by Keith Holder
The Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers played yet another great innings at the launch of the West Indies Retired Players Foundation at the Hilton Hotel last night.
It did not matter that he went to the crease at No. 11 among the speakers. Expressing himself without the help of a script, he reminisced on his career and the joy and many friends he gained from playing the game, which made him the world’s greatest ever all-round cricketer.
There was humour and wit among facts and figures. Sir Garry is now aged 77 but his memory remains fantastic and there were times when you actually felt as though you were at a particular game he referred to by way of the picture he painted.
And on the eve of their departure to Bangladesh for their defence of the title in the ICC World Twenty20 tournament, members of the West Indies team who attended the function would have digested so much, if only based on the way they kept their focus on the stage as Sir Garry was speaking. What a wonderful Barbadian! What a wonderful man!
In the audience were a number of outstanding former West Indies players including Seymour Nurse, Charlie Griffith, Sir Vivian Richards, Joel Garner, Jeffrey Dujon and Sir Richard Richardson, the current West Indies team manager.
West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron was delighted that Sobers was present as he delivered his speech, speaking with confidence that the Foundation would be a success.
Sobers was forthright. He recalled that back in the 1980s he had asked a WICB president to help the cause of a similar venture by giving one dollar off each ticket sold for international matches in the Caribbean to the players, but it did not materialise.
There was a special honour for Sir Garry at last night’s launch. And at the end everyone wanted to have a chat with the great man and wherever possible, smartly pose for a few pictures.
The organisers must be given credit for a well-put together programme. Among the clips were the outstanding knock of 254 by Sobers for the Rest of the World against Australia in 1971 and his record six sixes in one over off Malcolm Nash for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1968.
During one of the videos, to hear the likes of Australian greats Ian Chappell and Dennis Lillee singing the praises of Sobers made one understand how truly great he was.
The West Indies Retired Players Foundation noted that 297 players have represented West Indies in Tests since 1928 with 167 having turned out in One-Day Internationals and 61 in Twenty20 Internationals.
Although formed by the Board, it is an autonomous organisation, but in keeping with the WICB rules of engagement.
A constitution has been created exclusively for the Foundation; retired players must see themselves as part of the initiative and all profits, beyond administrative costs will go back to the efforts of the Foundation.
In addition, up to 20 per cent could go to administrative costs.
There will also be the use of the retired players to guide youth by illustrating to them that there is life after the game.
Listed under the focus of the Foundation are:
Creation of databaseRefinement of technical skills to ensure ICC standards are met and that our own legends are effectively utilizedFacilitate more reasonable healthcare costsCreation and planning of events geared to raise fundsFacilitate mentorship in a structured way
Both the WICB and West Indies Players Association (WIPA) are the co-founders of the Foundation. WIPA will assist with facilitating technical certification at the ICC standards to integrate into the current system.
In collaboration with WIPA, there will be fundraising events throughout the region and the world where players will be highlighted at key events. Also in their plans are sit-down dinners, golf and other sporting events, workshops and seminars and technical clinics.
The WIPA and the WICB will facilitate reasonably priced health insurance providers to offer special rates for retired players, as well as other private and public entities for other discounted rates.
Under Mission and Vision, we are told it is two-fold; to assist past players in being involved in West Indies cricket and to help those players who are unable to properly care for themselves.
Furthermore, the Foundation will be used as a base to generate income using the players with corporate and other partners. They will also be keen on assisting where applicable.
It was noted as well that West Indies cricket has a lot of history/milestones and the Foundation will be mandated to select the most appropriate milestones while seeking to intervene where necessary. In an event like this, the Foundation would facilitate/arrange an appropriate function.
The Foundation pointed out that 2015 will mark 40 years since the West Indies won the first One-Day International World Cup in England and then retained the title in 1979. They saluted the work of two members of the champion team who have passed on – opening batsman Roy Fredericks of Guyana and the fast bowling all-rounder Keith Boyce, who hailed from Barbados.
There will be bursaries in honour of the Retired Players. It was revealed that a reasonable sum is expected to be raised.
Furthermore, as far as beneficiaries are concerned, there will be criteria-based selection for students (male/female) who are playing cricket, but pursuing tertiary-level training. The event will be communicated with the use of the beneficiaries and the retired player(s)
Scholarships are to be done in conjunction with corporate and public entities.
The committee members are Brian George (Chairman), Dr Nigel Camacho, former West Indies players Nixon McLean and Wavell Hinds; Janice Allen (Secretary to the Foundation) and Delano Franklyn.
It is unquestionably a wonderful initiative and one can only hope that it is successful.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.