On Jimmy, Bishop, Hector...
Wed, May 1, '02
Well, I have finally managed to crawl towards the line. Unlike
our man at last lap though, 'Commie' is still sharing his drink and
I was asked about the whole point of these articles. I believe critical thinking is dangerously stagnant all over the Caribbean. The inertia is such that I would consider cricket journalism one of the easiest professions in the region, and it keeps on being easy despite our supposed 'love' for West Indies.
Here are three scenarios which sum up the laissez faire nature
of our journalists:
1. After the departure of Dennis Waight, not a single journalist in the Caribbean has had either the conviction or the good sense to seriously question the ability of Ronald Rogers, who is presiding over the most injury-prone side in our history. Isn't there one journalist with a notion that, just maybe, Rogers is simply not good enough?
2. Not one journalist in the Caribbean has explained why Jeffrey Dujon has now become Mr. Invisible in the West Indies hierarchy despite being appointed assistant coach in a fanfare of regional optimism, in tandem with the appointment of Roger Harper and our own Rhodes Scholar Ricky Skerritt.
3. We have not seen a single assessment or examination of the structure of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and how it affects the administration of cricket in the West Indies. We have a WICB general meeting on May 25 and we are being told the selectors may or may not be replaced but not one fan on the street can testify that they have one clue as to the process for nomination, the criteria for success, and indeed the whole structure of events on that day. We know nothing about things which we, indirectly, are supposed to own.
Anyway, back to a more direct continuation of this series on the media coverage of the game in the Caribbean. Recently, I have had the joy of reading both Everard Gordon and Dorian Bryan. The latter, a staffer at the Barbados Advocate, has indeed managed to usurp all others for claim to most insular writer in the Caribbean, a feat which should not be underestimated in this climate of parochialism. He/she (in a land where a cricketer is named Shirley, you can never be sure) calls for the selection of Courtney Browne and Sherwin Campbell whilst silently ushering in Pedro Collins into the fold was a masterpiece. Right time, right place, hell even right publication. So for drawing my attention, I salute you Dorian Bryan.
I was also asked for my opinion of Jimmy Adams. Jimmy was indeed impressive. The lead presenter for Sky Sports has not exactly hidden his preference for the West Indies. With that in mind, it would have been easy for Jimmy, as a former player and team captain, to show a slant towards the West Indies perspective (you could say Jimmy is a shrewd judge of a crumbling cookie), but he has held the show together by being both impartial and astute in his observations. But more than anything, I think Jimmy has done the West Indies players a great, great service.
How is that so oh 'Commie', I hear you all ask, eager eyes being diverted from the latest Merv Dillon prediction.
My observation is that Jimmy has managed in one fell swoop to get us to respect the difference between armchair criticism and the isolation of the cricketer at the crease. Let us remember, at the end of his tenure as West Indies captain, Jimmy was seen as an uninspiring defensive man who could hardly bat anymore. This, I believe, is the same Jimmy we saw in the studio. The very same man. We are seeing Carl Hooper being metamorphosed from a potentially quiet genius (Commie thinks one of the greater cons in life is to equate silence with thinking. Many a village idiot simply couldn't muster speech) into the very same uninspiring defensive captain that Jimmy turned into.
Onwards we shall go.
Ian Bishop is another interesting newcomer. I sincerely believe that Bishop's back injuries has a direct bearing on the sad state of fast bowling in the West Indies. He would have mentored many of the current bowlers, as the man taking over the legacy from Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and providing the link to the next generation. As a commentator, Bishop is extremely popular, a man good looking enough to bring over the casual sports fan (I see eyebrows being lifted, but the Comster need not sing Bun Chi Chi man to be able to comfortably say the obvious) as well as being respected enough from his playing days to bring a level of familiarity to the commentary.
The only problem with Bishop is that it is not difficult to fall asleep whilst he commentates. Even Colin Croft, our ertwhile piloting buccaneer with the heavy hand, provokes reaction that triggers discussion. Bishop toes the party line, avoiding controversy at all times. He needs to have someone like Croft there to make his good sense sound even better than it actually is.
My two last subjects come from the smaller islands. Hamlet Mark who writes for CaribUpdate.com and the social commentator and academic Tim Hector.
Mark needs to have a serious talk with those who proof-read his columns as his message is often 'sullied' by errors. That said, he has posted some respectable articles and he has also seemed somewhat clumsy trying to be objective about Junior Murray, going from an extreme where he described Murray as a far better keeper and bat than Jacobs to now recognising that he has failed.
Ridley Jacobs is an interesting cricketer as I have never heard of one cricketer so maligned by others who attempt to project their own choices. From our gold medal winners Dorian Bryan and Andrew Mason touting Courtney Browne, to Hamlet Mark and Brian Williams touting Murray, not one commentator has acknowledged the qualities of Jacobs.
I will underline it because I respect Jacobs and seek to offer him a headline role in my critique of the standards of West Indian cricketing journalism.
Jacobs is third in all-time Test dismissals in the history of West Indies cricket, behind Dujon and Deryck Murray. He also jointly owns the most test dimissals record in one inning (7), a feat that went unnoticed at the time among even his teammates. Jacobs jointly owns the ODI record with 6 dismissals. In front of the wicket, his batting average is higher than any 'keeper in West Indies domestic and international cricket since Dujon. He is the only West Indies batsman to have scored a century against South Africa.
Check this: Of all the wicketkeepers from every Test playing nation to have Ever played the game, Jacobs is also fourth in the least number of byes conceded per match. Lastly, amongst all the present-day 'keepers, he is ranked second in dismissals and catches per match, behind only Mark Boucher.
But, statistics aren't always the full story. Jacobs has kept wicket to attacks far weaker than David Williams, Junior Murray and Courtney Browne have all kept wicket to. Yet his performance at every level surpasses them. Ponder that for a moment.
Yet, I've not seen a single article from a Caribbean journalist pointing out the folly of replacing a man who simply needed backup support. Because they simply didn't care, or in the case of Hamlet Mark, were so blinded by his declining form that they forgot Jacobs is actually a standout. Even when the slide in his performances are considered, Jacobs is head and shoulders above all contenders and the emphasis should be placed on finding a younger replacement more than anything else.
It is indeed one of the biggest indictments of Caribbean cricket coverage that Jacobs was kept out of the West Indies cricket team by a collusion of elements promoting the likes of Shane Forde and Ricky Hoyte ahead of him. The fans with the statistics won't forget.
Tim Hector is a writer whose themes are essentially politicised by his background as a socialist and an Afro-centric writer. He can also be best described as the quintessential Caribbean man with a number of hard hitting articles on West Indies cricket, often written with an emphasis on the history of our achievements.
Hector is now recovering from surgery in Cuba and we all hope he will be back to full fitness soon to see some cricket. His writings give a great insight as he has a background as an administrator of cricket in the Leeward Islands. And, his viewpoints are strong enough to give someone something to argue against and for. He is the only writer to have openly called for Harper to walk, partly because of his desire to see Viv take up the role (something which I disagree with, as Kanhai would be a much better choice) but also because he seems to be the only one who is bold enough to question the cricket sense behind the continued cycle of failures. His work in the 'Fan the Flame' column, which is available on GuyanaCaribbeanPolitics, may provoke disagreement and debate but they never just sit there like a bland recording of proceedings.
Only in the Caribbean do we have sports journalists who are loathe to openly call for the head of a losing coach. You can smell the fence-sitting. Of course, they make little jibes and give little hints but it is never plainly said. We kept habits that even the English colonisers abandoned. Travel a little. Go to England or the U.S and survey the sporting journalists who cover football, cricket and basketball. Better yet, look at the reaction towards the South Africa's cricket selectors and management who have beaten all before them and failed only against the all-conquering Aussies. There is no sense of sentiment. Heads must roll.
Yet, our journalists continue to perpetuate the non-complaining, it-cannot-be-improved mentality and all over the 'Net and at the grounds and bars, you have fans who simply shrug their shoulders and divorce themselves from change. The "make-no-difference" apathy affects West Indian cricket as much as our politics.
Cricket coverage and reporting must attempt to make a difference. I would like to hear a journalist really tell me what the West Indies coach and selectors see in certain players who repeatedly fail. I would really like to know how Joey Carew can be re-elected as a selector time and time again. I would really like to hear a journalist give the captain a lecture on the idiocy of batting last in Trinidad, no matter what the so-called 'experts' advised.
I would like to see Tony Becca and Tony Cozier openly challenge each other's views and generate honest debate. I would like to see someone challenge the archaic parochial thinking of Keith Holder and Andrew Mason. And I would like to see all of these people spend time opening up the Rubik Cube that is the WICB to the most important stakeholders: The FANS.
Yet, we know the least. We do not know the selection criteria, we do not know the rules and laws of the WICB, we do not have one inkling of the progress on the World Cup, or what the players or management are paid (all pro sports give an indication).
West Indies cricket has become out of place in a world where even the original old thinkers have abandoned the habits of the plantocracy that we still embrace.
No amount of God fearing people in critical positions within the WICB can save us from the reality that we face right now. It must improve or we will sink further and apathy will become the common reaction to our continuing failures.
Commie has cussed his final cuss on this aspect of WI cricket.
Next: My review of the West Indies selectors and a look forward to their continued attempts to confuse us all.
** This is the third installment of a three-part examination of the work of the cricket media in the Caribbean.
** Kenny 'Commentator' Green is a West Indies fan from Dominica. When not musing about West Indies cricket past and present, he makes a living as an IT Director.