Right on WICB

Orin Davidson's Eye On Sport
Stabroek News
October 1, 2000

The bouncers aimed at the WIBC are beginning to fly but the regional West Indies board could rest assured that a well executed hook has once again made it a target for the critics.

The decision by the Board to include the England `A' team in the regional Busta Cup competition has the support of many longstanding supporters of the sport, yet it could well be one of the best shots played by the board in some time.

England `A' will be the first of a series of foreign `A' teams to play in the regional's most important tournament beginning this year and on onwards. The decision, a most timely one, was made last weekend at a West Indies board of directors meeting last weekend and almost immediately a torrent of criticism has come hurtling down.

Out of Jamaica the Observer newspaper has accused the Board of compromising the sovereignty of West Indies cricket while noted journalist Tony Becca deemed the decision an insult to the people of the region. Even West Indies `A' team coach William Bourne added his bit of criticism by stating that the Board's move is unfortunate.

The outrage is understandable given the nature of the sport and the people involved. For cricket has always been an extreme traditionalist sport created by a country--steeped in tradition and by nature the rub off effect has affected the thinking of many of us who have been around when the sport evolved here. Thus change and especially radical ones will be bitterly opposed. But it also be remembered that sport has undergone tremendous change since West Indies first played in 1928 and we cannot allow sentimental factors to detract from moves to take West Indies into the modern age.

Apart from the need to reconstruct our administrative approach to the sport in accordance with the everyday changes occurring around us, this decision by the WICB has been forced upon it because of the perilous state of the teams playing standard.

It is the biggest problem facing the sport here and matters have reached desperation stage to elicit improvement. Our continuing abject performances overseas are a result of under exposure of the players for the most part and to a lesser extent a lack of pride.

And the West Indies Board finds itself at wits end to find solutions for the problem because of the virtual debarring of our players from the English county championships with the current tight restrictions. It was easy in the days of yore for our players to develop the type of versatility to play well in varying conditions because the doors in England were always open for those good enough to be accepted.

Thus the decision to have foreign teams play against our players for which the benefits are sorely needed, is the first step in the search for solutions.

Consistent competition for West Indies players against unfamiliar opposition could only help our players, especially the batsmen, to develop into better performers.

Compared to the teams of calibre in world competition, West Indies players' first class exposure in terms of matches is minuscule and the expansion of the Busta Cup with the foreign team and another combined regional side, would help somewhat in redressing that imbalance to make the players better.

Sport has undergone such drastic change it is not unusual to have foreign competitors firmly entrenched in national competitions of other countries. In English professional football many clubs are saturated with foreigners like Chelsea who currently have only one English player in their starting 11.

The last eight Wimbledons- England's national tennis championships were won by American Pete Sampras on the men's side while the majority of the US tennis Open first prizes in the last 10 years have been taken away by foreigners. Even English county cricket was at one time loaded with foreigners including many from the West Indies.

The high status of those competitions could only have been attractive because of the outsiders.

So who are we to reject foreign teams from the Busta Cup.

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