CPL CROWD: Antiguan home fans turned up in huge numbers to support the Antigua Hawksbills in their Limacol Caribbean Premier League match against Guyana Amazon Warriors at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium in North Sound on Saturday night. Guyana Amazon Warriors scored a five-wicket win and eliminated the home team from the semi-final stage of the competition. —Photo courtesy CPLT20.com
More than a will and a way
Regional success needs...
Restaurant server: “Can I offer you something, sir?”
Veteran commentator: “A flight to Barbados would be nice.”
As someone who has experienced the frustrations associated with regional travel many times over during his more than 50 years covering West Indies cricket, Tony Cozier would obviously be well practised in delivering responses that perfectly encapsulate the plight of the Caribbean passenger, complete with the dose of humour and dash of resignation that save so many of us from blowing a gasket.
Still, it is nothing short of bewildering to once again endure the collective chaos that is LIAT—especially over the past five weeks—while at the same time appreciating the home-grown world-beating excellence of Jehue Gordon along with the outstandingly successful first season of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League. Indeed, it is probably true that the only time those involved in organising, participating in or following this franchise-based T20 event would have had cause, so far, to use the tournament sponsor’s product was at some airport somewhere following news that yet another flight had fallen victim to chronic inefficiency.
So here we are at VC Bird International in Antigua on a Sunday morning that is rapidly leaking into afternoon, pondering the possibility of a lengthy, unscheduled stay at the terminal following the cancellation of LI 521, and passing the time watching “live” coverage of the final day of the World Athletics Championships from Moscow.
And there’s Usain Bolt, the classiest of all world-class products and another born, bred and tutored as an athlete entirely in his home island, surging past Justin Gatlin as if the American was stuck in neutral and anchoring Jamaica to yet another sprint relay gold medal. Six golds for the green, gold and black in Moscow, the sort of phenomenal success that no island of just over three million people should be able to enjoy at the expense of global powerhouses like the United States and Russia.
Yet it’s something we have come to expect since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, although the island’s tradition of excellence at the highest level goes back 60 years before those Games. At the same time, this is a nation still plagued by violence, blighted by corruption, burdened by crushing debt and, since we’re also talking about airline issues, had a national airline that contributed significantly to that indebtedness.
Come to think of it, that sounds like Trinidad and Tobago, except for the money worries and legacy of athletic superiority. Is it not more damning of a people, though, to be blessed with inestimable wealth through natural resources, but at the same time suffer from a level of crime and social inequity that can only speak of a level of public and private corruption that must be among the worst in the world?
Anyway, the point of all this rambling is that there is more than enough evidence to suggest that we can do a lot better with the operation of regional airlines and the fair and equitable distribution of the national patrimony in our different territories if only the same discipline, rigour and vision were applied in the public sector as operates at both private and personal levels.
Gordon, our new world champion, is no fluke, no overnight sensation. Our only other wearer of a gold medal from the World Athletics Championships, Ato Boldon, described the 400-metre hurdler’s fourth-place finish—as a raw 17-year-old—at the 2009 edition in Stuttgart as arguably the greatest sporting performance of all time by a native of this country. It was a comment that I ridiculed as being unduly extravagant, and was promptly put in my place by the four-time Olympic medallist for not knowing what I was talking about.
Reading the stories following Jehue’s triumph on Thursday, it is obvious that this is a young man, from an environment and circumstances that we expect to produce the worst, who prioritises education and sport...and has conquered the world in one of those pursuits. Like Keshorn Walcott’s stunning success in the men’s javelin at last year’s Olympic Games in London, it flies in the face of the negative stereotype of youth as being aimless, idle and destructive.
At a very different level, you have a T20 cricket tournament, run essentially as a private enterprise, that has exceeded all expectations on the field and, most importantly, off the field in terms of spectator support, regional interest and, critically, attracting sponsors and commercial partners. Whatever the reasons, whatever the obstacles that have prevented the West Indies Cricket Board from making similar linkages of any type in support of its various tournaments, the CPL, if nothing else, has put a lie to the notion that cricket is not commercially viable in the Caribbean.
More than just a will and a way, it needs an appreciation that in the world of today, financial success is more about building relationships than collecting sponsorship cheques, and delivering on the promise of a quality product in as efficient a manner as is humanly and logistically possible.
In a place like the Caribbean, small islands and territories separated by water that require regular travel to facilitate business, leisure and personal relationships, it is a sad indictment of our collective failure that, after all these years, we still can’t avoid regular bouts of chaos in moving people from place to place.
At least there’s a TV here to show how we can produce unparalleled quality, in the Russian capital and at Sabina Park, while we wait and wait...