Taking the pious down a rung or two

Cassandra's Candid Corner
Stabroek News
January 9, 2000

Would you believe that today's CCC marks exactly one year since this column began. Of course, we could demand drum rolls, fanfare and dancing girls, or simply an increase in the stipend paid for each column. But we won't traverse this path, not because SN's Finance Controller may be stingy, but mainly because the fun a writer can actually harvest from compiling this column is reward enough. We are surrounded by so much obvious, invincible, (perhaps explicable) dotishness that it would be sinful not to highlight a few gems every week. A column such as this also allows a dabbler in writing (quite distinct from the hallowed professional journalist) to offer solutions (which, like those of the original Cassandra, are not taken seriously), and project some simple philosophical thoughts on global and local issues.

Sometimes we are lucky and our predictions come to pass in labba time. For example, early last year we spoke of peace breaking out around the world and suggested that the Irish talks and a Middle East rapprochement would be destined for success. Sometimes it is just plain correct for us to bring the pious and the arrogant down a rung or two and expose their hypocrisy.

Anyway, when all is said and done, the column's main thrust is to be iconoclastic and to convince people not to take themselves, others and situations too seriously. There is always an element of ridiculousness lurking somewhere in the background just waiting to show itself and to rattle, even destroy, all the beliefs and convictions we hold dear.

For example, look at our hero Clive Lloyd, the winningest West Indies Captain of them all. This gentleman is idolised, especially by Guyanese looking for a hero. We have put him on a pedestal and given him a fine press. And, human that he is, he believes in that press so much that he feels that he can say what he likes, when he likes and about whom he likes.

Well, since I have no heroes, let me disappoint some Guyanese by quoting this same Mr Lloyd. Firstly, allow me to remind the adulating masses of the scenario. England was touring Pakistan and Mike Gatting, probably believing that the host country was still a subservient colony of the British, had some choice words to offer to Mr Shakur Rana, the Pakistani Test umpire. No I hold no brief for the impeccability of umpires. Some of them, again because they are humans, come to the pitch with all sorts of complexes and miscellaneous psychological baggage. (In fact, one West Indian Test cricketer has been known to tell the joke that whenever they wanted a Pakistani umpire to put up his finger and give a Pakistani batsman "out", one had to whisper into the umpire's ear "Where is Allah?" - to which the umpire would react by pointing his finger heavenwards).

Where were we again? Ah yes, we were talking about Mr Clive Lloyd. Well, Mr Lloyd was asked to comment on Mike Gatting's behaviour. Here are the Great One's words, as reported by the cricketing bible, "Wisden Cricket Monthly", February 1988: "Just a few days ago, a British boxer - and I am British now - threw a punch at the referee. I did not think British sport could sink any lower. How I bitterly regret what Mike Gatting has done." Well, I think Mr Lloyd's stand was admirable. What bowled me over was his declaration of pride in being British, this former captain of the West Indian Cricket team.

Some West Indian cricketers of yesteryear even had their descendants play for England and pelt our players with the 5 1/2 ounce spherical leather (remember young Headley, only a couple of years ago).

And not only cricketers feel that England is Mecca and that an award from Great Britain constitutes a superlative recognition. You may recall that a President of Trinidad and Tobago, one Mr., sorry, Sir Ellis Clarke, related that his greatest desire upon retirement was to return to England and tend to his flowers in his English garden and sip tea.

What were we talking about again? Right, we were talking about Mr Lloyd. And every West Indian cricketing enthusiast I know was overjoyed at Clive Lloyd, after whom we named a street, being named Manager of the W.I. cricket team. Not me though. I told all who would listen that Mr Lloyd would have no impact - and he didn't. And none of them, Sir Vivian included, can do a damn thing about our cricket team, because they themselves are simply no longer attuned and conscious Caribbean folk. I listen to their interviews and their "speeches" and their accents when invited by BBC Talk Show hosts, et al; I have been with them during their boastings, subsequent to a won match. I posit that they have been caught in destructive traps, some set for them by masters in the art, and some of their own making.

I'll not forget the World Cup Match at Southampton when we beat the Kiwis last year. I was dere; I see Sir Vivian in his suit was strutting around the bleachers, by-passing the small contingent of flag-waving West Indians, while back-slapping the white folk who were telling him how great the West Indian team was. Sir Clive was arranging interviews even before the match had ended and Sir Brian was preparing to escort to the hotel various ladies, one of which was his permanent companion (Captains don't share rooms like other players). While all the champagne was flowing among the W.I. players and managers and coaches at the Southampton Cricket pavillion, the New Zealanders went back out on the ground and began practicing!! They lost to the West Indies that day, but we didn't get past the first round, they did - right on to the semi-finals.

I'll also not forget Lara going to the Kenyan dressing room and telling them that he didn't mind losing to them, and that it would be more traumatic had we been beaten by the English. Comrades, let me tell you that there is a lot of patho-psychological baggage there.

So, what does all of the rambling above really tell us?

Firstly: You don't play good cricket, if you are carrying psychological weights vis-a-vis your opponents. Secondly: Leadership at all levels must be strong and focused. Thirdly: If you fail to prepare psychologically then you must prepare to fail psychologically. Fourthly: How can the young members of the team perform/behave correctly, if they have not seen it done?

Those elements represent the psychological ballast. But there are technical matters that also need to be addressed:

No bowler need apply, if he cannot bat. Our "tail" begins somewhere between five and six, whereas Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have batsmen way down to eleven.

Use technology not only to correct deficiencies but to ascertain the opposition's inadequacies. They are doing it to us. For example, our adversaries must have exchanged notes, because they all now know Lara in and out. See letter to the sports editor (SN Jan. 6th, 2000).

Stop all experimentation immediately. Go back to the basics (stroke play, bowling techniques, field placing, serious fitness training, etc.

Start grooming spinners; especially needed is a top class leg spinner who can bowl a floater, a chinaman and a googly at will. I am convinced that our present crop of fast bowlers can be compared with the greats of yesteryear. The difference is that batsmen can now play fast bowling for longer periods of time than when it was a novelty to face unrelenting pace.

Stick to a core team. Just don't drop players after a few failures. No batsman can perform with one eye on the bowler and one on the selectors.

There you have it: the cause of our demise and the recipe for success. Simple isn't it. So, just go do it.

Happy New Year!

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