Thursday 5th June 2003

 
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It’s not just cricket

The two wins in Grenada indicate that Lara and his men are beginning to grasp the elements of a winning strategy and are learning to consistently apply the strategy on the field of play.

However, the mental and psychological strength, referred to by Lara as “self-belief”, has not yet begun to pervade the being and mental disposition of the players so that it becomes second nature. That organic process takes time, it’s systemic and is in part a function of consistent and successful application over time.

As has been stated in this extended commentary on West Indian cricket, the mental toughness, applied strategy, technical competence will have to be generated by the development of a cricket structure.

If that enabling structure is not grown, then the victories in the Antigua Test and the Trinidad and Grenada ODIs will be no more than typical Caribbean hurricanes that are destructive to the bone but last no more than a few hours in every hurricane season.

Coach Logie and the team management have begun to achieve results; it’s now up to the WICB and every interest group and individual that draws strength and pride from West Indian cricket to weigh-in with the support required to construct the sub-structure for success.

In building this edifice, attention must be paid to the central significance of nation-state propaganda waged especially through the international television broadcasts.

The Australians and South Africans, even the New Zealanders (the English are past-masters of it), have become quite expert at defining for their national purposes all aspects of the game, “naming” the world beaters, constructing the parameters for performances, captaincy, strategies, toute bagai.

Often the commentators adopt the themes, statements and positions first taken by their captains and managers as the accepted wisdom.

First, McGrath was the “best” bowler in the world; when he proved to be no more than an accurate medium pacer, Gillespie was vaulted into the position of being the leading bowler in the world.

In the same breath, the WI players and the strategies adopted by captain Lara were diminished in a quite calculated and destructive manner and the West Indies relegated to a third-rate cricket-playing nation.

Holding, Bishop and Cozier are amongst the most knowledgeable, articulate and entertaining of TV commentators and Fazeer Mohammed and Andrew Mason are as descriptive and accurate a team of radio commentators as can be found anywhere in modern world of cricket broadcasting.

They are however no match for the Australian “sledgers” in the commentary box. The press is not drawn into the net as the newspaper articles (notwithstanding the ubiquity of the Internet) do not have as wide a circulation and as immediate and powerful an influence as the live broadcast media.

This is not a secondary issue: radio and now television commentary tells the story of cricket to the international audience of hundreds of millions of people, and the message is not only about teams and their technical capabilities but about the civilisation from which they come.

Even more damaging than the image given to the rest of the world of the West Indian condition is how this commentary impacts on the West Indian psyche, conditioned as it is to absorb the definition of ourselves as given by others.

I am not here advocating that the highly competent WI commentators distort reality and relinquish that admirable quality they possess for fairness and the capacity to be searchingly analytical of the strengths and weaknesses of WI teams, the administration, the crowds and the other facets of WI cricket.

Instead, it’s a call to arms to counter the psychological warfare aimed at our players and society. That counter is not made easy by the ownership, control and management of the means of production (television) by the protagonists.

However, there’s a value to West Indian cricket that is yet to be fully realised: it was WI cricket that restored the game in 1961; it was the Lloyd/Richards era that vitalised cricket in the 1980s, and it’s WI cricket that has the potential to throw up a competing force to the contemporary Australians.

Our television commentators cannot be dispensed with, they are very much part of the West Indian game.

As promised, I bring the series of articles on WI cricket to a close with a word on what everyone knows has to happen: greater use has to be made of technology to avoid the all-too-frequent spate of poor decisions that was a feature of the season.

Technology has undermined the once strongly held view of umpire infallibility; it seems clear that technology must now be used to give the umpires cover and to avoid the credibility of the game from being completely ruined.

Cricket fan Nasser Khan has recommended that teams be allowed a limited number of appeals in each innings to have an umpire’s decision they believed to be wrong, referred to the third umpire and to have the review of the tape be done simultaneously by patrons at the grounds.

The concern with such a system is the possibility it holds for further erosion of the credibility of umpires when they are proven wrong by the camera.

Notwithstanding that possibility, whether it be the formula proposed by Khan or some other variation that makes greater use of the technology, the ICC, which means all cricketing nations, has to innovate to prevent the inevitable conflict that will inevitably ensue inside and outside the boundary to blatantly wrong umpiring decisions.

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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