Perhaps the closest species to magicians are politicians. Both frequently deal with sponsoring and selling illusions. Now you see it, now you don’t! But while magicians might make solids vanish, politicians have a propensity to make reason disappear.
President of Cricket West Indies (CWI) Ricky Skerritt is a mixture of politician and sports administrator, with the jury probably still in deliberation as to which calling he holds dearest to his heart. But recent utterances by Mr Skerritt to another regional media house suggest that Caribbean cricket fans should not be overly surprised if one day he pulls a rabbit from a hat.
Mr Skerritt assumed the presidency of CWI on a mandate entrusted to him on the basis of several promises – the politician’s mantra, and the disappearance of promised support for his predecessor from certain cricket boards – the magician’s creed. Among Skerritt’s promises was that our West Indian reservoir would be the principal source from which he would be drawing talent and expertise to advance regional cricket.
As he waved his cricket wand, Mr Skerritt noted: “I also remind you this morning that one of the ten points in our cricket first plan is the utilization of regional expertise. It was not by accident that this policy resonated so strongly during our election campaign . . . Our West Indian first policy is no disrespect to foreign coaches. On Tuesday our Board set a new standard of not less than four out of every five members of the coaching and support staff should be of West Indian origin.” Then, as though adroitly setting up a subsequent magic trick, when a coach for the senior West Indies team was being sourced, Mr Skerritt’s CWI stressed: “Persons without West Indian heritage need not apply.”
Mr Skerritt’s administration has since sanctioned the hiring of coaching education manager Chris Brabazon from Australia, batting coach Monty Desai from India and fielding coach Trevor Penney from Zimbabwe. Add to these the already placed Englishman Graeme West and his recently introduced compatriot and fielding specialist Julien Fountain at the helm of the West Indies Under-19 team and it appears that CWI has got its geography terribly confused. It must be stressed that our observations and juxtapositions are based on the official utterances and actions of Mr Skerritt and CWI and the reality that the two have not meshed. But it gets worse.
The deviation or reversal of CWI from its stated “West Indians first” policy has been noticed across the region and was recently brought to the attention of Mr Skerritt by the Jamaica Gleaner. But, in politically acrobatic style, the former St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party official noted: “There is no reverse at all. First thing is that I didn’t say we would hire West Indian coaches only. I said we would adopt a West Indian-first policy, whereby, we would look at the individuals we have in the region, and if we cannot find the respective talent to fill those roles, then we would have to go overseas to do so.” In essence, what Mr Skerritt would seemingly have West Indians believe was that CWI could not find the requisite expertise in the region to fit those positions that went to non-West Indians.
So, in a region that has produced fielders with the technical and practical nous, and coaching qualification of a Gus Logie, Roger Harper, Sir Vivian Richards, Franklyn Stephenson, among others, and a plethora of batsmen, qualified and otherwise, ancient and modern, Mr Skerritt would suggest that a surfeit of non-West Indian coaching staff is now being utilized because CWI could not find “the respective talent to fill those roles”. If the talent pool in the Caribbean is so minimal and we have been living under the delusion or illusion that we have produced among the world’s best, some might facetiously suggest the time has arrived to excavate our cricket grounds and convert them into marijuana fields.
We do not suggest that there is no room in our cricketing firmament for the employment of non-West Indians. That would be nonsensical, especially within the context that West Indians are finding coaching employment outside this region. But Mr Skerritt has enunciated a policy from which his administration has deviated and would now have us believe that this has been occasioned because of a paucity of regional expertise. Poppycock!
But the seeming unpopularity of the last CWI administration, and Mr Skerritt’s apparent willingness to pat egos and ingratiate himself with critics of the previous administration, have rendered certain regional personalities rather mute. No one is calling for the dissolution of CWI any more. So it would appear to have been more a case of making a personality disappear than an institution. Voices in academia who preached from yonder Hill about colonial relics and the retention of a Caribbean ethos with reference to a previous Caucasian interim coach are now noticeably silent about the current non-West Indian gathering. It is as though they have become culturally deaf, dumb and blind.
But we will wait with bated breath on the happenings in regional cricket, in like manner that an audience would for the magician who utters, “And now for my next trick…”