Is passion lost in cricket

 

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Category: Trinidad Society 16 Nov 14

 

“How I remember the time in 1976 when I was taken to the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad as a boy by my father to witness West Indies vs India— there was standing room only.

West Indies vs India in 1988, same thing—you could not even stand.

“I went to the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad to witness West Indies vs New Zealand in 2014. There were about 75 people. All of the stands were closed except one. There was one nutsman who slept most of the day. There were two caterers. How sad.”

Dave Gajadhar—cricket fan

During the October–November tour to India, when the West Indies team was at loggerheads with its union over their new memorandum of agreement and said they could not play with this new “massive” wage reduction, something happened to West Indies cricket that went beyond the money.

A wise writer friend once told me that when things fall apart, two things could happen. The first is that it can unravel to a bitter or sad end, or it’s an opportunity for a breakthrough. The other thing about things falling apart is that it reveals a kernel of the truth. What is the truth about West Indian cricket today? Is it down to money? Are “franchise cricket” T20-version players making millions, destroying international cricket?

Is it power? What is cricket without its fans? And will the fans of cricket go on watching it if they feel the games are not about a shared passion between the player and the fan, but about money?

Do the West Indies players give a damn about David Rudder’s Rally Round the West Indies or CLR James’ Beyond the Boundary? Is the saying that it’s a “gentleman’s” game an anachronism?

Can we keep the good of colonialism while becoming our own people? Is the game about to get very transactional? I’m not saying the players should not be valued, or that they should be disrespected. I’m simply wondering if, somewhere along the transactional relationships between boards and unions, that the passion may be lost. The talks between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies players may have abated the tension caused by the team’s decision to abort their Indian tour.

There is hope that the 15-day deadline to respond to the Indian claim of some US$42 million will allow for some kind of way out of an impending financial crisis. But this could all be a Band-Aid if the crisis isn’t used as an opportunity to address some real issues surrounding the West Indian team.

This is the perspective of a cricket fan Dave Gajadhar—and I’m thinking now that without the fans there is no cricket. This is a voice that must be heard.

Here is what Dave has to say. “In their 84th year, West Indies cricket faces possibly its toughest challenge to survive to 85. The problem: the players, current or modern, and the relationship between the board and their assets—their players.

“So, what went wrong? “Historically there have always been issues and disagreements between players and the board pre- and post-colonial West Indies.

“Sir Frank Worrell in early ’60s established the need to pay cricketers; Clive Lloyd, ’79, also the need to compensate in line with International players. The modern disagreements, however, had to do with memoranda of understanding or collective agreements between the players’ association and the West Indies Cricket Board. These disagreements are much like a union bargaining for their workers’ rights and compensation.

“What evolved was hard stances between both parties which has progressively worsened over the last 14 years. WIPA (West Indies Players Association) was formed in 1973. Its objectives included, to quote Deryck Murray’s West Indies Cricket Annual ‘to look after the welfare of its members, the advancement of cricket and to provide an environment in which all that is good in West Indies cricket can flourish.’

“Cricket is more than a pay structure and image-rights. It is an identity. For some Caribbean countries who play together, it is a sense of pride that unifies the region. One wonders if this pride exists or even if there is a desire to keep it: Jamaicans are refused entry into Trinidad, and Barbados.

Trinidadians are refused entry into Jamaica; Jamaicans refused entry into Barbados. There is no unity, so how on earth can we play as one? Even at Caricom level there seems to be no real desire to save cricket.

“Perhaps now, Caribbean countries want their own identities.

This could answer why Caricom has failed or is failing. The players have somehow been brought to think that their country is their club and want to be paid well. There are no performance criteria. If this had happened to India or Pakistan one wonders what the players may have been exposed to by a cricket-mad public.

“But here it is not major news. The players are back with no comments. Life goes on.

“Have we as a society lost touch with ourselves?” Yes, Dave, given the state of cricket today, it seems that we have.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur