Dr. Fraser- Point of View
May 15, 2009
Gayle, Hunte and West Indies Cricket

Didn’t I say some time ago that one swallow does not a summer make? This was in response to our capturing the Wisden trophy in the West Indies and the feeling of some West Indian fans that West Indies Cricket was once again on the move back to its glory days. The humiliating defeat by 10 wickets within three days in the first test would have shattered the hopes of many West Indians who had long been dreaming of our move out of the ‘doldrums’ where we had been lodged for some time.{{more}} But as happens so often, a large part of the problem takes place off the field and the West Indies Cricket Board continues to amaze us with the slipshod manner in which they go about the business of West Indies cricket. I had earlier today read an article by Fazeer Mohammed in the Trinidad Express newspaper and could not believe what I was reading. Mohammed, quoted from an interview that Julian Hunte, the Board’s big man, had with Tony Cozier, in which he stated that he was not sure if we were defending the Wisden trophy that we captured last year. He apparently said that he had to ask Steve Camacho who had recently taken over the job of CEO. “So far as I’m concerned, I don’t believe it was discussed,” he said. “Come on! What nonsense! The president of the Board not sure that we are defending the Wisden Trophy!

This issue of the Wisden Trophy had me confused for some time. We recaptured the trophy in a five match series played in the West Indies and might very well surrender it in a two match series. What stupidity! Who agreed to this? Certainly not the President, since he claims not to know. Are these men serious? But there is more nonsense. What was the specific agreement made with Gayle that allowed him to turn up in England two days before the first test? This would be bad enough for an ordinary player but Gayle is Captain and our opening batsman. Now come on, is he a superman? Jet lag alone from his trip from South Africa would have been a major concern, but the Captain’s role is not only on the field. Would he have been part of any serious strategy mapping before the game? How mentally prepared would he have been, having just come out of the Indian Premier League’s Twenty 20 tournament? True enough, he has played in England before, but he needed to readjust to English conditions and true to form the English conditions as they usually are at this time of the year were cold and miserable.

Then there is Bravo. We are told that Bravo was declared fit for the shorter version of International Cricket, not for the longer test games. Really, Bravo is playing two or three times per week and you are telling me that he isn’t fit for Test Cricket. On Tuesday Bravo put in a splendid performance for his team, opening and ending unbeaten on 70 to ensure victory by 8 wickets for the Mumbai Indians over Kings X1 Punjab. How I wished that performance could have been for the West Indies! But those in charge said he is not fit for the longer game, and of course they have the final say. We have been speaking about the poor state of management of the West Indies Cricket Board for quite a long time. The changes that are occasionally introduced have been by and large merely cosmetic. The last time they went back into their archives and pulled out Julian Hunte who had been a previous Vice President. A lot has changed since then and there is need for new thinking but that appears not to be forthcoming. What is there about the management of West Indies cricket that makes it so resistant to change?

Then comes that infamous interview given to the Guardian by our dear captain Chris Gayle! It was clearly embarrassing for what it reflects about the state of West Indian cricket. On the eve of the decisive second test Gayle is saying that he had enough of Test Cricket and will soon quit for the shorter version of the game. He made it clear that he didn’t want to be Captain. He took it up first as a temporary replacement for Sarwan and then was persuaded to stay on. He isn’t interested in the additional off-duty tasks that are part of what is involved in the captaincy. Furthermore there is too much cricket being played and it is taking a toll on his body and metal strength. Clearly, if one has to be rushing from playing cricket in South Africa to England and in two days having to go out as captain and opening bat it must take a toll on you. Gayle’s dilemma obviously is that of having to decide between the monetary rewards of the Indian Premier League and his responsibilities as captain of the West Indies team. As captain, Gayle is handsomely rewarded but his purse for the Indian Premier League is equally big without the responsibility of captaincy and the other duties that come with that position.

But what impact is this likely to have on the team that he is leading? To hear their captain state publicly his growing distaste for test cricket and the strong possibility that he will soon give it up might have been something of a surprise to his team mates who have clearly developed some confidence in his manner and style. Gayle later tried to put a different face on his interview with the Guardian claiming that he was simply speaking about his personal involvement with the game and pointing out that in his view test cricket will always be there but certainly not for him, at least as a player. He had some hard words to say about Andrew Strauss, who made it known that he would not allow an English player to arrive forty eight hours before a match. Gayle felt that it was not his concern but softened his attitude by suggesting that he had no conflict with Strauss and respected him. Gayle, however, indicated that the views expressed were not new and that he had spoken about them before to players and friends. The president of the West Indian Cricket Board was, however, not one of those, for he appeared to be quite surprised by the views expressed by Gayle. For all you know Gayle might even have made similar comments to him but based on his interview with Tony Cozier he doesn’t appear to remember anything. If he didn’t know we were playing for the Wisden Trophy what else do we expect him to know. Oh for West Indies cricket!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.