Monday, April 22, 2024

Cozier’s negativity won’t do


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I HAVE BEEN resisting the growing conclusion that Tony Cozier’s written cricket commentaries for some time have fallen short of what West Indies cricket now needs; that is, analytical clarity, attention to detail, and perceptive judgment. As cricket performances continue to fall, so too, it seems, has the quality of his cricket writing. Happily a younger cadre of promising writers is emerging across the region and the articles by Vaneisa Baksh constitute the new standard. The late Tim Hector is sorely missed. Take, for instance, the recent column by Cozier that seeks to engage the emergence of the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) team as a positive force at the dawn of a new era in West Indies cricket. On the surface, there is nothing conceptually new about CCC; it has its beginnings in what Sir Frank Worrell had envisioned decades ago. While for some it is timely, it is in fact at least 20 years too late. This is why Cozier’s coat of negativity about the origins, presence and performance of student cricketers makes sense only to the undiscerning mind.  He is, however, consistent in his general opposition to UWI’s cricket intervention, a subject I have had cause to challenge him on before. He had problems with the Cave Hill team participating in the BCA first division.
Must be resistedNow he is unhappy with the CCC. His problems have many sources, but none is surprising. He must be resisted because negativity sucks energy from the eager. The students are eager. Cozier is negative. Floyd Reifer’s task in the last three years has been to protect regional student cricketers from Cozier’s unthinking negation of their enthusiasm. Reifer is a natural leader. He is a model mentor. He will succeed.  CCC entered Kensington Oval in order to engage the Barbados team in their first T20 match on Friday, July 23. It is a team of regional students: two Vincentians (Miles Bascombe and Romel Currency), one Guyanese (Gilford Moore), five Barbadians (Ryan Wiggins, Barrington Yearwood, Nekoli Parris, Ryan Austin, Omar Phillips), coach Reifer (Barbadian), one Jamaican (Chadwick Walton), and one Trinidadian (Kavesh Kantasingh).Within this mix there were students not only from Cave Hill Campus and the wider UWI, but the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, and the Barbados Community College. They were selected by Horton Dolphin, the Guyanese sports director at the Mona Campus, and Reifer, the WICB development officer for the CCC based at Cave Hill. The team was selected after the regional inter-collegiate games and a camp held in Barbados that included cricketers from the University of Technology in Jamaica. Jamaica, GC Foster College in Jamaica, Mico College in Jamaica, the St Vincent Technical College, the University of Trinidad and Tobago, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, the Barbados Community College, the Open Campus of UWI, and the three other campuses of UWI. This was a significant gathering of young college cricketers from across the region, all keen to play for the West Indies and desiring a higher education.    Kensington witnessed the most dramatic T20 match ever played, the outcome of which will exercise the minds of statisticians for years to come.
Boost to regional cricketCCC, the public underdogs, held their own and gave a boost to the regional T20 project much to the satisfaction of the WICB and ESPN.Young cricketers from the region and beyond have since been excited and motivated by this match. More of them now wish to come forward and help with the rebuilding process in West Indies cricket. The two Vincentian openers posted 50 runs in record time for the competition. It was a dazzling display of batting in five overs against the top-class Barbados attack. CCC posted a competition record of 180 runs for the lost of fewer wickets than the Barbados team. They took excellent catches and entertained the crowd. Ryan Wiggins smashed a Man Of The Match performance, a proud achievement for the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic. It was a performance that signaled the beginning of a new era in T20 cricket.  To all of these youthful achievements Cozier poured cold water. He did not respond with critical commentary but with facile negativity that reveals ignorance of the facts and an absence of a development mind as far as West Indies cricket is concerned. His timing was no coincidence. CCC were playing Guyana the following Sunday afternoon. His column appeared in the morning. Students shivered. Fortunately for them, Floyd Reifer is an excellent counsellor and motivator. He got them to transcend Cozier’s cold cause. They are a tough bunch.     CCC is more than the 11 players on the field. The team today is just the peak of the mountain. It is an enormous development programme. Next year the team will present new faces as the project matures. UWI has entered into agreement with many colleges in the region to develop their student cricketers. There are six students at UWI on cricket scholarships from the Windward Islands. CCC leaders travel to these islands, identify young cricketers and bring them to UWI when they graduate from the colleges. This is an investment UWI is making in West Indies cricket under the terms of an agreement signed by the vice chancellor and the president of WICB.
Regional projectWhen Andrew Richardson from the University of Technology, for example, received his call to play for the Windies, he was already a CCC player. We have had two players from the University of Guyana, and we expect more. The CCC, then, is a grand regional project in West Indies cricket development.  At this time there are more Barbados students. Barbados has about 30 per cent of its young men, between 18 and 30 years, in further and higher education, twice that of any other regional territory. But we are getting around that with scholarships and scouting visits to the regional colleges and universities. Earlier this year, furthermore, CCC players competed in the USA College Cricket T20 Competition in Florida. As a result, there are many United States-based West Indians students who wish to join the CCC project and qualify for West Indies cricket. CCC is much more than UWI. And to seek to conflate the two is to be unaware of its scope and strategies. CCC is only just beginning. Sir Frank’s dream of giving young men a chance to further their education and be professional cricketers will be realised. We in the CCC felt proud of Kirk Edwards who, as a student at the Open Campus, came to the CCC camp and is now a cricketer with a great future. The agreement Roland Butcher has struck with the University of Trinidad and Tobago is already contributing, and will impact the team shortly.   What is required now more than ever are perceptive ideas, positive thoughts and focused energy to rebuild West Indies cricket on and off the field. For sure the elements of the gang mentality that has taken root must be uprooted and flung aside. But we need a meaningful analysis of where we are and what needs to be done. Critical discourse is vital and invaluable. But the orgy of negativity with which Cozier seeks to seduce a suffering, unsuspecting public will only serve to suck us to colder depths. It might sell papers, but not cricket tickets.     • Sir Hilary Beckles is the principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.


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