"An exciting feeling, after so long"

Fri, Mar 8, '13

by MICHELLE MCDONALD

Grenada

Michelle McDonald talks with Grenada Cricket Association’s Garvin Taylor

In the end, the timing of Grenada’s return to hosting international cricket could not have been more perfect. But in the early stages of 2013, Grenada’s ability to honour its leg of Zimbabwe’s tour of the Caribbean was in doubt when then Prime Minister Honourable Tillman Thomas called General Elections for Tuesday February 19th, three days before the first One Day International Match was due to be played.

We now know that ex-Grenadian cricketer Dr Keith Mitchell was returned to power in a landslide, winning all 15 seats in the Elections. In his victory speech, he commanded the throngs of supporters to turn up for work on the next two days, then declared Friday February 22nd a Public Holiday. “Let’s support the cricket in the Stadium,” he urged. Well timed Mr Prime Minster.

Once the Grenada Cricket Association (GCA) had been notified in the latter part of 2012 of the Zimbabwe fixtures, and then, together with the Police, deciding that the Elections would not interfere with the successful staging of the matches, they worked tirelessly to properly prepare for the three ODIs. Their last international fixture was that controversial Test match against Bangladesh in July 2009, where the regular Test players refused to play over contractual issues. The then GCA President lamented the low turnout, citing various possible reasons including the absence of the so-called “big players.” The last ODI was in June 2008 when the opponent was Australia.

Garvin Taylor During the final ODI against Zimbabwe, CaribbeanCricket.com spoke with the GCA’s Acting President Garvin Taylor, who reflected on the journey of Grenada’s return to international cricket. Since elections are in the air, we also took the opportunity to ask him who the GCA would be supporting for WICB President.

 

MM: How did the Association feel about getting these matches?

GT: It was an exciting feeling after so long. We knew that Grenadians were hungry for international cricket and we knew that regardless of who the opponent was, that we would have got some sort of crowd here to see the games.

Did the Association ask themselves why they hadn’t got tour matches since 2009?

There has never been really an official report to us as to why, but the only logical statement I have heard around is that we weren’t a profitable venue.

And that is because of?

High cost and low patronage.

What would you attribute the low patronage in previous years to?

There are many factors, one of which would be economic situation and one would be a very small population, and it’s not there weren’t people at the stadium but the number of people against the cost of the match is what is the problem.

So as far as you are aware, territories don’t have to lobby to get games.

Well we have never had any information about lobbying. There is talk all over the place that we did not get because we did not lobby, but there was never an invitation to lobby so this was not an issue as far as I am concerned.

As each tour is announced, each Association sits and waits.

Yes. The schedules are put in place and the countries are given the schedule. It is for you as the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) to accept, and in most cases people will accept because every island would want to have international cricket, because this is why we have these expensive stadiums.

At the time that Grenada was announced as being one of the venues, Elections were not scheduled. What happened after it was announced in January?

When the elections were announced, some members of the LOC, especially Security, thought that because of the Elections, the Security would have to be first interested in the election campaign and all of the things taking place just around the Elections. They felt, perhaps, that they would not be able to perform at the level that the WICB would be expecting and so for that reason, there were mixed feelings among LOC members as to whether or not we can, or should, host the games.

It wasn’t that we would want to refuse, but it was just that we felt it might have created a problem. But when we realized that if we lobbied to get other games instead of the games that were scheduled for us we may lose them, we decided that we would go ahead and do what we had to do.

The WICB contacted me and asked me what I thought and I said I believe that we can host the games. Also, the then Minister of Sports wrote to the WICB asking that we keep the games and that after consultation with the Chief of Police, that we were able to provide the security that is necessary and so we decided to keep the games.

 

I had read that the GCA asked the WICB to shift around the matches with the Antigua leg.

That was an option. We discussed it and asked if that was possible so as to have the games a little further away from the Elections but because of all of the logistical things that were in place already, that was not possible.

I am a Jamaican, accustomed to very high crime rates and crime related to Elections. Having lived here for several years, I thought it was surprising that there was a concern that the Elections would cause things to go wrong with the cricket.

It was just numbers; the number of police officers that would be taking part during the campaign and on the election date as well as after the Elections. The Police themselves felt that it was not the best thing to do because their focus would be more on the election campaign and the Elections. We did not have a hurricane in 55 years but then we had Ivan. So we are not accustomed to crime or violence during Elections here but we would not chance it.

I am sure you are pleased with how everything has turned out.

Definitely.

Garvin Taylor

What were any challenges in getting ready for the matches?

Not many challenges. The outfield was one of the greater challenges. The Stadium Authority did a good job and we sought help from St Lucia and they sent us the Head Groundsman who came in to help with getting the outfield prepared. We had a problem with mole crickets. That’s an insect which burrows underneath and eats the roots of the grass so we had a problem with the coverage. The field was patchy and we had to replant the whole field.

But you had enough notice to get that done in time.

Yes. Well we were doing it even before the game was scheduled. We understood that we had to do all of the things necessary so that our field looked as though we were ready for international cricket and we will continue after this game to keep the field in readiness.

The regional competition, they have begun to have games here instead of Tanteen. There was a match here last year. Has that also helped?

Yes, and so we have to prepare each year because it seems that we are getting those games and so we have to keep the grounds at a certain standard that is necessary to continue to host those games.

After this tour, will you get feedback from the Events Management team at the WICB to say what things were good and what needed improvement?

Yes. Well we ourselves from the LOC - it is not just we of the GCA that manages the game. We put an LOC together, made up of the Ministry of Sports, GCA other stakeholders with organizing abilities. So we will do an evaluation and we will also engage WICB officials so that we can discuss the feeling on the whole organization of the games.

You mentioned high cost, low returns. What have you thought about the crowd and ticket sales in these matches?

The WICB officials themselves, because of the rating of Zimbabwe, were extremely pleased with the turnout and the sales of tickets. We were happy with what we saw and we are hoping that because of this we will be looked at in future. Together with the Ministry of Sports, we have looked at measures to cut cost.

What would you say is your highest cost factor?

The food, accommodation and security. We have worked out with the Police ways and means of cutting their cost. With food you cannot do much and the WICB deal with the accommodation for the players but our local payment to the people who work during the game, all of these things we look at where we can cut.

I spoke with people in the crowd and one of them said they thought the reason for the poor turnout was that there wasn’t enough advertising and there wasn’t enough advertising far in advance.

I will not want to say that this is not so. The monies allotted for promotion is not really great and obviously the promotion will not be as hyped up like if a local promoter [was promoting it] so in future, the LOC will think of using a promoter who is accustomed to promoting events to help us in the promotion of these games. We will try to engage somebody like that on our LOC because you need that. Promotion is key in encouraging people to attend the event.

And I thought the price points were really low. Ten dollars (EC) for the Posse Stand…..although you would have got a healthy sun tan, and EC$20 for today for general seating. That’s less than US$10.00.

We are in a period when monies are not easy to come by and we prefer that the games are not overpriced which would cause less people to come. We really want to fill the stadium.

Right. So I was saying that because the price point was so low you would have thought that if there was a little bit more word out, that you would have got even more people, especially since Friday was declared a Public Holiday.

Yes, that is so. I will not doubt that. In future we will have to do better at promotion.

Yes, because there are free things like Facebook and Twitter.

We will look at all of the things that are there and see how we can promote the games in a better manner.

Now the thinking is because that because Dr Keith Mitchell has come back into power, that that’s going to mean more international cricket.

Well again, Keith Mitchell was a former cricket captain and he is a great lover of the sport of cricket and I know for a fact that he has already spoken to the President of the WICB. The lobbying system that people speak of, I am not speaking of that but it is politics and he will try to lobby to get games. It is political mileage for his party.

You mention the President of WICB and they are about to have Elections. Does the GCA have any say in who the Windwards Board supports?

Yes, we are affiliates of the Windwards. The GCA will be behind Dr Hunte. We will definitely give him our full support. We are happy that somebody from the Windwards is President of the WICB.

Why?

Well as a territory, we are four islands and anything comes to Windwards has to be divided in four and if we have somebody on the Board who can lobby better for Windwards, because if you are from the Windwards you will be a bit partial towards Windwards, I mean it is normal and so I would definitely want to support my own.

However, one of the candidates for Vice President, Emmanuel Nanthan, is also from the Windwards and he is not on Hunte’s slate.

That is an internal issue that has cropped up and we in Grenada will not get ourselves involved in that sort of lobbying thing with anybody within the Windwards who is opposed to Dr Hunte. We will stick with Dr Hunte.

You don’t actually have a vote though.

The Windwards Board has a vote…..

...And who is the President of the Windwards board?

[Emmanuel] Nanthan.

Right.

But in any event, the Windwards Board will seek the feeling among the different territories which make up the Windwards Board. What I know happens in our case here in Grenada if we are going to a Windwards meeting, we discuss the way forward here and the person who goes will have to speak on behalf of the Association here. I would hope that even though Mr Nanthan has his own thinking on what should happen at the WICB meeting, that the Windwards feeling would surpass that of his personal feeling and that if the Windwards Board - the majority - supports Dr Hunte, when he votes he will have to vote for….well he should vote for Dr Hunte because that is the feeling of the Windwards.

That’s cricket, but it sounds like politics! Ok, let’s talk about the attractive things about having cricket here. What are the good things about this stadium that makes it an ideal location for an international match? Name three things why it should be considered in the future.

To my mind the Grenada National Stadium is one of the better venues. You get the feeling that you are in a cricket venue. Even the management of the teams who come here, they express the feelings that the Grenada stadium is an excellent cricket venue, one of the best in the Caribbean.

Give some specifics why.

The size of our field, the location, the scenery and all that it takes to enhance what a cricket stadium should be.

How do they feel about the players’ facilities?

Based on the interview they had and what they said, they almost congratulated the Grenada National Stadium Authority on keeping the rooms extremely clean and accommodating, so that is a plus also for us.

Ok. So it’s on to the regional tournament when Jamaica will play the Windwards.

Yes, and then June, there will be Sri Lanka ‘A’ coming – 23rd, 25th and 27th June so it seems that we will be getting some games in the future. Maybe this game was a trial for us and I think that we have done well and that will be an advantage for us.