you Jesus Christ?" The man replied confidently, "Why, my father the Almighty God made me Jesus Christ." It was at this point the man in the next cell shouted, "That's a lie. I did not and, furthermore, you're not my son!"

It is in this spirit that I take Darren Sammy's seemingly modest attempt to compare himself with Jesus. Commenting on the multitude of criticisms directed at the WICB for making him Captain of the West Indies, Sammy said sanctimoniously, "The best man who walked the face of the earth never did anything wrong but he was still crucified. And I am nowhere close to that." Close in this case is not even relative.

It is true that one might believe Jesus was a wicketkeeper (Jesus Saves!) and not an all-rounder. However, Sammy's record is nowhere close to Messiah status. In 63 One Day Internationals (ODI), Sammy averages 20.3 runs with the bat and each of his 46 wickets (less than one per match) has cost him 44.45 runs. Hypothetically, if Sammy ever bowls out an opposing team in an ODI, the team would score 444 runs. If everybody batted like Sammy, the West Indies will be out for 203. Sammy has not yet played 25 Test matches, the minimum for a genuine evaluation of his performance. The assumption is that by the time you reach 25 matches you would have played against other teams in their own countries and would have been really tested.

At this stage, after 16 Test matches, Sammy averages around 16 with the bat and 29 with the ball but, as time goes by, and Sammy plays some matches abroad, his Test figures will be very close to his existing ODI figures. Chris Gayle's batting average in Tests is 41.65 and ODIs is 39.06. His bowling average is 41.59 in Tests and 35.08 in ODIs. Dwayne Bravo's batting averages are 31.42 in Tests and 24.17 in ODIs and his bowling averages are 39.83 in Tests and 29.81 in ODIs. Gayle did not ask to be rested and was not selected for the Pakistan and India tours. Bravo, who asked to be rested for three of the ODIs against India, was not selected for the Tests.

Both have genuine claims as all-rounders. Based on his averages, Sammy is what in the game is known as a "bits-and-pieces" player. He is clearly not the Saviour with whom he compares himself. Just like the recipe for cooking fried chicken (first, get a chicken) the recipe until now for being a team Captain was first make the team on merit. But we live, learn and laugh and probably wait for the Messiah to emerge from the ruins of West Indies cricket.

It is with the same ton of salt that I take the increasingly hysterical and hypocritical reaction to the decision by the Heads of Government to intervene in West Indies cricket. We keep hearing that we must keep politics out of cricket and that "politics and sports don't mix". The WICB's website, in a very pointed and aggressive response to the CARICOM Heads of Government, featured a recent decision by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to ban politicians from national cricket boards after June 2012 and would consider sanctions after July 2013.

Interestingly, the present WICB President, Julian Hunte, is the Chairman of the St Lucia Labour Party and as its Leader for many years, before being displaced by Dr Kenny Anthony, was Leader of the Opposition. The WICB CEO, Dr Ernest Hilaire, was Hunte's campaign manager and one of the key strategists in an election which Hunte lost to someone named "Spider"Montoute and the Labour Party lost to Hunte's nemesis and brother-in-law, Sir John Compton.

Worse, according to the present ICC President, Sharad Pawar, is the president of the Nationalist Congress Party of India which he founded in 1999 after separating from the Indian National Congress. Pawar has previously held the posts of Minister of Defence and Chief Minister of Maharashtra and now serves as Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India. The ICC Directors from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also government appointees.

What should have disturbed the ICC more than politicians on cricket boards is that India and Pakistan do not have Players' Associations. These associations are the best bulwark against politics and the autocracy that is so evident and so prevalent in cricket at all levels in all countries.

The recent lockouts of sportsmen in the US when contracts expired demonstrate the need not just for players' associations but also for contracts that remain in force until both parties agree on revisions to the existing contracts.

I was an adviser to the West Indies Players' Association when the principles of the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the WICB and WIPA were formalised. To his credit, Wes Hall, the WICB President at the time, initiated the process because he wanted to ensure that his successors in office would honour the agreement and not jettison it because it was inconvenient.

But we live, learn and laugh, especially when the same Board that wanted Caricom to intervene as a source of funds for West Indies Cricket now questions the right of several Heads of Government to ask the extremely legitimate and timely question, "Who owns West Indies Cricket?"

Darren Sammy provided another insightful quote, "I will go down as Darren Sammy, the one who always smiles." In his position, I would laugh out loud in celebration of my good fortune.

* Tony Deyal was last seen saying that if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you then you are probably too dense to understand the situation.