Ronsford Beaton is a West Indian cricketing tragedy. More than likely it will take a miracle to salvage the young man’s career. And the Montserrat-born Guyanese only turned 27 two months ago. He now faces his second ban from bowling in cricket.
Jamaican Jermaine Lawson, like James Anderson, was born in 1982. But while at 37 the Englishman continues to ply his trade on the international stage, Lawson’s global sporting journey has been over since 2005 at the age of 23.
Unfortunately, throughout the Caribbean, there are other Lawsons and Beatons practising their craft before the blinkered eyes of coaches and attendants at would-be high-performance centres, while unwittingly waiting for their bent elbows to be exposed on the international stage.
It is an indictment on coaches, games masters, clubs, performance centres and whoever else assume the role of mentoring primary and secondary school boys – and girls –, that chinks in the armour of young cricketers are either not spotted, ignored or not remedied at the junior level. Beaton’s situation should be particularly embarrassing to Cricket West Indies and top-level officials associated with the game in the region. The highly promising fast bowler made his first-class debut in 2011 at the age of 18. Between his debut and being cited for throwing on the international scene while playing for the West Indies senior team in New Zealand in 2017, Beaton played for Guyana, the West Indies Under-19 team, the West Indies A team, he played in the Caribbean Premier League and he also came through the CWI High-Performance Centre (HPC) programme. Where were the coaches, umpires, mentors, HPC directors, various team captains, trainers, physios, CWI presidents, vice-presidents, et al, prior to Beaton being called for throwing in New Zealand? Since there was no change in Beaton’s bowling action from the junior level up to when he made his international debut, one can only assume that those supposedly close to the young man didn’t notice his problem, and if they did, were unable to remedy it, but allowed him to continue using the same action. One would have thought that our cricketing experts would have appreciated – if they noticed – that it would be easier to sort out Beaton’s situation at the junior level than subsequently.
This is a repetition of the same scenario with Lawson. Suggestions were made during Lawson’s junior years that there was a kink in his bowling action. But, like Beaton, he came through the junior ranks, played at the regional level, and took his suspect action into the international arena. The rest is history. Many West Indies sought to ignore what was obvious to the naked cricketing eye and suggested that Lawson’s demise was due to his decimation of the Australians in 2003 and that there was some racist element in the young man being called for throwing. Poppycock! Our structures failed Lawson. And it has been doing so with a number of other cricketers. One gets the impression that while we quickly accept that there are a number of non-Caribbean bowlers with suspect bowling actions, we are prepared to ignore our own transgressors and find a range of excuses for them when they are exposed on the international stage.
Dominican Shane Shillingford made his first-class debut in 2001, played regional cricket for almost 10 years before making his Test debut against South Africa in 2010. The same action for which he was later cited for throwing is the same action he would have paraded before domestic and regional umpires, board officials, coaches, managers, and the like, for years. But was any remedial action taken in the infancy of the problem? The same can be said of off-spinner Sunil Narine whose action was a source of worry to umpires during the Indian Premier League (IPL) a few years ago. But, to his credit, Narine undertook a remedial programme on his own initiative with the obvious motivation being a desire to keep playing in the lucrative IPL. His seeming reluctance to parade his action before international umpires for the West Indies is not surprising. If the riches of the IPL are weighed against West Indies duty, the latter for many would become increasingly irrelevant.
But not every West Indian bowler with an overly bent elbow at the point of delivery will make it to the wealth of the IPL. Those with potential to wear the West Indies maroon but who have technical faults need to be assisted at the very early stages of their careers. Other nations have had similar issues. Some bowlers have returned after remedial action was taken, some such as Pakistan’s Shabbir Ahmed and Saeed Ajmal found it impossible to correct faults that had been accepted as normal for years and to which they had become unshakably accustomed. Hopefully, authorities in the region will be more discerning of those dodgy cricketing elbows and act appropriately and immediately. But we fear Beaton might be a lost cause.