Playing the race card is dangerous

Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
March 19, 2000

Insularity, it is said, is the most dangerous disease to afflict the West Indies cricket population.

Of late, though, a potentially more damaging scrounge is threatening the very fabric of the sport in Guyana which has united the races of the Commonwealth Caribbean more than other cultural or political force.

Race has for long divided this country politically and from all indications it is the intention of some people to besmirch the lovely sport, by dividing it similarly.

It is after more than 70 years of Guyana's involvement in West Indies cricket and sadly some elements are led to believe that race is a factor in the selection of players and appointments in regional teams.

The unfortunate exclusion of Mahendra Nagamootoo from the current West Indies squad is being used to by some to play the race card and even more ridiculous is the assertion that Shivnarine Chanderpaul did not feature in the West Indies Cricket Board's plans for the team's captaincy, because of his racial origins.

Guyana has over the years built a reputation as a country of cricket knowledgeables who have always adopted levelheaded approaches in analysing the pros and cons affecting West Indies cricket.

That reputation though, has come under serious threat of late, through the opinions of the misguided few in the print and electronic media.

The West Indies Cricket Board has come under lots of fire for its handling of the affairs of the sport, but despite its shortcomings, the Board's track record never has hinted at racial bias.

Nagamootoo, one can presume, has been a victim of a selectoral shortcoming more than anything else.

He was not called up in the squad of 13 even though he has been outstanding in the last three years in regional competition, but there is much he can be grateful to the Board for.

Nagamootoo is one of many players who has benefitted from training camps, in his case three, run by the Board. He was also on the Board's payroll when it contracted a squad of 22 players, thought worthy enough of being shortlisted for international duty, for one year.

If race was a factor in the Board's deliberations, Nagamootoo nor any of the many non Indian players would have been given the opportunity upgrade their skills or represent the team at one level or the other, in teams some believe exist only for blacks.

Chanderpaul is a prime example of the Board's purity from any non cricketing consideration in its dealings with players.

With only an outstanding youth career for Guyana and West Indies, Chanderpaul won a place in the Test team on account of a few regional half centuries as an untried 19-year-old. It was at the expense of Sherwin Campbell and Roland Holder who both had better credentials at the senior regional level.

The fact that Chanderpaul capitalised fully on that opportunity and now after five years is one of the team's most reliable batsmen and senior enough for some to think he deserves the captaincy, is testimony to the WICB's honesty.

Over the years the composition of West Indies teams have been dominated by blacks only because they have been in the great majority involved in the sport in the islands and Guyana.

Thus, greater numbers have merited their places in the teams more than any other race, over the years.

It thus is incredible that some Guyanese would want to think otherwise.