Dr. Fraser- Point of View
November 29, 2013

Beyond the boundary

This is not really about cricket but the dreadful and embarrassing state of West Indian cricket parallels and reflects the state of a region that is in crisis, but refuses to admit it. But there is more, because it interconnects.{{more}}

We can’t separate them. For those who wish to understand what is happening on our cricket fields, a good starting point is to go beyond the boundary. The era when we dominated the cricketing world was one when there was tremendous vibrancy and optimism. We felt we were going somewhere. Ideas were allowed to contend and we were a people brimming with confidence. Certainly there was not the kind of malaise and sense of hopelessness that are evident today. When you look at CARICOM, do you not get the feeling that we have lost hope? The deportation of 13 Jamaicans from Trinidad and Jamaica’s threat to boycott goods from Trinidad could well be the beginning of the end, even though it might not yet be time to drive the final nail into the coffin.

West Indies latest ODI victory over India should remind us that one swallow does not a summer make. Something has seriously gone wrong with our cricket. How long have we been talking about rebuilding our team? Almost 20 years, I believe. Do you see a parallel with how we are attempting to rebuild our economies? There is a defeatist attitude prevailing as if we have no control over the way things are going. There is crime all over the world, so what? We can do little about our economies because the global economic crisis is affecting everyone, so we must wait; but wait on what and what do we do while we wait? With West Indian cricket we have lost the art of winning. We have espoused a defeatist attitude, despite a lot of talk from captain and coach, trying to convince us that they understand the problems and know how to solve them; all empty rhetoric, for they keep saying the same thing after every defeat. Does this not sound familiar?

In any society the different forces and players cannot be looked at separately because they play on one another, they interlock. Crime obviously affects the economy in more ways than one, as do ill-discipline, lack of respect, patronage, cronyism, favouritism and corruption. There is little pressure on West Indian cricketers to perform, because failure does not automatically or easily get you sidelined. Once you get on to the team, even with mediocre performances that is it! We pick our West Indian cricket team the same way we pick our politicians or is it the other way around, we pick our politicians the same way we pick our cricket team. For many of us, once someone is picked on the team, we embrace him fully, hoping that at some time he will come good. Come high or low we cling to them, in the same way that we hold on to our politicians, good performance or not. Gayle’s disinterest and obvious lack of commitment to Test cricket meant little once he was able to grab the ears of the politicians.

Have we, as concerned members of our society, sat back and asked ourselves what is going on? Do we feel we have any control or any say? I have always maintained that in our society, as in any other democratic society, freedom of the press is very important. It means, therefore, that our journalists, reporters, editors and all others involved in getting the news out have a heavy responsibility. In SVG, our journalists and reporters, for the most part, wait on the talking points thrown out by the politicians and run with them. There is little questioning, little attempt to put things in perspective. When a statement is made at a particular time, especially one that seems to go against what the individual claimed to have stood for, do our reporters ask the obvious question – why and why at this time? What is behind that statement? Instead they run with it; the Lord has spoken; let us proclaim it high and low for all. We spend a lot of time debating issues, more often things that have marginal connection to what is real and urgent. The politician simply has to say something that he knows we will fall hook, line and sinker for and then that becomes the talking point. We discuss it ad infinitum and some of us use the debate to show how bright and progressive we are.

Our state of paralysis beyond the boundary feeds into what our team does. So, as West Indians they have to play true to form. We are about a show, at least our batsmen think so and those outside of the region expect this and label it so. “Calypso cricket,” they call it! When our “Nine Mornings” Committee decided that it was time for a show, what better way to do that than to declare this year the 100th anniversary of Nine Mornings. All of us cheer- leaders jump on to the bandwagon and clap, because we are all about a show and agree that there is no better way to do it. Have the journalists who reported this attempted to get beyond the headline and ask for the basis on which they have arrived at this conclusion? Perhaps the source determines that it is the gospel truth. Until we start focusing on problems beyond the boundary we will waste our energy trying to understand West Indian cricket. For some, clearly there are no problems beyond the boundary.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.