Our history is replete with instances of human faux pas. Some have been more serious than others. Many have occurred as a result of wild exuberance, mortal frailty, miscommunication, indiscipline and, in some instances, just plain stupidity.
Former United States president George Bush Sr once famously vomited in the lap of then Japanese prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa at a banquet while suffering from the flu. It was an embarrassing but excusable faux pas brought on by human ailment.
Tradition and royal etiquette dictate that the Queen of England is not manhandled or, in the instance of the United States’ First Lady Michelle Obama, woman-handled. Protocol allows for a handshake, but certainly not attempted high fives, or an arm draped around Her Majesty’s waist or shoulders.
Mrs Obama once threw that protocol through the window when she warmly embraced Queen Elizabeth II around the shoulders. It might have caused debate in the conservative British media, but it hardly raised an eyebrow in the United States, and scarcely merited sanctions or World War III.
Then there was the case of former United States vice president Dan Quayle’s infamous abuse of the English language when he changed 12-year-old student William Figueroa’s correct spelling of “potato” to “pototoe”. This might have been an example of Mr Quayle deciding that if “American English” can take away the “u”, then it can also add an “e”.
And so we arrive at the faux pas of West Indies coach Phil Simmons.
We live in an era where discipline, respect for structures and chains of command, and compliance with contractual agreements apparently mean nothing. This is an age when some who should know better, whether elderly or of the literati, promote an ethereal right to speak whatever is on the mind with impunity, and to hell with all else! This is irreverent propaganda not legitimized by status.
That the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has been guilty of its fair share of indiscretions is an indisputable fact. That our cricket is not at the international standard we desire is also incontrovertible.
However, the failings of the WICB and state of our cricket are no excuse for Mr Simmons’ display before the media last week. While his comments might have been a sports journalist’s delight, the dressing down of his employers and colleagues was basically a case of cranial collapse.
Mr Simmons is part of a collective charged with the restoration of West Indies cricket at the domestic and international levels. He is a paid servant of West Indies cricket, guided by contractual arrangement –– if not common sense –– and responsible for every West Indies player that comes under his charge.
Despite tiring noises in some circles justifying Mr Simmons’ outburst over the One-Day International team selected, one cannot hanker for a return of dedicated discipline to West Indies cricket by promoting indisciplined public conduct among its senior officers.
Commenting on Mr Simmons’ outburst and claims of external influences on the selection process, WICB chief executive officer Mike Muirhead said an investigation would be carried out to determine whether Mr Simmons had breached a confidentiality agreement that brought the game into disrepute.
The West Indian public can evaluate whether Mr Simmons’ statements were a breach of confidentiality, a breach of commonsense, or both.
He publicly criticized the selection of the West Indies One-Day International team and the non-selection of Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo before the team was officially announced; he made public the voting pattern of his fellow selectors; to give legitimacy to his outbursts, he stated that both Jason Holder and Sir Clive Lloyd shared his opinion on the non-selection of Pollard and Bravo. Surely, even if the last were the case, neither gentleman is known to be afflicted with laryngitis, and can speak for himself.
Given the structure of the WICB, those who can allegedly influence team selection fall into a rather narrow group. Not the butcher, the baker nor the candlestick maker can influence team selection. So whether Mr Simmons appreciated whom he was targeting, his employers were those with the bull’s eye on their foreheads.
Again, whether Mr Simmons realized it or not, he was also casting aspersions on the integrity of the selectors. They would have been part of the selection process, and if he did not get the team he wanted, then his suggestion was that Mr Courtney Browne, Mr Eldine Baptiste and Mr Courtney Walsh would have kowtowed to those unnamed interlopers. And on which seat of Mount Olympus does Mr Simmons sit that his opinion alone should hold sway over his fellow selectors’?
But perhaps the most damaging aspect of Mr Simmons’ outburst was the message he sent to those players actually selected. Here was the West Indies coach telling his charges that some of them were not good enough; were not among the best possible in the region to be chosen; did not merit going to Sri Lanka; and that at least two of them should have made way for Pollard and Bravo.
Perhaps, in keeping with his flow, Mr Simmons should have identified those two players who should have been left in the Caribbean to accommodate Pollard and Bravo. So much for team and confidence building!
The WICB, for all its previous failings, has not acted unfairly in this situation with Mr Simmons’ suspension. And the coach’s reported apology is the step in the right direction towards his own cranial restoration. We will wait and see whether it is also a step towards job retention.