Ernest Hilaire should be serious about making the West Indies great again
R. T. Luke V. Browne
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Friday May 11, 2012 - Ernest Hilaire should be rebuked by Dr. Hon. Robert Lewis — the Minister for Education, Human Resource Development and Labour in his native St. Lucia—for his gross disregard and disrespect for the rights of professional West Indian cricketers. Dr. Lewis, as far as I could see, has a healthy respect for the role of trade unions and workers rights that is simply not reflected in Hilaire’s conduct as West Indies Cricket Board CEO. Critically, also, Lewis serves an administration that has recently reemphasized the importance of a Labour Code in St. Lucia. It is important to make this point at a time when we have just paid tribute to the heroic historical struggles of workers on May 1, and given the understandable perception that Darren Sammy was rewarded with the captaincy of the West Indies cricket team because he undermined legitimate, and nonetheless effective, strike action coordinated by WIPA in 2009.
It is therefore quite strange, ridiculous, and even preposterous, that Professor Sir Hilary Beckles could say in an article titled “Cricket, Cash and Country” that Darren Sammy is a “Worrell-like figure.” It seems as if Beckles, once a leading Caribbean historian, has lost his sense of history. If anything, Darren Sammy is more like Denis Atkinson and Franz Alexander who—as very inexperienced white cricketers of limited ability—were appointed to lead, in the 1950s, West Indies teams with infinitely more experienced and talented players like the 3Ws. Frank Worrell was repeatedly overlooked—before 1960—because he, in the Board’s eyes, and according to Professor Woodville Marshall of Cave Hill, “had transgressed against their code for appropriate behaviour by people of his sort by daring to protest terms and conditions, by rejected invitations to tour, by being a rebel (a cricket Bolshevik); and they expected these public transgressions to disqualify him in the eyes of responsible members of the community.”
Worrell was actually subjected to severe public criticism in his time for some of the same reasons that Chris Gayle has been criticised, and it is noteworthy that Worrell fled Barbados as a result and opted to live in Jamaica. West Indies cricket was affected in the 1950s by the same problems that have reappeared today. Professor Marshall told us, for example, that “arrangements for every Test series from 1948 were plagued by the uncertainty about the availability of the professionals, the stars of the side and the bulk of this side after 1950, because of the difficulty of finalizing terms between themselves and the Board.” So what’s new? The historians must not pretend that the Indian Premier League (IPL) and similar competitions have introduced tensions that the cricket world has not experienced before, and that West Indies cricket has not overcome before.
History tells us that the appointment of captains on the basis of class or other considerations and not on merit undermined morale and spread dissension, perhaps to the point of sabotage of the team effort. We have also learnt through Worrell’s tenure that a good captain could radically transform the fortunes of his team. It appears to me that team performance depends more on the quality of a captain’s leadership than on any other single factor, and that a mediocre player could never be a good captain.
Ernest Hilaire’s recent remarks about the need to select a star team and not a team of stars, or—as he also put it—the need to select the best 11 and not the 11 best should be dismissed out of hand. The 11 best would generally make our best 11 if the captain and our administrative leaders are well selected.
To say that Sammy’s captaincy record is comparable to the record of his post-Richardson predecessors, which is not even true, is to miss the point completely. To suggest that if we are going to lose, it doesn’t matter if we lose with a second-rate team is foolish. We should always put our best foot forward. And we should be serious about making the West Indies great again. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. ( )
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. T. Luke V. Browne. Mr Browne is a West Indian politician and writer based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.