COZIER ON CRICKET – Sir Hilary on the backfoot
IT was inevitable from the moment Sir Hilary Beckles mentioned Chris Gayle, donmanship and Dudus in the same breath during his now infamous lecture in St Kitts, that the hullabaloo would rumble on.
His association of the former Jamaica and West Indies captain with Jamaica’s most wanted man was bound to cause the indignant reaction that has since filled reams of newsprint, air time and Internet space.
No matter how much he has tried to wriggle out of the situation, his critics have been unimpressed. One prominent Jamaican lawyer has disparaged him as “Hilarious Heckles”.
Sir Hilary has asserted that he did not intend “to produce any negative effect or harm to any cricketer, especially to Mr Chris Gayle, who I consider to be an outstanding West Indies cricketer”.
He offered “a statement of regret in all sincerity”.
Still the pressure has persisted. It has clearly been a jolt to the ego of an individual so prominent in Caribbean society –principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), director of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), chairman of the management of the WICB’s High Performance Centre, knight of the realm and much else besides.
But his specific thesis in relation to Gayle should not have come as a surprise.
Castigating me for comments made in this column last year in relation to the Barbados and Cave Hill bias in the selection of his Combined Colleges and Campuses (CCC) team, he wrote:
“For sure the elements of the gang mentality that has taken root must be uprooted and flung aside.”
Gayle has now been unambiguously identified as the leader of the gang. Significantly, he is no longer captain [as he was at the time] nor in the team.
To the forefront of Sir Hilary’s critics has, of course, been the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), an organisation never slow to exploit an administrative weakness or indiscretion.
It has demanded the “immediate resignation or expulsion” of Sir Hilary as a WICB director and given yesterday as the deadline for a response [presumably before the globally publicised time predicted for the end of the world at 6 p.m.].
At the same time, it has written to the chancellor and vice-chancellor of the UWI seeking an investigation by the university into Sir Hilary’s comments “since he holds a most senior position at that institution and is involved with several cricket-related activities within the UWI”.
It should know by now that such stipulations don’t have a ghost of a chance of being acted on. Caribbean officialdom, not least the WICB, doesn’t do resignations, expulsions and investigations.
It is two years since the embarrassment of an abandoned Test match in Antigua through sheer incompetence. Not a single West Indian cricket official has ever been held responsible.
The only WICB director to have resigned is still in office [work that one out].
Dinanath Ramnarine might as well have addressed his correspondence to Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace, asking her to revoke Sir Hilary’s cherished honour as a Knight of St Andrew.
It would be far more beneficial for West Indies cricket for the WICB to seek answers from their non-member director – as this column did last year to his abusive anger –about why the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) team continues, in its third year as part of the regional competition, to be so dominated by Barbadian players.
Seven of the XI in the 2011 four-day final against Jamaica were born in the island. The previous season the ratio was nine of the 16 who appeared in the tournament.
It is surely worth an explanation.
He might also want to clarify why Floyd Reifer – whom he holds in high esteem as a fine coach of Cave Hill and CCC but not a student – continues to take up a consistent place in the side at the age of 39, keeping out a young undergraduate cricketer of whom there must be a surfeit throughout the Caribbean.
Sir Hilary should also have a meaningful input into another aspect that needs looking into.
Although there has been no notification, there is every reason for the WICB to have examined the preparation and quality of the pitches for the 2011 season that produced 30 totals of under 200.
Among them was that at the 3Ws Oval, the CCC’s home at Cave Hill, where the last three matches ended on the third day.
Scores in the final, the showpiece of the season, were CCC 112 and 122, Jamaica 225 and 15-2. Spinners accounted or 23 of the 32 wickets. Reputable commentators described it as a farce.
Instead of pressing for action against Sir Hilary it knows is improbable, the WIPA might pursue a different tact. Is the CCC really fulfilling the purpose for which it was established?
Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the region.