the spirit of the game and the spirit of the law are concepts used to define behaviours that represent the finer ideals, usually implicitly expected. And the latest round of bluster by the Minister of Sport comes across as an act that is more mean-spirited than one meant to protect the sovereignty of the country he himself represents so “outstandingly.’’
The dreary truth is that his behaviour reeks of the pique he tiresomely displays over trivia. The minister was understandably upset by the omission of Sunil Narine from the New Zealand Test series. In the case of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), he went so far as to say that without Lendl Simmons, Sunil Narine, Keiron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin and so on, the Red Steel was fielding an inferior team and therefore did not deserve to be representing Trinidad and Tobago. It seems that this is the heart of his gripe. How ironic.
Apart from belittling the members of the team needlessly, it tells us that the competitive nature of the minister —who obviously is blind to all but winners’ row—has overridden his capacity to see the valuable aspects of the policy of mixing up the players.
There are several elements of this franchise-based tournament that bode well for the overall development of West Indies cricket—and we are not even exploring the sport tourism aspect which the minister has arrogantly shot in the foot.
If you have looked at any of the matches since the tournament began last year, you must have been struck by the obvious differences in style and technique among the players—both from within West Indian stock and those from further afield. This is the kind of exposure that has been identified as one of the missing elements in the training of our young cricketers, giving them the chance to learn and adapt to diverse playing styles (and conditions).
Mixing up the teams, allowing players to soak up different cultures, experience new friendships and develop their games—these are valuable elements in the long term growth of the sport.
The conspiracy theories that have abounded is an effort to weaken the Trinidad and Tobago team and the Trinidad and Tobago brand have overlooked these elements with typical bad-mind. Last year, when the tournament wound up, I suggested that rather than complain about the branding being compromised, the cricket bodies, both local and regional, should try to learn from the CPL organisers what they had done so differently that it captured the region’s imagination and support in little time. It cannot be the fault of the CPL folk that other groups have been less than successful because they lack imagination and will.
It is hard to see the naysayers as champions for any patriotic cause. Their arguments are simply too peevish. The minister could not avoid coming across like a pompous buffoon as he tried to put down the Red Steel captain’s declaration that he was playing for his country. He did not attack Dwayne Bravo’s patriotic statement, but rather, his effrontery at contradicting him. It was shamefully pathetic backwater behaviour—probably what provoked commentators to continue to refer to the team as the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel, despite the CPL’s official expunging of the country name from the team.
And once again, with the region tuning in and supporting teams in the spirit of the game, T&T looks like a petulant bully; earning no points from our regional neighbours. And what if the Red Steel were to win the tournament? Would the minister be first in the VIP lounge to welcome them home? We wouldn’t be surprised.
(This column was written before the Minister’s outburst against the National Security Minister’s “reversal’’ of his “decision’’.)