New class of cricketers

Mon, Oct 8, '07


Vaneisa Baksh


On the surface, criticisms of the inclusion of the Combined Colleges and Campuses in the regional KFC competition appear to be a protest against expanding the number of teams which results in fewer matches for each. The arguments express concern that quality will be diluted.

But scratch that brittle surface gently and another layer emerges, perhaps the truly underlying cause of this opposition.

In a strikingly worded column, the Barbados Nation's Ezra Stuart questioned Tino Best's exclusion from the KFC Cup squad on the grounds of his performance at the trials. Fair enough, but Stuart concludes by questioning the inclusion of the Combined Colleges and Campuses and states: "The best cricketers, not best brains in the classroom, should be on show in the premier regional tournaments. Imagine, Best won't be travelling to Guyana but cricket students of lesser ability will be going, because they are enrolled at a college."

Coring away at Stuart's words, one glimpses a measure of animus towards educated cricketers that is disturbing for its implications on how people see the big picture.

It is as if embracing young cricketers within academia is dangerous to the development of West Indies cricket. Indeed, Stuart's final words (and he tellingly couldn't resist a dig at Cave Hill) were: "West Indies' cricket will continue to cave in and go downhill with myopic agendas."

The principal of the Cave Hill Campus pushed for this inclusion, not only at the regional level, but within the Division 1 level of Barbados cricket. His perspective encompassed the crisis of young males falling by several waysides, and sought to draw them into an environment that could give them two, three legs to stand on.

"At the moment, the Caribbean is the only place where young boys have to choose between education and cricket. It makes no sense," said Professor Hilary Beckles as he made his case.

The quarrel with West Indies cricket has everything to do with the inability of players to think, to assess, to modify their game and crucially, to analyse performances and correct flaws. Not everyone is blessed with natural talent, and it doesn't move forward without studied impetus. Sir Garfield Sobers was an obsessed and alert student of sport, possessing the capacity of self-tutelage that is not apparent in this generation.

Not enough to hark back to legendary players' feats without formal education. They were driven by different circumstances, and these times carry few inward motivators to excellence.

Herein lies the dichotomy. There are those entrenched in the accomplishments of the past, without reflecting on the callings of that time, and without consideration of the present configuration of influences. They see calls for a closer nexus between education and sport as something that makes elites of a group that had risen from unlettered masses.

The fear is of having one's achievements diminished; one's life as it were, reduced by the emergence of this educated youngster who can have the benefits of both worlds.

Haydn Gill touched it when he wrote that "for whatever reasons, UWI do not attract a huge fan club", as he noted its eight straight wins in the Division 1 competition. Why have the students not been embraced? Do they represent something threatening in their disciplined, intelligent approach to the game?