Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Paid to party?

 Of the television commentators who covered the recent Nagico Super50 cricket tournament, Ian Bishop and Jeffrey Dujon are the two whose opinions I trust most. So when Ian kept harping there was something significant in the fact that throughout the entire tournament not one Trinidad and Tobago player had scored 50 runs (except in the final), I began to pay closer attention to the implications. 

Ian was suggesting they lacked confidence and he kept musing on possible reasons for this diffidence and came up with a few; but before I get into them, I want to ask a few questions of our players, and our cricket supporters.

If you are a professional, someone who is being paid for a particular skill or service, then do you not have an obligation to deliver, at the very least, something acceptable to your client? 

If you find out that the driver of the maxi-taxi you are about to board was up all of the night before drinking alcohol and partying at a fete, would you still get into the vehicle in the morning? If you didn’t know that he had been drinking and partying, and you board the maxi and pay your money, and then he crash into a big hoarding at the side of the road which never trouble nobody before till he come with he stale-drunk self, would you feel you had been cheated? 

Well, I’d like to ask the opening batsmen who were seen partying until after four on the morning of that tournament final, if they really think that that constitutes professionally acceptable conduct. This is Trinidad, I know, where a lot of unacceptable behaviours are excused by the chant that it is Carnival time—hell, a man comes out swinging in his underwear at the Soca Monarch semi-finals and few see anything objectionable there. 

I know that Trinis have grown accustomed to expecting low standards from their cricketers around this season because they know they are feteing harder than everyone else. But how low do our standards have to fall before we stand up and say, no more?

Not everyone is a Gary Sobers or a Brian Lara; but everyone who is paid to represent a team has a responsibility to be prepared; to train; to pay attention to diet and exercise, and to show up on the day in the best possible state to allow you to perform at your best. From captain to cook.

While the T&T team did not deserve to win on account of its thoughtless batting throughout the tournament, it was not at all fair to the efforts of the bowlers. How often could you see them lose spirit in the face of the generally shoddy team support in both fielding and batting?

It would have been easy to simply blame the stupidity of our batting collapses at the top of the order to heavy-handed Carnival manners—it would have been annoying but remediable—but it is obviously a much more complex malaise that ails all our regional teams.

One of the striking aspects of this tournament was that the teams all seemed to suffer from the same kind of weaknesses—at varying degrees of intensity--and collectively all the flaws coalesce in that great, big volatile entity known as the West Indies team.

Thanks to television’s penchant for interviews, we were able to hear from some of the coaches and managers (and even the tournament organiser’s CEO) about approaches to training and managing and their perspectives on cricket development.

Darren Sammy, a much more beleaguered captain than his demeanour lets on, provided a lot of insight into the way he thinks as he tried his hand at cricket commentary. Rattled as he might be by the constant hectoring about his capacity to hold a place on the team, he manages to exude such an equable aura that it is clear to see why people feel he is trustworthy if still a bit inexperienced. On the other hand, it is still hard to figure out what our showman, Dwayne Bravo, is like at the core. Yes, he seems cool and yes, he is optimistic and he certainly is more exuberant than most, but how many times does he suddenly seem to forget that an innings needs to be built with measured strokes and not wild voops in the air? It would be great to hear him in a commentary chair.

Most characteristic throughout was batting collapses; whether the result of a sudden descent into panic or a rush of trigger-happy adrenalin; they sent the teams—all of them at one time or the other—into a mode where they seemed to have completely forgotten everything they might have learnt about the game. 

This is what I think is the most chilling aspect of our cricket now. Whatever the training, nobody reaches into their minds to find appropriate responses to their situations. It doesn’t matter what’s in their brains because they just won’t go there to retrieve it. Is just licket and lashet, according to Ian McDonald, and no head.