“You’ve put in so many years. A lot of times you’ve been injured and you still go out and play,” remarked former West Indies star batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, reflecting this week on what he considers to be the shabby manner in which the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) ended his career with the regional side a year ago.
“. . .You give so much service for your country and to West Indies and on the back end, you were not properly honoured for it,” the Guyanese cricketer told ESPNcricinfo. “I ended up getting the same treatment . . .where you are totally disrespected and you were not treated right . . . .”
Chanderpaul clearly remains deeply hurt but he is not unique in this regard. Over the years, quite a few West Indies cricketers have ended their careers, not on a triumphant note as they would have preferred, but with a bitter taste in their mouths because of shoddy treatment by the governing body for regional cricket which CARICOM governments are pushing to undergo fundamental reform.
Indeed, former captain Darren Sammy is the latest to join the list. This after leading the regional side to a thrilling victory in the World T-20 championship earlier this year, the second consecutive tournament in which he did so. After the match, Sammy harshly criticized the WICB in relation to support for the team. His criticism obviously would have upset the WICB but found favour with countless fans. Sammy subsequently was appropriately recognized by the Government of his native St Lucia which renamed the former Beausejour national cricket stadium in his honour.
From what Sammy related in a Facebook video post, he was dropped as captain and axed from the team in a rather insensitive manner. “I got a call yesterday, it was probably 30 seconds, from the chairman of selectors telling me that they’ve reviewed the captaincy of the Twenty20 team and I won’t be captain anymore and that my performances have not merited selection in the squad,” Sammy told fans.
This is certainly not the way people should be treated by employers. It is quite obvious, from the complaints over the years, that the West Indies Cricket Board needs to examine its approach to human relations. Human beings are basically creatures of emotion and their feelings matter, especially in cases where they made sterling contributions to the success of a particular endeavour only to be rewarded with shabby treatment.
To underscore the point about the importance of human emotions, the late American poet, Maya Angelou, posited: “People may forget what you said, people may forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It is a true statement because just one bad experience, depending on its severity, can easily overshadow all previous encounters which were positive.
Chanderpaul played in 164 Tests, the most by a West Indies player, and amassed 11,867 runs in his long career which he ended 86 runs short of overtaking Brian Lara as the all-time top scorer in West Indies cricket. When aspiring cricketers who look up to the likes of Chanderpaul and Sammy as heroes, hear of the unceremonious way in which they were treated, it can have the effect of turning them off from pursuing their dreams and causing a switch to other games like football.
While the West Indies Cricket Board are the administrators of regional cricket and are within their right to make changes to the team as they see fit, how it is done matters in the final analysis. If dismissals are handled with compassion and sensitivity, at least players would be able to exit on a more positive note with the feeling that their dignity is intact.
The treatment of cricketers has been such sometimes that it has the effect of incensing regional fans who ultimately are the real owners of West Indies cricket. The support of fans through attendance at games and cheering on the team, has always been crucial to the success of regional cricket. Indeed, players always underscore the important role of fans who, they acknowledge, serve as a source of inspiration to perform at their best on the field of play.
A major decline of public support can effectively signal the death knell of West Indies cricket. In this age of transparency and accountability, when organizations in both the public and private sectors are often called upon to explain their actions, the Board ought to be particularly mindful of this new reality, compared with the era when the word “control” formed part of its official name. Repeated shabby treatment of cricketers is sending the wrong message.