Tweets, What’sApp and all of the fancy methods which some of the West Indies players have been using to express their feelings after the deplorable decision to abort the tour of India a week ago can hardly be compared with the voices of the masses.
One does not have to beat one’s own chest to know the power of the media. And when a particular issue hits the heart hard, people speak in a very, very loud and telling manner.
There was downright disgust, disbelief, anger, whatever noun you can find to label how millions of West Indian fans felt after waking up to see, hear and read of the decision by Dwayne Bravo’s team last Friday morning (Caribbean time).
Friday, October 17, 2014, was the most unforgettable birthday of my life. Rising from bed early on mornings is a natural thing for me but on one’s birthday, there is a special feeling. I knelt, said my prayers as usual and thanked the Almighty for another milestone.
Then just after 4 o’ clock, I journeyed to the best beach in Barbados, some would say in the world – Enterprise in Christ Church, commonly known as Miami Beach. On the western side the water is usually warm and the sea is calm. There, I took a dive, flexed my muscles and felt very good for about 20 minutes in the water before heading back home to watch the fourth One Day International (ODI) at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharmasala, which started at 5 a.m.
As I settled in front of the television set, I saw perhaps the worst ever picture at a toss. There was captain Dwayne Bravo with his team next to him looking like children, seeking to make a statement. It was incredible and puerile.
Soon Michael Holding, the outstanding former Jamaica and West Indies fast bowler, working as a television commentator, was remarking about the unhappy West Indian faces on the field. A clear message was in the making.
Then all hell broke loose. West Indies were ending the tour abruptly. And mind you, the West Indies catching and ground fielding left so much to be desired that you felt ashamed as one of their faithful followers. It was a real disgrace.
If anyone doubted the feelings of West Indian cricket fans on that dark day in our history, they only had to listen to the cricket talk shows, which followed. Take for example, after hearing the views of the likes of former West Indies players Sir Wesley Hall and Philo Wallace on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Mid Wicket (100.7 FM) programme on Tuesday night, and of which I have the privilege of hosting, the very next morning on the very same station, moderator Maureen Holder was bombarded for almost two hours with callers venting their feelings on the matter.
No one was interested in discussing Ebola or Chikungunya. Only cricket, cricket and more cricket. What does that tell you?
While emotions have run high and will continue to for some time, the poor public relations of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) must be condemned in no uncertain manner for the umpteenth time.
According to a report on Cricinfo during the India innings on Friday, Sanjay Patel, the secretary for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) blamed the WICB for failing to resolve internal issues, which resulted in the tour being called off with an ODI, a Twenty20 and three Tests still to be played.
The players, Patel said, had to be “convinced” to take the field for the Dharamsala ODI, though he still sympathised with their situation.
Patel was reported as saying that, he, on behalf of the BCCI, had given the WICB president Dave Cameron a deadline of Thursday, October 16, to confirm that the West Indies would respect the commitment of the full series despite the dispute between WICB, West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and the team members.
The duo, we are told, had met on the sidelines of the ICC Business Corporation Board meeting in Dubai over the weekend.
As everyone waited patiently for a response from the WICB, an email from its headquarters in St John’s, Antigua, at 11:43 a.m., said: “The media release below is being resent as some media organizations have indicated that they did not receive same when it was sent initially.”
It read: “The West Indies Cricket Board advises, that, contrary to media reports, it has taken no decision to discontinue the on-going tour to India. The WICB will make a further statement following the conclusion of the Fourth One Day International which is in progress.”
So, we waited.
The next WICB release came at 6:09 p.m. stating that the Board of Directors of the WICB “held an emergency meeting by teleconference today to discuss the developments with regard to the West Indies tour of India”.
Ten points were outlined. Among them were:
1. The WICB clarifies that players in the West Indies squad currently in India represented by Mr Dwayne Bravo indicated to the WICB through the West Indies Team Management that the players have taken a decision to withdraw their services for the remainder of the tour of India. As a result of this action by the players, the WICB was left with no option but to advise the BCCI that it will no longer be able to provide a West Indies team for the remaining matches (5th ODI, T20 International, three Test matches).
2. The WICB wishes to further clarify that its proposed alternative arrangement of a replacement West Indies team was not considered acceptable. The WICB is understanding of this position.
6. The WICB clarifies further that as a result of postulations by the players, the tour was under a cloud of uncertainty from the inception. The WICB, acting prudently, advised the host board – BCCI – of the developments and remained in constant contact to provide updates as to the threat of possible player action.
7. The WICB will host an emergency Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 21, in Barbados, to conduct a thorough assessment of all the ramifications of the premature end to the tour and any action which may be necessary therefrom. The WICB will host a media conference following this meeting. Further details will be provided upon confirmation.
8. The WICB regrets that the delegation which was pre-scheduled to travel to India to meet with the players on a number of issues will no longer be able to conduct such meeting at which the intention was also to discuss the concerns of the players. The delegation had included WICB Chief Executive Officer Mr Michael Muirhead, Chairman of the Cricket Committee Mr Julian Charles and also WIPA President and CEO Mr Wavell Hinds. The delegation had been scheduled to arrive in India on Monday, October 20. This meeting was scheduled prior to any issues being raised with the new MOU/CBA and it was intended to acquaint all the parties of how it would roll out. This was necessary as the WICB did not have an opportunity to do so in the Caribbean due to the logistical challenges of assembling all the players prior to departure for the tour of India (some of the players were already in India participating in the Champions League). The WICB CEO Mr Muirhead and WIPA President/CEO Mr Hinds had been in negotiations with regard to finding a mutually agreeable position to all for the full tour to be completed.
9. The WICB further regrets that in his initial communication to the WIPA President and CEO Mr Hinds, Mr Bravo chose to use inflammatory language and issue a threat to cause injury to West Indies cricket.
Specifically Mr Bravo wrote: “Please note that we are giving you the opportunity to right this wrong before things deteriorate (sic) to such an extent that West Indies cricket to the wider cricket world looks to fall to its knees again.”
10. The WICB reiterates that as a result of the action taken by the players the Board was forced with no other option but to discontinue the tour. The Board once again apologises unreservedly for the premature end to the tour.
Now that we have seen some of the pertinent points put out by the WICB, tell me if the Queen’s English was misunderstood in its first Press release last Friday and why they failed to hold a media conference on Tuesday?
The WICB can be a very frustrating body to deal with. I called Mr Cameron on Monday, October 21 at 8:04 a.m. and politely told him that I wanted to have an idea of what time he reckoned the media conference was likely to be held on Tuesday. Just as politely, he said around 3 p.m.
On Tuesday, in the absence of a single word from the WICB well into the afternoon and after a couple calls to Imran Khan, the WICB manager of marketing & communications went unanswered, as is customary, I duly called Mr Cameron at 4:22 p.m. to find out about the status of the meeting, which was held at Accra Beach Hotel, and the media conference.
Mr Cameron told me the media conference was cancelled and a Press release would be issued “soon”. That “soon” turned out to be 5:59 p.m. I also asked him if he would be so kind as to have a telephone link-up with me on Mid Wicket the same night. That request was also declined.
Call me a freak or paranoid if you like but I should have known that the media conference was a “dead” issue when I spoke to Mr Cameron on Tuesday, since at that time I was on the road next to the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens.
It again spoke to the cowardly and unprofessional nature of the WICB. Why would you build up the hopes of media practitioners and by extension the public by stating one thing and then not have the guts to say that you had changed your mind?
Now that all of the damage has been done and the BCCI has suspended all bilateral tours to the West Indies and made other telling announcements including initiating legal proceedings against the WICB, the WICB is talking about “establishing a Task Force, comprising critical stakeholders, to review the premature end of the tour to India. The Task Force will meet with all parties, including WIPA and the players, before reporting its findings to the Board of Directors”.
They also told us that they have decided: to request a meeting with the BCCI; to schedule an urgent debriefing with the West Indies Team Management Unit; and to assure Cricket South Africa that it will use its best endeavours to ensure a successful tour of South Africa as scheduled.
“The WICB is committed to acting as expeditiously as the situation allows, and will provide further information to the public as soon as it is appropriate”.
Soon? All like now the information is being bottled up at Factory Road in St John’s, Antigua. Just start counting the days my friends.
(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. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.)