THE LARA SOLUTION TO THE WEST INDIES CRICKET CRISIS
In an institution that has been swimming in mess for some time, this present mess seems to be the mother of all messes. Jamaican Prime Minister had this to say of it, “What happened in India is a final act of the humiliation for the people of our Caribbean…I have a feeling of shame and anger…”
What was it that happened?
The West Indies Cricketers under captain Dwayne Bravo aborted a tour of India mid-tour over major contractual differences with the WICB and claims of a contract being signed without their permission, and a secret reduction of their fees by over 50%. In reprisal for the loss of revenue the Indian Cricket Board threatened the WICB, the cricketers, and by extension the region penalties of over $60 million US ($360 million TT). The action threatens the economic future of West Indies Cricket- as well as future West Indies touring opportunities with serious cricketing nations…
Of course there have been battles between ‘rebel captains’ and the WICB before- stretching back decades. This is nothing new. The West Indies Players Association was formed from such contestations. And we have had striking teams before- Lara and his team’s refusal to start the South African tour was one such. The difference between those in the past and this one is scale. This one has the capacity to sink the ship.
India happens to be the present and future of international Cricket: it possesses the largest live and TV cricket audience and a multi-billion dollar league born out of these economies of scale. Its relationship with your national cricket board will dictate the economic future of your cricket for years to come. We have now pissed them off and lost them millions in the bargain. We are also once again demonstrating just how much we do not have our collective acts together. The repercussions for the already damaged West Indies Cricket brand- not to mention our purse strings- are poised to be catastrophic.
Or is this the crisis we’ve been waiting for? The one that will force us to face our demons, to wrestle with the paralysing problems at our Centre? Can we, who like to postpone dealing with our most serious of problems, be finally compelled to bring our moment to its crisis and slay one of our perpetual dragons?…
THE STATE OF OUR DECLINE
West Indies Cricket is a shadow of its former self. Thousands of citizens have locked-off the team and no longer feel that soul-connection to the institution. Gone are the days when nations would shut down to follow transistor radios of ball-by-ball play. Gone are the days when superlative players conjugated the mood and rhythm of a people- Constantine, Headley, Richards, Kanhai, Greenidge and Haynes, the 4 pronged pace attack… Now entire tournaments pass with nary a community caring… This is a long fall…
If it has been a long fall for the audience, it has been even more precipitous on the field of play. In Test-playing nations West Indies has been firmly second to third to last for most of the last 20 years. With no end of that caste position in sight! Our test matches granted per tour have fallen from an average of five to now 2. We are now seen solely as entertainment value ‘vuupers’ and dancers in the 20/20 version of the game. And as that cache increases we seem to be even losing the ability to focus on the one-day version… We are not seen as serious athletic contenders anymore. We are of nuisance entertainment value trading on a brand of extreme quality and vintage that is now 40 years old… Our joie de vivre keeps us in the picture- but when you start losing peoples tens of millions even that routine gets old real fast- and you can be shown the door.
We are now watching that door…
The West Indies Cricket team (of the Clive Lloyd era) is still the winningest team in global sporting history! Teams of men from these little islands regularly beat continents, sub-continents, and former Empires… Those men forged a vision of what was possible as West Indian people committed to excellence. Their style and intelligence were prototypes for Caribbean manhood. Various permutations of the West Indies team for about a century were at the Heart of Caribbean Identity and Nationhood. The team has been a prophetic looking-glass which showed us what we could be- by being ahead of the curve and containing all our flaws and our virtues larger than life.
When they were winning populated by colourful exemplary icons like Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Frank Worrell they gave us templates and strategies of how we should constitute ourselves to become superhuman achievers. Tragically we took none of these lessons- not as citizens, not as a nation. We were not even smart enough to take the cricketing lessons for the team itself! Instead Australia constructed an Academy based on a lot of our lessons. Other nations hired the veterans that we discarded to train their teams, coaches, and administrators. We threw away our Heritage and reaped the whirlwind. At the moment we have no institution born out of the tremendous Legacy of West Indies Cricket! Our failure to institutionalise Legacy and Memory- our failure to document and analyse our indigenous systems that worked- is responsible for our collapse. We have been falling now for going on 20 years…
GLIMMERS OF HOPE
Under the St Lucian x-factor of Sammy (and a lot of sweat, blood, and expertise thrown at solving our problems) the one-day and 20/20 teams began to rise to be world beaters again. Through sheer bad-mind a generation of T&T Cricket administrators also built an institution and system to create a solid national feeder into the regional stable. The new mercenary form of 20/20 cricket- based more on league teams led by corporate sponsors and multi-millionaire owners rather than nation states- also enabled a crop of individual West Indies stars to emerge who have swiftly become multi-millionaires. The flip side is that these boys are not as beholden to ideals that once were held dear- concepts such as: ‘Test Cricket’; ‘Test Record’; ‘Region’; and ‘the West Indian Nation’… Alternatively it also has gifted these players little patience with the mismanagement and games of the WICB.
Which brings us to the present…
The present chasm is real. Having lost tens of millions the Indian Cricket Board is perfectly within its rights to file for damages. Those payments will bankrupt West Indies Cricket. The West Indies Cricket brand- as team and as administration- has taken a body blow. We are now close to being an untouchable. Whatever the escape hatch a negotiator can construct to ensure we do not bear the worst of the cost, the long term crisis at our Centre still persists. The questions remain: how do we lead ourselves? How do we create institutions that honour or history and Legacy and ensure that our best ideas and ideals lead us to a commonly decided upon future? How do we create a sustainable Caribbean nation with sustainable institutions?…
In answering this cluster of questions I have been championing the paradigm put forward by none other than Brian Lara, another of our rebel Captains and one of our greatest talents ever. Lara’s insight offers us a solution that may salvage our future.
THE LARA SOLUTION
The problem with West Indian Cricket is that it does not have a numerical population base or a centralized one that can bring economies of scale to its pot of revenue- especially at local and community development level. The other problem is that the WICB is a privately held organisation that no shareholder or public body can hold accountable. It is not beholden to governments nor a public legally- just like FIFA… Although the WICB is at the heart of the West Indian nation and it’s every action affects West Indian citizens viscerally, none of those citizens are shareholders nor can they in any legal way affect or intervene with the administration of the cricket and the disciplining of the Board.
Lara’s solution is simple- he solves the question of increasing the economic base of West Indian Cricket a hundred thousand fold, as well as he gives it it’s Missing Link- the organic institutional connection of real ownership and stakeholdership by citizens which would enable them to have a say in the administration of West Indian Cricket. Lara suggests that West Indies Cricket go public within the region so that citizens can become shareholders. In this way Caribbean people- and NGOs etc- could become part owners of West Indian Cricket.
Think of the thousands of implications.
It would mean that all these tens of thousands of new Caribbean shareholders would have to organise across the water to form voting blocks etc. It would lead to all kinds of brilliant alliances. It would also bring the best brains of the region to the table to answer questions about the Cricket- brains that at the moment can be routinely ignored by the WICB. IT WOULD MAKE THE CARIBBEAN CITIZENRY A PARTICIPANT OWNER OF WEST INDIAN CRICKET AND A PARTICIPANT IN THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF THE INSTITUTION THAT BEATS AT ITS HEART CENTRE. It would also increase the seed capital and brain capital of West Indian Cricket a hundred thousand fold.
This is the Lara position. It is the only sane solution. It is the epitome of Nation Building. It is the Federation returned!!!! It is, as they say, ‘de damn ting self!!!’ It solves numerous problems simultaneously and it becomes a symbol and paradigm for a new chapter of the Caribbean Dream. It is the only solution to the endless road of decline and missteps… It’s Lara’s Deam and I endorse it a million percent!