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OFF CENTRE: Not just bat and ball


Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE: Not just bat  and ball

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The West Indies cricket team gone down again.
Saturday’s losing out (it wasn’t a loss per se) again focuses attention on what has been advanced as an always threatening, if not always present, deficiency in our cricket make-up: a failure of thinking.
Now, I know that before I get too far some people will want to know how come I writing ’bout cricket – “Wha he know ’bout cricket?”
Now, I don’t subscribe to that Caribbean inclination to either dismiss your contribution because you were not an actual practitioner or to easily accept your two cents’ worth (it may be worth no more, indeed) because you were.
That shows a failure to understand the difference between performance and training/analysis, between procedural knowledge and declarative knowledge.
Analysis and teaching call for a whole complex of other skills, including, among other things, articulateness, an organized body of knowledge, an understanding of how people learn, ability to intellectually dissect, an ability to motivate – these don’t come from simply having been a practitioner.
Other people know that. Wha wrong wid we? Small island thinking?
(If it really means anything, though, let me say that for several years when I was in my 20s I spent every Saturday afternoon – from May to November, I think it was back then – playing competitive cricket.)
Three matters
Pollard’s (and/or the management’s) seeming brain freeze was one of three matters that gave me pause recently about thinking in relation to regional cricket.
The second thing: the poor-rakey intermission “analysis” in the television coverage of the Champions Trophy. The Caribbean “talent” (the person who is supposed to provide useful breakdown of the goings-on) has not so far drilled any deeper than a man off the street would have.
But because of our confusing of practitioner and analyst/commentator and our failure to understand the difference between expression and communication we have often made practitioners square pegs in round holes.
Sorry to say, but many of them cannot talk themselves out of a wet paper bag – far less give incisive, telling, well-crafted comment. So it is with many of our people.
I don’t think, however, that it has to do with an innate lack. Our society has never put the focus on effective communication and critical thinking. Venting? – yes. Powerfully and insightfully connecting with listeners, readers? – a definite no.
We can’t simply tell practitioners or former practitioners to wash dey foot and come!
Too often we in the Caribbean have utilized as commentators what one Jamaican letter writer termed “proletarians in the field of media and communications”, who lack the communicative ability, the declarative in-depth knowledge of the sport (or whatever) and its technical stuffing – in short, the ability to grab and hold an audience’s attention and educate them.
Hubert Lawrence, the Jamaican track and field commentator, probably has no peer in the region in this regard. All Caribbean commentators should aspire to his remarkable ability.
This applies beyond cricket, beyond sport. And we don’t have to go to university for that. Which brings me to the third thinking shortfall: people saying the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) is wrong to limit Sagicor UWI players to a maximum of five years in the LIME Elite Division – because it is unfair.
On the surface, it seems like a reasonable argument. But if we look deeper, we realize that applying a university frame of reference to administering a competition is its critical flaw.
The university set-up is about getting people to earn degrees – as many as they can, for as long as it reasonably takes them, probably at least nine years if you go straight through to a doctorate. And we en even talk about if yuh throw in some fails.
That is not the frame for a BCA competition. This is a cricket competition for clubs competing against clubs on what is supposed to be both literally and figuratively a level playing field.
All genuine competitions are predicated on notions of equality or rough equality. A boxer who weighs 138 pounds does not compete against a boxer who weighs 173 pounds (although he may be able to beat his heavier opponent). I would not even waste time bringing any more analogous situations. Supply them yourself – there are easy to find.
Sagicor UWI, with its access to special funding, special coaches, special exposure, special scheduling, and so on, is, as I argued a few weeks ago, an
NCAA set-up. Do NCAA colleges compete against community teams? Even in the NCAA there are different divisions.
The other clubs in the BCA competition do not have and will never have access to the special circumstances of Sagicor UWI. The BCA’s focus in running a competition cannot be on fairness to a person trying to get degrees – it has to be on equality. Our thinking failing us again?
 • Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor.

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