Despite all of the “pretty” press releases relating to the fixtures and coverage of the 2016 NAGICO Super50 Championship, which started yesterday, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) bitterly disappointed fans with its mind-boggling public relations on ball-by-ball radio commentaries.
It is high time for this foolishness to stop.
If Wycliffe “Dave” Cameron, the haughty WICB president and his fellow Jamaican Michael Muirhead, who is the Chief Executive Officer, cannot get the operations and marketing departments to run properly from its headquarters in Antigua, then fire the staff and also resign.
There is total disrespect for media personnel and by extension cricket fans in the region when it comes to critical matters. Dementia appears to afflict Factory Road.
After waiting patiently for the itinerary for the NAGICO Championship, the WICB first released it on December 11 under the headline “Expanded format for 2016 Tournament”.
For accuracy and the benefit of those who were not privy to the release, here is what it stated.
“Co-hosts Trinidad & Tobago Red Force are expected to face a typically stiff challenge when they open their defence of an expanded NAGICO Super50 Tournament against Combined Campuses & Colleges Marooners at Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, the capital of their two-island republic.
“The West Indies Cricket Board announced today (December 11) the schedule for the Tournament which opens on Thursday, January 7 in Trinidad and St. Kitts. It will again be contested between eight teams, comprising the six territorial franchises, as well as the Marooners and an ICC Americas composite side.
“In the other first round matches, Barbados Pride meet ICC Americas; Guyana, last season’s beaten finalists, tackle Windward Islands Volcanoes, and Leeward Islands Hurricanes host Jamaica Scorpions.
“The preliminary competition will be played under a non-elimination format with the eight teams equally divided into two groups. Each side is carded to play six matches apiece during the preliminary rounds, with each playing the others in their group twice.
“The top two teams from each group advance to the semi-finals at Queen’s Park Oval, where the group winners play the runners-up from the opposite group in a one-off match for a place in the Grand Final on Sunday, January 24, at the same venue.
“This equals a total of 27 matches for the biggest, senior regional domestic 50-overs-a-side tournament ever staged by the WICB.
“Group “A” which will be played in Trinidad comprises Red Force, Marooners, Pride and ICC Americas, a pre-selected group of the best players in the Western Hemisphere outside of the WICB territories plus eight players that advanced from a player combine held in September in the American city of Indianapolis.
“Group “B” which will be played in St. Kitts, consists of the Jaguars, as well as the Scorpions, Volcanoes and Hurricanes.”
It was a brilliant release, accompanied by a Match schedule with starting times.
Suddenly, Lockhart Sebastien, the long-standing team manager of the Windward Islands and himself a former first-class player, who has never been afraid to speak his mind and expose the ills of the WICB – even if he is the West Indies team manager in waiting to replace Richie Richardson – noticed that it was folly to place two developmental teams, CCC and ICC Americas, in the same group.
A great exponent of the media and one who I recall even during his playing days would be glued to a radio following cricket commentaries once he was off the field, Sebastien did an excellent job in highlighting the ineptness of the WICB’s operations department. He should have been immediately confirmed as the next West Indies team manager.
Also on December 11 under the deadline “Media accreditation for the 2016-17 season” it was stated: “The West Indies Cricket Board accreditation application process for the 2016-17 seasons open today. The upcoming phase will cater for non-rights holding (NRH) media personnel who will be covering the 2016 NAGICO Super50 Tournament in Trinidad and St. Kitts”.
It then went on to list the Match schedule. And please note that there was consistency with the teams in the groups: Group A – Red Force, Marooners, Pride, Americas; Group B – Jaguars, Scorpions, Volcanoes, Hurricanes.
The next “significant” release on the Tournament came on December 15, stating, “Please note the correct dates for the semi-finals are Wednesday, January 20, and Thursday, January 21. The correct date for the Grand Final is Saturday, January 23, with Sunday, January 24, as a reserve day”.
And on we go.
Now here is where the confusion started. In another release on December 22, headlined “TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO AND ST. KITTS-NEVIS CO-HOST 2016 NAGICO SUPER50”, it was revealed that “defending champions and co-host, Trinidad & Tobago Red Force, will open their account against the Jamaica Scorpions in a Zone A encounter, while Barbados Pride will face newcomers, ICC Americas. In the other group, beaten finalist Guyana Jaguars will face the Windward Islands Volcanoes, while the Leeward Islands Hurricanes will face the CCC Marooners in St. Kitts-Nevis”.
In typically nonchalant style, there was no mention of the fact that CCC Marooners and Jamaica Scorpions had been switched from their groups. Therefore, if anyone had saved the original fixtures and didn’t care about subsequent releases on the Tournament, in following the progress of two of the matches yesterday – Red Force v Scorpions and Marooners v Hurricanes – they would have been totally confused.
Just two days before the start of the Tournament, it was most refreshing to receive the following, again headlined in ALL CAPS: RADIO STATIONS ACROSS TEN COUNTRIES TO CARRY NAGICO SUPER50.
“Radio stations in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago have confirmed they will broadcast the upcoming NAGICO Super50 Championship which begins on Thursday, January 7.
“The broadcast is being coordinated by GEM Radio Five Limited, part of the One Caribbean Media Group. The full group is 10 and we will have ball-by-ball commentary on ALL games live from both St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago,” it added.
Oh, how sweet, I thought!
It added: “General Manager, GEM Radio Five Limited, Richard Purcell, is thrilled to be associated with this event again and said “we decided to make the commentary feeds available at no cost to the broadcasters in order to ensure that the matches are carried live in all the territories and by so doing, keep alive the great West Indian tradition of listening to cricket on radio”.
“Commercial Manager, WICB, Nelecia Yeates, is also pleased with the partnership and “wants listeners to tune in to the very exciting games that will be on for the duration of the championship”. She added that the WICB is “making every effort to allow consumers access to the game on radio, live streaming and on television,” it added.
But dramatically, the following words “we will have ball-by-ball commentary on ALL games live from both St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago” were swept out to sea yesterday.
Bitterly disappointed that there were no commentaries on the Barbados-ICC Americas match, disgruntled fans started to make my cell phone miserable. A call to Adriel “Woody” Richard, the WICB senior communications officer, who is in Trinidad, confirmed that there would be no radio coverage of the Barbados-ICC Americas game.
By then, I knew I had my work cut out to provide as many updates as possible for the BCA website. “Woody” was helpful in allowing me to make contact with one of the scorers. Thankfully, that scorer, Jason Persaud, was very, very polite and co-operative in taking over 30 calls from me and painting an excellent picture of dismissals apart from giving vital batting and bowling statistics.
By last night, I contacted Carole Beckford, the relatively new WICB manager of marketing and communications, expressing my views on what was “misleading” information pertaining to the release on ball-by-ball commentaries of ALL matches.
In further communication this morning, Beckford put me in touch with Purcell, who apologised during a telephone chat and duly, on my request, provided the following information, which I have quoted below.
“Hi Keith, as discussed this morning, the Caribbean Super Station/GEM Radio Five Ltd, has been producing the ball-by-ball commentary of the NAGICO Super50 since the inception of the event two years ago. For both these years, the matches were played in Trinidad & Tobago with two being played daily.
“Coverage of all the matches was done with live ball-by-ball commentary and feeds made available at a cost to radio stations across the Caribbean. This year the event is being played in two territories and instead of two matches per day, there are four.
“When we put the budget together we realised that the cost of producing all four matches daily was prohibitive, especially as it is getting more and more difficult for radio stations to pay for the production due to issues of the Caribbean economies. We therefore made the decision to produce two matches per day with live ball-by-ball commentary – one out of St. Kitts and the other out of Trinidad & Tobago.
“We also made the decision to offer the matches free of all costs to the stations in order that more stations across the Caribbean will carry the commentary and more of the public will be able to listen to the cricket.
“NAGICO, the event sponsor has again come on board as the main broadcast sponsor and this more than anything else enabled us to produce the matches free of charge to the radio stations. We agreed on a schedule and distributed them to the stations.
“NB: The cost of producing these matches among other things, entail payment to the commentators, accommodation and transport, as well as costs to set up on-site studios and special internet lines for uploading the signal out of the cricket grounds.”
Purcell also sent me a list of the matches, which will be covered on radio for the rest of the Tournament. They are: Round 2 (January 9)- Red Force v Pride; Hurricanes v Jaguars; Round 3 (January 11) – Pride v Scorpions; Hurricanes v Volcanoes; Round 4 (January 13) – Red Force v Scorpions; Jaguars v Volcanoes; Round 5 (January 15) – Pride v Scorpions; Hurricanes v Jaguars; Round 6 (January 17) – Red Force v Pride; Hurricanes v Volcanoes; Semi-finals (January 20 and 21) and Final (January 23).
Effectively, in adding the two matches, which were covered in Round 1, the number all told would amount to 15 and NOT 27 as revealed by the WICB just two days before the Tournament started. What a shame!
As a result, Cameron and Muirhead must be called to account for the WICB PR blunders and duly take their exit.
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 three-and-a-half 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.