Psychosocial ills of Caribbean society, cricket
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October 14, 2005

Psychosocial ills of Caribbean society, cricket


by Dr. C. Malcolm Grant

Structured and systematic steps need to be urgently taken in order to rectify the sad state of affairs within West Indies cricket. These steps shall be reviewed under the captions of short-term, medium-term and long-term:

Short-term: Far too many of the current stock of West Indian cricketers are tainted with an unheralded sense of apathy and “don’t careishness”; however, we have no choice but to work with the current generation of cricketers in order to save the Caribbean’s “favourite pastime”. This is a most frustrating and challenging situation. {{more}}

ALL current West Indian cricketers need to be subjected to a thorough psychoanalysis. In order to acquire accurate and relevant information, it is imperative that the information garnered be treated with the strictest of confidence and remain within the bounds of health provider-patient (cricketer) relationship. In order to ensure the confidentiality of this exercise, all cricketers who participate must be given the written assurance that their personal information will not become a future front-page story. If such a contract is breeched, the WICB, its officers and the psychologist should feel the full wrath of the law.

The psychoanalyst, post-evaluation, must have the latitude and power to initiate the appropriate treatment modalities.

Recognising stress

The cricketers, their coaches and manager must be given the tools to recognize stress, while at the same time must be given the rudiments re: self-management.

The WICB needs to immediately employ batting, bowling and fielding coaches. Each of these coaches will be mandated to develop personalized coaching plans for each West Indian cricketer – such a plan should aim to address their weaknesses and develop their strengths.

The implementation of performance incentive bonuses for our Test and ODI cricketers must be made a priority.

The cricketers with the best work ethic, and not necessarily the most talented, must be offered professional contracts.

Mandatory and random drug and alcohol testing needs to be carried out on all cricketers contracted to the WICB.

Medium-Term: All future West Indian cricketers must be means tested in order to determine if he possesses the right attitude.

Regardless of the quantum of “God-given” talent that a cricketer may possess, if he does not possess the right attitude and work ethic he should never be given the chance to don the maroon colours.

Positive characteristics

The positive characteristics that a cricketer must possess should include: (a) ambition, (b) a willingness to learn, (c) respect for authority, (d) the willingness to work hard at their game, especially the areas that are defective, (e) the possession of a fighting spirit, (f) a sense of excitement and enthusiasm every time they walk onto a cricket field (g) a sense of self worth, (h) a deep sense of appreciation for the history of the West Indies game, (i) must be a good listener and (j) have an attitude that lends itself to a cohesive team spirit.

Starting at the youngest level in West Indies cricket these characteristics must be identified and when absent or deficient must be inculcated in our young and upcoming cricketers.

Once these young cricketers are identified they should be sponsored by the WICB, in that all their cricket gear must be provided and a system must be put into place that would expose these youngsters to the best in coaching staff, playing and training facilities and equipment in their respective countries.

These youngsters will have their school reports closely scrutinized on a term by term basis, any infractions will be investigated and those with significant or recurrent infractions, in or out of school, will be removed from the WICB sponsored program.

In each of the territories the WICB will have contracts with nutritionists, doctors, psychologists, counselors, exercise therapists, physiotherapists, etc.; each expert will avail themselves to these future West Indies cricketers.

WICB must sponsor summer camps, bringing the talented cricketing youth together under one roof for a minimum of 6 weeks. At these camps further evaluation would be carried out re their cricket talent, general attitude and work ethic. Some of the current and past stars of West Indies cricket will be invited to attend these camps. Motivational classes would be conducted.

A WICB supervised mentoring program for our young cricketers needs to be developed and implemented. Such a program will provide a de facto godfather, preferably an ex cricketer, whose job will be to offer guidance to an identified young cricketer. Two of the region’s greatest cricketers benefited from informal mentoring – i.e. Joey Carew’s mentoring of Brian Lara and Commissioner Wilfred Farmer’s mentoring of Sir Garfield Sobers.

It may be too late to reintroduce same sex schools into the secondary school system throughout the region. However, an alternative, single sex classrooms within the co-ed school, needs to be seriously looked into. In Washington DC this experiment was shown to be successful in improving the grades of boys while maintaining the grades of girls (CNN August 26, 2004).

Examine educational system

CARICOM’s Ministries of Education need to critically re-examine the educational system inherited from the British. While this system has supplied a steady stream of persons for white collar jobs, this inherent bias in this outmoded system has meant that a significant number of our youngsters who are not inclined to white collar careers have been sold short in the process.

We need to appreciate that genius can come in many shapes, forms and fashions. “The greatest all-rounder on Earth and Mars,” Sir Garfield Sobers is certainly no less of a genius than the 1979 Nobel Laureate in Economics Sir Arthur Lewis. Similarly, Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul the 2001 Nobel Laureate in Literature, is no more luminous than “one of the greatest batsmen of the post war era,” Brian Lara. We should be equally proud of ALL of these Caribbean prodigies.

We must aim to develop a secondary school system that amplifies the positive traits of all of our youngsters be it in cricket, track and field, science, math, literature, economics, languages, arts, dance, music, vocational activities, etc. By working with their strengths, skills and aptitude we are more likely to engender a greater sense of self confidence and self worth in our secondary school attendees.

Ultimately we may have to consider developing specialist schools that cater to the joie de vivre of our youngsters, educational programs that cater to the wide ranging positive attributes of the teenagers of the region. Our failure to address this issue equates to abdicating our fundamental responsibility to the next generation of West Indian youth.

Collectively we need to reexamine the association between alcohol and cricket. Since SHELL stopped sponsoring regional cricket the WICB has turned to RED STRIPE and CARIB BEER, two of the biggest alcohol manufacturers in the region. The subliminal message that is sent to our youngsters by way of the association between alcohol and cricket cannot be a healthy one.

CARICOM passports should be issued to all West Indies cricketers, coaches, managers, etc. It makes absolutely no sense that West Indian cricketers are asked to represent an abstract entity. How can the cricketer be a West Indian cricketer only on the cricket field? Our cricketers should be made to feel that they are West Indians both on and off the cricket field.

Long-Term: This will be by far the most challenging facet of the plan.

A comprehensive psychosocial rectification plan needs to be urgently developed that would primarily address the social malaise that afflicts far too many of our youth, especially our males throughout the Caribbean. This is going to take a Herculean effort on the part of all the social partners within the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, I am not convinced that there is the will or vision within the Caribbean’s prevailing political circles that would ultimately rectify such a regional pandemic.

Henceforth, the initiation of and agitation for such change is going to have to begin with the everyday citizenry of the Caribbean region.

The specific steps dealing with this all-encompassing issue is beyond the scope of this article or the expertise of its author.

This article should not be interpreted by anyone as a veiled attempt to denigrate the achievements of the Caribbean’s fairer sex. For the record I am surrounded by a number of exemplary Caribbean females, namely my hardworking and caring wife, two highly motivated pre-teen daughters, an erudite and pragmatic stepdaughter, a wise and compassionate mother and last but by no means least an extremely elegant and talented sister.

I must emphasize that we do not have the luxury of time and without urgent action there is a distinct possibility that West Indies cricket will end up on the historical dung heap. With each atrocious performance, West Indies cricket progressively erodes its fan club and undermines the confidence of current and future sponsors. The deadly combination of vacant stands, blank spaces where boundary boards should be and the spiraling monetary demands of our cricketers will inevitably lead to the demise of West Indies cricket.

We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and divorce what is happening in cricket from what is happening in the rest of the Caribbean society.

• Dr. C. Malcolm Grant is a Barbados-based Vincentian Physician.