Sunday, December 17, 2017

Delusions, delusions

So Chris Gayle has effectively retired from regional and international cricket.

That's the only reasonable conclusion from his call for Caricom leaders to intervene on his behalf. Remember, we're talking here about a collection of political leaders from our beloved region who are so possessed of delusions of grandeur and preoccupied with their own pomp and circumstance that they took six hours – a full day's play with no lunch and tea interval - to formally open their latest old-talk session last week in St Kitts.

By the time they got through with all the empty rhetoric and mellifluous posturing, not to mention a packed agenda of deferring decisions, there would have been no time to entertain the former West Indies captain's request for consideration of his situation. Gayle's anticipation of a resolution via Caricom therefore is like saying you're planning to go to the Summer Olympics in London in a year's time and you'll be calling this morning for an appointment to renew your passport. In other words: you ain't going nowhere.

His appeal to heads of government in the region also betrays a condition common to personalities in the public domain, including media practitioners. Definitely including media practitioners. It's a kind of "The World Revolves Around Me" syndrome and incorporates the belief that your way is the right way, the only way and because you're so loved by so many people, you just have to call on them and they will drop everything –doubles, babies, even Blackberrys – and come running to the defence of your obviously noble cause.

Well, they may come running, they may flood the call-in programmes, they may text and they may do whatever it is they do on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. But that's about it. Until and unless people feel that something really important to them is threatened, they will be all noise and no action.

And that really puts cricket into its proper perspective. Many of us feel passionately about it from a purely sporting context while others will see its value as a metaphor or a barometer of contemporary West Indian society. Still, after all of that, it's only a game. In the Arab world, like almost everywhere else, football is followed with an almost religious fervour. But the people of that region have taken to the streets for the past five months and have died by the hundreds, maybe thousands already, not over some perceived injustice on the football pitch, but for freedoms that we take for granted.

Like all the other cricketing controversies that occupy our attention for a little while, this Gayle matter shall also pass. Unfortunately, we never seem to learn from these experiences. So we will come this way again, make a whole heap of noise, while the institution that is West Indies cricket will continue its inexorable slide into irrelevance.

In fact, it's almost there. The Future Tours Programme for the next nine years has us hosting series more and more in the months of July and August, something that was unthinkable less than a decade ago for obvious reasons. Our cricket season no longer belongs to us, but to the Indian Premier League and the other big pappys of the game who insist that their long-established tradition of international cricket at a certain time of the year must be maintained. As befits our lowly status, we have been assigned to duel with our fellow second-raters Bangladesh and Zimbabwe more often than previously. Series against Australia, India and England every two years (either home or away), are now a thing of the past.

When India toured the Caribbean in 2002 and rain made a mess of the one-day matches in June, then president of the West Indies Cricket Board, Wes Hall, said he would make it clear at the upcoming International Cricket Council meeting in London that such scheduling was unacceptable. I'm sure the fiery former fast bowler proselytised with evangelical zeal in making the case. But they didn't take him on, just as they haven't taken us on before or since, and this is where we have come to, about to take on India in a Test in the rainiest month of the year on an island that isn't the lushest and greenest in the region just by an accident of nature.

Yet we are told that we have benefited from these trade-offs and the surrendering of our traditional international cricket season. WICB director Conde Riley confirmed last week in Barbados that an additional US$20 million will be added to the board's coffers (giving a total of US$60 million) for squeezing in a third Test in the schedule against India.

Fine, but where is that money going? Will we see the benefits of that increased revenue in the regional game and subsequently, the regional team? Or will it boil down to the usual wrangling with the West Indies Players Association over how much of that money they're entitled to?

Like the Caricomsawatees engaging in yet another one of their periodic self-congratulation sessions in Basseterre, every stakeholder in West Indies cricket claims to be heading in the right direction. The fact that those directions are opposite to each other and are therefore pulling the game apart seems to escape these principals.

So all power to you if you're on the side of Gayle, if you're batting for the WICB or pushing for T&T to go it alone. And while all that dialogue is going on, who's on the side of West Indies cricket?