Thursday, April 18, 2024

TONY COZIER: TTCB on shaky ground

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THE late, renowned British sports columnist Ian Wooldridge once told me he was perplexed by how a group of separate, miniscule former British colonies scattered across hundreds of miles of water, from Guyana on the South American mainland to Jamaica in the north, could produce such a profusion of great players and could unite into such powerful teams.

He described it as “one of the wonders of the sporting world”. It was a widely shared sentiment.

That was many years ago when the legacy of George Headley, Sir Garry Sobers and a host of similar greats was still strong and teams led by Clive Lloyd and Sir Vivian Richards had gone 15 years without losing  a Test series.

Even then, there was the insularity inevitably caused by the separation by water of the several composite parts of the regional game. It was understandably not as pronounced during the years of success as it increasingly was by the time Wooldridge died eight years ago.

The reputation of West Indies cricket was already crumbling, caused mainly by internal strife within the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)  and bickering between the board  and its players.

It is not difficult to imagine what those who held West Indies cricket in such awe would have made of the most recent divisive issues.

Confounding

None has been more confounding than the reaction of Azim Bassarath, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TCCB), to the replacement of Denesh Ramdin,  a Trinidadian, with Jason Holder  as West Indies Test captain.

He was, he said, “very, very disappointed”. He believed Ramdin should have been given the chance of leading the West Indies on their upcoming tour of Sri Lanka as he led the team to a “credible draw” in the Test series against England earlier  in the year.

All well and good, for it was a view shared by some others, not only Trinidadians.

He then ventured into questionable territory, raising the spectre of Trinidadian players being “specially targeted because of their alleged role” in the premature withdrawal of the West Indies team from last year’s tour of India when Trinidadian Dwayne Bravo was captain and, according  to Bassarath, “some Trinis were leading the charge”.

He hoped the WICB president  Dave Cameron was not part of a move to “spite and victimise” Trinidad and Tobago players because of it or because the TTCB, “the best territorial board in the Caribbean”, did not support him in election for WICB president  last March.

“I would not sit down idly by as  a WICB director and allow any victimisation and vindictiveness  to creep into West Indies cricket,”  he proclaimed.

This was when he should have taken a shower, cooled down and pressed his recall button. It would have carried him back to last November when the board he heads took the same decision on the leadership of its team that the West Indies selectors have now done, retaining Rayad Emrit as captain for the 2014-15 Professional Cricket League (PCL) rather than Ramdin.

It was a far messier business than the present situation.

The TTCB explained that it did not appoint Ramdin as it realised he would be on tours of India and South Africa that conflicted with the PCL. It sounded a feasible enough reason – except Ramdin told a different story.

He had, he claimed in a release to the media, been restricted from attending a practice session with the Trinidad and Tobago team on his return from India, leaving him “hurt and embarrassed”.

He later elaborated that, at a meeting with the TTCB on November 3, he had been told that since he “did not demonstrate proper leadership in relation to the tour of India” he would be relieved of the captaincy and replaced by Emrit.

Rift

He regarded it as “a punishment” that went against an undertaking by the WICB at a meeting in Port of Spain on October 31 and was advised that it was a breach of his rights. The task force set up by the WICB to review all aspects of the team’s pullout from India had, he pointed out, “made no findings of misconduct against me”.

Counter assertions and denials that followed from Bassarath and other TCCB officials only widened the rift. There was no sign of reconciliation until Ramdin’s dismissal as West Indies captain sparked Bassarath’s distrust of the WICB’s dealings with Trinidad and Tobago players.

The TTCB was by no means  the first territorial board to spring  to the supposed defence of the imagined mistreatment of its players.  Like all the others, it is  misguided and unbecoming  of a responsible organisation.

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