Will the Prince of West Indian cricket return?

By Roger Seymour
Stabroek News
March 5, 2000

Introduction The week 22 to 29 February, 2000 is the one many West Indian cricket fans would sooner want to forget rather than remember, yet "many a good thing has had a worse beginning."

On February 22, the WICBC released two statements. Firstly, it announced that Roger Harper, the former West Indian Vice-Captain would be the coach for the next three years, with Jeff Dujon, the former West Indian Wicketkeeper, as his assistant and the former Rhodes scholar, Kittian Ricky Skerritt, as the manager. Dr Rudi Webster, it said, would continue to serve as the performance consultant and Ronald Rogers would be the new trainer.

The second press release indicated that, "A 20-member West Indies cricket squad will assemble in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday, March 3, to begin a training camp the following day in preparation for the forthcoming home series against Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

"The West Indies team for the opening Test will be selected from the camp and will fly from St. Vincent to Trinidad for the first Test against Zimbabwe from March 16-20.

"The camp is MANDATORY and only those players attending the camp, who are selected on the West Indies Board XI and the West Indies Cricket Board's President's XI will be excused for those matches in Grenada and Trinidad, respectively."

And since then 'All has not been well within the state of West Indian Cricket.'

The Prince The response in Antigua to Roger Harper's appointment over interim coach Sir Vivian Richards was one of extreme hostility:

"They think that coaching certificates are more important than natural ability. Let us ask ourselves this question, who do you think a West Indies player would accept coaching instructions from, Sir Vivian Richards or Roger Harper?" the Observer commented.

Negative reactions have also come from Antigua's Sports Minister Senator Guy Yearwood.

"More than 300 Antiguans and Barbudans took to the streets in anger on February 24 in St John's, Antigua. They pushed down a gate and smashed a glass window at the offices of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) in protest at the non-appointment of their world-famous cricketer, Sir Vivian Richards, as coach of the West Indies cricket team. Waving placards that read: "The (West Indies Cricket) Board Must Go," "No Board, No Viv," "To Sir, With Love," and "Love Vivi, Hate The Board," the men and women protesters marched from the WICB's office in St John's and as far as the Prime Minister's office, under the watchful eyes of the police." - Barbados Nation.

Much to his credit, Sir Vivian took his passing over for the job in good part, promising to support Roger Harper: "I am disappointed, but I believe that we have to give support and get behind who is selected. The most important thing is West Indies cricket, and we can never ever forget the objective which is the success of the team."

On Friday, 25 February, Brian Lara, present West Indian Captain, popularly hailed as the 'Prince of Port-Of-Spain,' issued a statement asking that his name be withdrawn as a candidate for the captaincy of the upcoming Test series.

"After two years, the moderate success and devastating failure that have engulfed West Indies cricket have brought me to the realisation that there is need for me to withdraw from my present leadership position," wrote Brian Lara in his letter of resignation to the WICBC. It is important to note that he has not stated that he no longer wishes to be captain, leaving the door open to be offered it again in the not too distant future, if (?) he so desires. Is this just another Machiavellian strategy?

Machiavelli? Machiavelli? Niccolo Machiavelli served as an administrator and a diplomat in the Florentine Republic at the turn of the sixteenth century. Later, he was dismissed and banished, accused of complicity, imprisoned and tortured.

Although exonerated, he was without position and retired to his meagre farm, determined to prove that banishment had him neither idle nor ineffective.

In 1512, he wrote The Prince, a treatise on leadership which was practical, not idealistic. The prince he envisioned would not be burdened by ordinary ethical and moral values. This ruler would be man and beast, fox and lion. Today, this small sixteenth-century masterpiece is the world's most famous blueprint for seizing and holding power.

Why would Lara quit now? He had endured the nightmare of South Africa. Six weeks after New Zealand? Wasim Akram (Pakistan) and Sachin Tendulkar (India) gave up their captaincy responsibilities almost immdiately after their recent failures in Australia. Only a couple of weeks ago whilst receiving the 'Sportsman Of The Year Award' of Trinidad and Tobago, Lara appealed for support from the Caribbean public and the media as the regional team rebuilds. " The players need to be given a chance. And once we get the support around us we can make a turn for the better," he said.

What has happened since then? The statements from the WICBC and Sir Viv's passing over for the coaching job? (A quick note here, Lara never played a Test under Sir Viv's term in office, although he was twelfth man on more than one occasion. The Prince would not hold anybody's brief anyway.)

Or was Lara aware of a plan to replace him anyhow, and this was his way of stealing the WICBC's thunder and avoiding embarassment? One can only speculate.

More fuel was added to the fire over the weekend, with the Sunday Trinidad Express headlining Lara's cancelled meeting with the selectors in Jamaica after it had been revealed by Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.

The training camp is now relocated to Jamaica for "logistic reasons" according to Chairman of the selectors, Mike Findlay, on Monday, 28 February.

As we celebrated the first leap February 29 to start a century in four hundred years and as 'The Greatest Show on Earth' - Trinidad's Carnival, came to a rousing finale last weekend, I was busy looking for some calypso music to battle these blues. And what did we have? "Lovely day for cricket," from Relator; "Rally round the West Indies" by David Rudder; Gypsy's "Captain, the ship is sinking." I settled for Gypsy's "Sing Ram Bam," (which he sang the year after "Captain ..." in response to the judges denying him the Calypso Monarch title) or Kitchener's rendition of Lord Beginner's "Cricket Lovely Cricket."

It's hard to say who will be missed more, The Grandmaster or a winning West Indies team.

Well, there are always The Prince's manoeuvres to come... both on and off the field.