Graham Gooch’s flaying of current West Indies team
A few days ago former England captain Graham Gooch offered a less than flattering commentary on the performance of the current West Indies team touring England since mid-May. Gooch, a cavalier of England in the mid-80’s and early 90’s played quite a few memorable innings against what was then some great West Indian aggregations. I personally remember him rattling up a double hundred (239) in a tour match against a competitive Jamaican team at Sabina Park in 1990 and was impressed with the performance. Thus his Triple at Lords against India some years later was not surprising. Gooch was a very good player to the extent that he is regarded as one of the top run getter in all forms of cricket. Today, his opinions on the game, though not often sought, is highly respected.
Gooch in his recent comments, labeled the current players (with one or two exceptions) a disgrace to the great tradition of West Indies cricket. Their efforts on the field in every aspect of the game reflects little or no commitment, and serves as an absolute disrespect to the legions of West Indian cricket fans residing in England, and across the world.
Fact is, Goochie is dead on the money. Even more alarming, is the glaring fact that there is no hope in the near or medium term that this situation will abate any time soon.
West Indies Cricket at present mirrors the cancer that has been comfortably seated at the dinner table of West Indian society and feeding comfortably for a very long time. A large part of this too is only mirrored by the negative culture that has crept into the psyche of our society over the years and on which most of us have remained silent throughout the period. The result, products of this culture has now infused itself in administrations at various levels of our societies to the extent that the self interest that underpins their existence maintains itself at what is now becoming a monumental cost.
Many a sociologist advances the claim that the labeled “laid back” disposition that characterizes West Indians is a feature of our slavery heritage. This may be acceptable in some sphere of our existence especially if we choose not to participate in the global arena. West Indies Cricket is the one single activity that collectively represents all West Indians and is the largest vehicle for marketing the Caribbean as a whole. Consequently the game in the modern era, demands a shedding of this label. In the everyday existence of these young players it may be acceptable to be cool. Cool however does not cut it when your performances are way below acceptable in the international arena. But are our players entirely to be blamed? I think not. The administrators of West Indies cricket are the main offenders. How could successive administrations of the regional game have allowed our legacy to have fallen so sharply? The answer, in my view, lies in the vision, or lack thereof, or better still, the issue of which vision is being pursued.
In spite of the level of deterioration of our game, sponsors still come out and fund the tours, whilst the spectators still come out to view the farce our players present as a game. The result is that there is still money in our cricket to cover the lavish lifestyles of our administrators who are clueless as to their role.
Here are three glaring examples of this clueless approach:
1) The board knew of this tour to England more than six months before. Yet, when Sarwan became injured and they chose to send Marlon Samuels to England as cover, his departure was delayed for days as he had no valid visa to travel to England.
2) At the end of the Test Series, a partial change in the crew of players for the limited over matches would have been agreed on before the team departed the Caribbean. Three days after the Test series the three players selected to join the squad still cannot get a flight out to England because of incomplete travel arrangements.
3) The icing on the cake however is the continuing impasse between the WICB and the West Indies Players Association. Five times the Board has challenged WIPA on contract related issues and five times the Board has lost on its’ challenges. In every instance that these challenges are raised they are only settled by extremely costly arbitration interventions. It is obvious to all that the WICB does not regard WIPA as the bargaining unit and the voice of the players. Current reality though is that whether the Board favors it or not, WIPA is here to stay. The asinine behavior of the Board therefore, and their disregard for the very players who (in spite of their abysmal performances) are responsible for the lavish existence of the administrators must be the laughing point of all onlookers.
This is the same Board who under-wrote or sanctioned a US$400 million investment in raising up stadium infrastructure throughout the Caribbean while making no provision for developing outlying infrastructure in the islands to feed the games’ development. When taken as a whole, the situation in West Indies cricket both on and off the field is akin to a man who has had too much to drink and still sitting at the bar totally immune to the extent of his situation. Someone has to remove him not just from the bar, but from all available sources that will contribute to his continued inebriation.
Graham Gooch’s comments were scathing, some may even say in poor taste. One thing is clear though is that his comments, though harsh were the truth.