Rum shop remedies for Windies' woes By Imran Khan

Stabroek News

September 8, 2003

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Sit down for a while in any half-baked rum shop and inevitably the conversation slides its way around to the Caribbean's only truly regional institution.

Cricket, West Indies cricket in particular, is sure to stir debates as heated as the engine of a South mini- bus as it flashes up Mandela Avenue.

Incredulously every other drunkard seems to be able to provide a bagful of seemingly stable solutions to the litany of predicaments West Indies cricket faces.

Sometime ago as I took one of my regular trips to one village rum shop for a Carib Malta and a pack of Tastee Snacks, I intruded on one of those lively alcohol-charged West Indies cricket arguments.

I could not resist eavesdropping from a far away table, pretending to be focusing on four youths playing a dull unending game of pool.

Two fellows, who had depleted most of the establishment's stronger stocks were at each other.

One was insistent that our primary problem was the depletion of talent. The other thought otherwise, saying that it was the matter of depleted finances.

Gentleman number one, a pot bellied, bandy-legged 40-something former policeman turned mini-bus driver, thought that should the Windies begin winning again, the money troubles would be a thing of the past as sponsors from all quarters will line up at the West Indies Cricket Board's doorsteps.

Gentleman number two, a primary school drop out turned rice farmer and struggling businessman, thought that the WICB is capable of rolling in the dough once it is managed efficiently and assertively.

"Watch me, I want one ah dem West Indies shirt but me can't buy am fuh de hot hot price wha dem ah call," our rice farmer friend observed.

"Dem fuh mek cheap one an sell to we, dat way dem can mek mo money," he continued.

`Mr. Rice' insisted that the WICB lacked marketing intuitiveness and were too nonchalant. He thought that some marketing aggressiveness much like the brand used by the popular American sports would bring a heavy injection of finances into the coffers of the WICB.

"Stop talk schupidness yeh!" was the sharp uncompromising retort he was lashed with. "Wha lil money from selling two shirts can do?" the former policeman queried. "If we did win de Worl' Cup, you woulda pay twice de dare price fuh one shirt, cause you woulda want to wear wha de champions dem wearin," he reasoned. He was unshaken in his belief that a winning team does financial wonders for itself with its eyes closed.

As 'Rum til I Die' encouraged them on in the background, Mr. Former Policeman thought that there was reason to be optimistic with some good talents such as Omari Banks, Carlton Baugh, Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards coming through. Our good friend though was still worried that not enough quality players were knocking on the door. He remembered the many gifted players of the 1980s who were never allowed to make a continued impact at the highest level because the competition for a place was as stiff as a dead man's joints.

Maurice Foster, Franklyn Stephenson, Faoud Bacchus and Rabindranath Seeram were a couple of names that he thought could have done well if not for Viv Richards et al. He felt such players would be certainties in the current West Indies squad.

Without a compromise they moved on to the issue of the presidency of the WICB. They agreed that it is "a shame" that for "so long" the WICB is without a "proper president."

"Who is de (bleeping) man who running de board now?" one asked the other. Before he could get an answer he claimed that whoever the fellow was he "had to be useless" since he was only a fill-in until the next elected president took office.

Recalling the last presidential elections bungling, one liked 'Chetty' and supported him taking office. The other objected to a "gambler, "running our cricketing affairs. "Da is nonsense, if he bin get fuh run de board, den Sharma shoulda be president ah Guyana!" gentleman number two retorted. The barman/silent drinking partner was in a fit.

"Bannas, de man running a successful business and he coulda run de board successfully an bring in mo money and leh one ah de talk man dem go to de ICC fuh do de talking," number one rebutted.

The tempo slowed as a fresh round of fried fish and plantain chip cutters was served. Then as they called for additional pepper sauce and ketchup the argument continued in earnest. They felt that fans should be able to see and query the accounts and affairs of the board, since the fans are the ones who "keep the cricket alive."

"Dem fellas got to know that if me an you nah go ah de Clive Lloyd Stand when cricket come hey, dat dem nah got no job and dem go gat to go look wuk in de canefield or drive mini-bus and murda people pickney pon de road like you," the rice-farmer proclaimed.

"Aye, done it rite deh! Is only one lil boy I eva knock down," gentleman two defended himself with a tinge of guilt. He quickly agreed and moved on.

Mr. Rice had a "serious problem with planeloads of officials following the team to every match." He reasoned that the local boards should be able to organize and manage the matches in the respective venues. "Is a joyride all ah dem deh pon, and it wasting money dat dem can use to do other more important things," he vigorously reasoned. This did not find favor with his partner who felt that it is better to have one organizational team travel and manage the matches in order to have continuity, commonness and avoid chaos and corruption which he felt would be the result of the individual boards running each international match in their countries.

"Hear wha me feel," Mr. Businessman said, and I felt a long lecture coming on.

"Me feel dat dem should remove de entire board an' advertise fuh every position. Whoever ah de best people fuh de job should get de job. Dem got to stop wid dis nonsense of always choosing and electing dem friends. How de cricket go run good if is only dem friends dem want to give job to? Is de same ting happenin' fuh de World Cup committee and is de same ting happenin' wid dis govament mek de damn country can't run good. Watch, me nah go too far ah school, but even wan dunce like me can do betta dan dem educated ones who just running bout de place wasting we money. We got to stand up and object to all what dem doin' because we cricket not going anyway. Just like how you an' de PNC does protest against de govament, we as de fans got to get up an' protest against de WICB govament because de cricket not runnin' right."

"Yuh right!" He won a heart who continued the preaching.

"We should boycott all de matches dem, and demand that all ah dem step down and get a fresh set ah people who can run the ting right, who gon be accountable to all the fans. We must see annual reports in the newspapers, we must see advertisements for all de jobs, every time any official travel it must be open to question. We must run de cricket like a business, if the men an' women dem who getting' pay to do de job not producing, they must be knocked out. We must have one man from every country sitting pon de board an' all de employees must be responsible to de board an every member of de board must account to de people in he country."

This lofty level of common sense was much more than I could take. I quietly eased out feeling that the WICB headquarters should be somewhere other than Factory Road in St John's, Antigua. It ought to be nestled in a dingy old rum shop far from the tainted life of political horse trading. Preaching politicians and brainiac bankers with highfalutin hypotheses should make room for some sensible talking simpletons, alcoholic or not.

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