Amidst the euphoria of both the West Indies women’s and men’s teams capturing the ICC World Twenty20 titles in India last Sunday, it was most disturbing that a war of words should have developed between players who have enjoyed leadership roles and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
It can be argued that there is a time and place for everything. Such a saying has to be put in context.
Whether or not you agree with the stance taken by captain Darren Sammy as he blasted the board at the post-match presentation after the breathtaking four-wicket win over England with two balls remaining at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, and later the support he got from fellow all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, the history of bad blood between players and the authorities will not go away overnight.
Sammy was a West Indies Test captain and now a retired player in that format. He has basked in the glory of leading the team to an unprecedented second World T20 title following the success he had in Sri Lanka four years ago.
Leadership apart, he had a very poor Tournament, scoring just eight runs in three innings (ave: 2.66) and bowling only three overs while picking up one wicket for 31 runs.
He is now aged 32 and perhaps in the back of his mind was the fact that his international career is virtually at an end, and this was a fitting time to push a few things off his chest.
Bravo was the West Indies One-Day International (ODI) skipper, ironically on tour of India in October 2014 when the team abruptly aborted the tour. His Test career is also history and at 32 as well, he could believe that he, too, no longer has an international future.
But could it be a case of both seeking sympathy from the WICB ahead of the tri-nation ODI series in the Caribbean in June, featuring West Indies, South Africa and Australia against the background of being ineligible for selection because they did not play in the NAGICO Super50 Championship in January?
Yet one must really wonder why the pride and joy of seeing the burly Barbadian all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite plundering four consecutive sixes off fast bowler Ben Stokes in the very last over when 19 runs were required in pursuit of 156, could not be digested without a rather distasteful dessert by way of Sammy’s unforgettable attack on the WICB.
And before that, against the odds, Stafanie Taylor’s women’s team beat Australia, the three-time defending champions by eight wickets with three balls to spare as they chased 149. Hence, their first title in their first final after being eliminated in the semi-finals in the previous three tournaments.
It was so heart-warming to see the way Taylor who made 59 off 57 balls including six boundaries and 18-year-old Barbadian Hayley Matthews approached the target with their first wicket partnership of 120 in 15.4 overs before Matthews fell for her maiden T20 half-century of 66 off 45 balls with six fours and three sixes, which earned her the Player-of-the-Match award.
As I listened to and watched the body language of veteran batsman Marlon Samuels, the Player-of-the-Match in the final for his unbeaten 85, in a wide-ranging interview on SportsMax yesterday evening, I shook my head when he said he disagreed with the decision taken by Bravo’s side to abort the tour to India in 2014.
There were some interesting revelations by Samuels in relation to the just concluded T20 tournament and the ups and downs of his international career after making his Test debut roughly 16 years ago. He, therefore, qualifies to speak on numerous issues.
But the beamers bowled by Sammy at the WICB on Sunday were truly very dangerous.
“I’m yet to hear from our own cricket board. That is very disappointing,” Sammy told the world at the post-match presentation. “For today, I’m going to celebrate with these 15 men and coaching staff. I don’t know when I’m going to be playing with these guys again because we don’t get selected for one-day cricket.”
Sammy added: “I personally also want to thank the coaching staff, coach Phil, he’s been through a lot, and to come here and the way he’s coached the team, he’s just brilliant. All the other coaching staff, who have done their part. We had a new manager in this tournament in Rawl Lewis, he had never managed the team before. He came here, we were at a camp in Dubai, but we had no uniforms, no printed… he left Dubai, went to Kolkata, that’s where he started. The trouble he went to, to get us in this uniform… I got to give credit to the entire team here, it was us in our own little circle, this win we dedicate it to all our fans in the Caribbean.”
Bravo described the WICB as “most unprofessional” and president Dave Cameron as an “immature”, “small-minded”, “arrogant” person, who he believes is at “personal war” with his own players.
But in all fairness to the WICB, of which I have been an unrepentant critic for the way it sometimes handles its public relations and other issues, there were timely media releases of best wishes and congratulations for both the women’s and men’s teams.
As expected, Cameron said there would be an inquiry into Sammy’s remarks.
In relation to Sammy’s charges about the kit, the following bits of information, obtained from an informed source in chronological order, should settle that issue:
“Team used previously issued WI clothing in Dubai at camp, February 23 – March 7.
Emailed letter dated February 25 received from Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) advising they were in receipt of 28 cartons of WI team clothing (Letter attached).
March 3 – Team Operations Manager Rawl Lewis travels from Dubai to India to sort clothing ahead of team’s arrival on March 7.
Team plays in clothing on March 10 v India.
March 16 – cap manufacturer indicates he is now able to ship caps via courier (additional caps since caps used in Dubai are usable unlike the clothing which cannot be used). Team manager indicates best place to send caps.
March 22 – follow-up re caps query made to shipper. Response that newly implemented regulations in India has delayed the shipment whilst they get the now required info.
Team Manager advised to get caps made in India which is done.”
And as far as Sammy’s comments that the team did not hear from the Board are concerned, Richard Pybus, the WICB Director of Cricket said in an email on March 30 and copied to both West Indies team management and other Board officials: “Dear Stafanie, Darren, Phil and Vassie, Congrats on your performance so far and wishing you, the players and managements all the very best for tomorrow from everyone at WICB.”
And the following are emails (with Caribbean times quoted), which were sent out by the WICB on Sunday to team officials and the media after the victories of both teams.
8:34 a.m. – “The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), its Board of Directors, Management, Staff and the people of the Caribbean/West Indies are extremely proud of the achievement of the women’s team for its emphatic win over Australia to take the 2016 ICC World T20 crown. The region is celebrating the victory. The women displayed grit and determination throughout the entire tournament and ended in a thrilling overall win.
“Congratulations to the Player of the Tournament and captain, Stafanie Taylor and Player of the Match, Hayley Matthews. We also offer all-round praise to the team management and all the persons who worked with this unit in preparation for this tournament. We look forward to the delegation returning home to celebrate.”
1:31 p.m – “The men, women and Under-19 teams within the last three months have made the West Indies a region worthy of tremendous attention by being the best at the international level in world cricket. We are indeed a proud set of people today and we want to thank ALL OF YOU for your tremendous support. The men’s team has been electric and exciting in their performances during the tournament and we are all PROUD. This is a defining moment for cricket and we ought to thank each and every one of our Directors, Management, Staff and supporters for the support West Indies cricket has received. This is a truly ecstatic moment and we are indeed proud of this momentous achievement. The T20 format is a springboard to the other formats and we will use this an opportunity to continue the development work we have to do to make the overall cricket product better.
“The match performers are evident, but Carlos Brathwaite, Marlon Samuels and Samuel Badree were key in this win. The men executed their comprehensive plan and we are pleased with the results. We salute the entire delegation on the hard work and commitment showed. We congratulate the team and management.”
Now you be the judge and jury. It is time to stop the war of words. Savour the success and hope that it can be used as a catalyst to rebuild the Test and ODI teams, with the women gaining more respect as well.
Those who jumped on the bandwagon should pay close attention. The hard work and success didn’t start on the sub-continent.
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.