The most unpopular man in West Indies cricket, or at least to some two dozen or so players, to the vast majority of fans, and to four or five prime ministers, and a few supposedly influential people, is Dave Cameron, the elected leader of West Indies cricket.
Cameron has probably improved his position in the popularity stakes, and probably has set the stage for the smooth running of West Indies cricket.
A few hours after last week’s announcement by selector Courtney Browne that four players – Darren Bravo, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, and Andre Russell – had refused the invitation to join the squad for Zimbabwe, Cameron wasted no time in warning three of the players that they may never play for the West Indies again.
Reading through the warning, Cameron seemed to be saying that Bravo, Narine, and Pollard will never represent the West Indies again.
The three players, along with Russell, opted to fulfil their commitments with the Pakistan Super League rather than representing the West Indies, or helping the West Indies to qualify for the World Cup.
In a show of compassion, Cameron, rightly or wrongly, excluded Russell from his understandable wrath, citing the all-rounder’s recent ban from playing the game and the effect it may have had on his earning power.
In his statement, Cameron, who has been accused of his board’s poor treatment of the players, including their finances, said that the board’s offer was the best the board could afford, that in the circumstances the players were well paid, and asked them to do the maths while asking them “to give us an opportunity and play for us this time”.
The players’ decision not to play left Cameron “very disappointed”.
Once the showpiece team in the early years of the World Cup when they paraded arguable some of the greatest cricketers who ever played the game in probably the greatest team of all time, the West Indies are now fighting for recognition, with the brilliance of 1975 and 1979 now only just a fleeting memory.
The West Indies have not been at the business end of the tournament since 1983 to India in the final of 1983 and are now grouped not with any of Australia, India, or England, but with the likes of Ireland, the Netherlands, Afghanistan, and Papua New Guinea in a fight for one of the last two places in the World Cup finals.
There has been talk, at home and abroad, that the West Indies have lost it, and that may well be true.
That, however, is or maybe only one of the problems of West Indies cricket.
Skill is not limited to only a few, or to a generation or two, and the present problems may well be due to the selection process.
West Indies cricket has always had its problems, but they really took root at the coming of T20 cricket, and it did so because of better earning power for players..
The visionaries of T20 cricket saw the problems, they originally set up rules to govern participation, especially in the Indian Premier League, and those rules included the no objection certificate to be given by the player’s country.
I remember then CEO of West Indies cricket, Dr Ernest Hilaire, saying that the board would never stand in the way of a West Indies player earning more money, and although, based on the financial state of West Indies cricket, that seemed reasonable and fair, and despite the rules, it opened the floodgate which the West Indies have never been able to close.
TOO GOOD TO REFUSE
To the West Indians, that was an attraction too good to refuse as the players went off to earn money.
The more T20 leagues developed, however, the less time the players had for the West Indies until they were no longer available, and it mattered little whether they said so or not.
The West Indies team was basically reduced to a ‘makeshift eleven’ and it was no wonder the West Indies really could not or cannot compete.
Could that have been prevented? Not really, regardless of what the players may say, and not if players wanted to earn more, which is their right, not if the players wanted a guarantee of selection, not if the selection process was to remain based on performance and a motivation to young players, and not if the chances of new players being selected after good performances were to remain a carrot for young cricketers.
On top of that, while other countries in the world seemed to control their players, the West Indies did not, or could not.
Those players from the rest of the world who were considered good enough were allowed to get in, and who wanted do so were allowed by their countries.
The availability, however, was only for a time. Whenever the countries wanted their players, they were available, no fuss or argument.
It was as simple as that.
Maybe the problem arose because of the West Indies’ confusing selections in recent years, and their assessment of who was, or was not, a Test player, a 50-over player, or a T20 player.
Maybe it is also because some of those countries, England, Australia, India, and South Africa, pay their players at the first-class level enough to keep them reasonably happy at home.
It could well be that instead of going off and forgetting their country, players from countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh stayed at home not only because they are not given a no objection certificate but maybe simply because they love their country and are proud to represent their country.
It may be also that despite the lot in life of some of them they are still living better, because of cricket, sometimes much better, than many of their countrymen.
Whatever the reason, it is still a choice, it is still their choice, and they cannot reasonably be blamed for exercising their options.
Despite all the other transgressions, and despite the short-sightedness of employing foreign coaches to coach West Indian cricketers and foreign administrators to administer West Indian cricket, hats off, this time, to Cameron and his board for their apparent tough stance.
There comes a time when West Indies cricket must look after West Indies cricket, and it is obvious, West Indies cricket must be saved.
West Indian fans love cricket, and they love to see the players satisfied and contented.
They are proud people, however. They love to win, but they have been losing for a long, long time, and when they called on the financially comfortable, or fairly comfortable players, they said no.
© Roberto Pocaterra
© Roberto Pocaterra Pocaterra
It is, despite the general attitude of the administrators, as simple as that.
It is now, therefore, time to really remember, above everything else, that a friend in need is a friend indeed.