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Cozier On Cricket – T/20 planners delivered

Tony Cozier

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ACCLAIM for the World Twenty20 Championship has echoed from every quarter.For Haroon Lorgat, the International Cricket Council’s chief executive, it turned out to be “a truly memorable event which showcased the unique culture and passion for cricket in the Caribbean”.West Indies Cricket Board president Julian Hunte declared that the people of the region had “every reason to be proud . . . for pulling it off in such spectacular fashion”.It was not difficult to detect a sense of relief amidst their delight.When their predecessors, Malcolm Speed and Ken Gordon mounted the rostrum three years earlier after the shambolic final of the World Cup, the first major ICC event held in the West Indies, they were roundly booed by spectators angered by the officious regulations that smothered “the unique culture and passion for cricket in the Caribbean”.The primary aim of the ICC and the WICB organisers this time was to put that right. The promotional campaign, under the slogan Bring It, had its effect.Spectators heeded the call from ICC president David Morgan and others “to bring your musical instruments, your songs and cheers, your flags, banners and colourful costumes”. Nor, with prices slashed by more than half, did they have to fork out an average month’s wage for tickets, as in 2007.Even if the cacophony at the grounds advanced the case for noise abatement legislation, Stephen Brenckley, who covered the tournament for the British daily The Independent, proclaimed it “a ripping success”.In one notable respect, it did not achieve its stated aim.Lorgat claimed that the ICC “recognised the need to involve all the local people”. As only three of the 27 men’s matches, along with the women’s semis and final, were played under lights [available at each of the venues] in the ideal period after working and school hours, this was clearly not possible.Instead, the first of the majority of double-headers started just after breakfast at 9:30 a.m., the second after lunch at 1:30 p.m. They were all over by sundown.No wonder, in venues with small populations, there were empty seats for such matches not involving West Indies.The reason was, as in everything else in modern sport, money. As in the past and, no doubt, in the future as well, the schedule for international cricket in the West Indies is dictated by prime time television viewing in the major markets of India and Britain.The Caribbean is the easternmost international cricket region. It is five hours behind Britain for most of the cricket season, six behind Africa, nine-and-a-half behind India. Night matches here would simply run into the inconvenient early morning hours in those areas. Given the vast sums paid by ESPNStar for the rights to ICC tournaments and the US$29.3 million the WICB earns from broadcasting deals with the Dubai-based Ten Sports and Britain’s BSkyB, it broaches no argument.But it did diminish the ICC’s “need to involve all the local people” – as it is now doing for the South African home series and will for evermore. ICC officials are confidently predicting night Test matches in the near future.They are unlikely in the Caribbean. Paupers that we are, we must simply grin and bear it.
Lesson from Kumble’s columnAT long, long last, the repeatedly promised West Indies academy – to be titled the High Performance Centre – is within a few weeks of fulfilment.Everything is reportedly in place at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) where it is to be located.Toby Radford, the Welshman with experience in such matters in England, has been around for a few months coordinating its establishment.The first intake of 20 or so young cricketers has been identified. Director and coaches are to be soon named.All concerned would do worse than pay attention to a column by Anil Kumble, the outstanding, recently retired Indian leg-spinner and captain, in the Hindustan Times last week.In case they missed it, here it is, slightly abridged [simply replace India/Indians with West Indies/West Indies, BCCI with WICB]. His points are obvious but it is strange how obscure they can seem to those in positions of authority.“It’s been a long and crazy few days since India exited the World Cup. It’s very easy to join the over-the-top ‘reactivists’ and crucify the players, but that makes no sense to me.“While we definitely do have to look at the cricketing issues involved – like the batsmen being unable to cope with bounce – the responsible thing to do would be to use the opportunity to address other major issues.
Harness talent“Like the art of player management and making sure whatever available talent India has is harnessed properly and maximised. “Far too many times for comfort, I’ve been where the current lot of Indian players today are – vilified by all and sundry, having every single thing they do torn apart.“Someone’s got to look at handling both them and the things that come with playing for India, responsibly. There’s the pressure of performance, the pressure of expectations, pressure from a very intrusive media including former players.“These pressures can be overwhelming for a young man, more so perhaps, for a suddenly rich and famous young man coming to terms with his new-found status.“So I think it’s equally important to prepare him to manage life during and beyond cricket.
Need to educate“At the same time, without getting into which cricketer partied too much or drank too much or got into a brawl, or whether anyone did at all, there’s a need to educate young cricketers about their responsibilities.“Not that they don’t know what these are but they need help on how to handle themselves with regard to these.“It’s important for the BCCI to ensure that contracted players at least are given not just cricketing infrastructure but life infrastructure.“Today’s players need management skills, communication skills, professional media skills. They are, after all, brand ambassadors for the country.“Yet, it’s also critical to emphasise the team’s performance and stop either making individuals too important or making or breaking them at the dropof a hat.“That’s what has made Australia the team it is. In India’s case, even when we have the bench strength, we don’t have faith enough to use them and concentrate on the specifics of a role – England did this when they picked Twenty20 domestic performers for specific roles.“I’m saying all this because I made these mistakes, as captain and otherwise, and am speaking from experience. “That’s why I was exceptionally happy when this Indian team became No.1 in Tests. Team performance is big and you need to start giving credit to someone who sacrifices for his team.”l Tony
Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the Caribbean.