Boss, wha’ dem gone and do?
When Rufus and I last met, neither of us could foresee the pending devastation that has brought West Indies cricket to its knees.
On hearing the news that we abandoned the tour of India a few weeks ago, Rufus went underground and suffered the worst pain West Indies cricket had ever inflicted on him. However, he was man enough to invite me to meet with him at our usual watering hole in Ellerton.
There was a solemnity at Mrs Brown’s shop that I had never experienced before. Some of the boys were talking politics and felt that things couldn’t get any worse. Rufus’ concern was that he would soon have to sell off what little he had in order to survive.
Our conversation started like this:
Rufus: Skipper, if anybody did tell me that we cricket would be in so much confusion, I would ah tell them to go fly a kite. You can imagine men went all across to India and didn’t complete the tour!
TK: My friend, whatever they did, they should never abandon the tour. I remember a song by Charles D. Lewis about a young German girl, who came to the region and was so blown away by the sea, sand and everything else, that all she wanted to do was to take off her clothes.
At the end of the song, all the writer would tell her was “Whatever you do, please don’t take off your clothes”. Whatever we did, we should never have abandoned that tour.
Rufus: Boss, but who gine pay the Indians all da money they claiming? The Board better buy some tickets in the USA and hope to win some sort of lotto money and get out of this mess.
TK: Rufus, I grew up hearing a story about a man who had a box of frogs that he was walking around with for months. He cared for them like his own children. Then one day he passed by a pond in Maxwell and, feeling sorry for them, decided to let them have a bath.
He never saw the frogs again. He could only stand by and say “All my labour gone in Maxwell pond”. You think that all the parties involved realise how much we have lost and how much harm they have done to this region and beyond?
Rufus: My friend, when I study where West Indies cricket come from and see all the Caribbean people who in their own way help to make it into something that bring we pride, and now to see this!
Think ‘bout it! We had men that form clubs in all sorts of corners, men who had little or nothing but they sponsored teams in the villages, men who worked as groundsmen preparing wickets in gullies, plantation owners who cut off pieces of land that made them feel proud to give back, men who travelled from country to city to support teams, mothers who with meagre budgets send children off with white clothes and ‘pumps’ clean as a whistle, club administrators who worked hard because they loved the game, fans who built their social life around cricket.
And then, don’t talk ‘bout them past players who raised their game and eventually show the world how the game cricket was to be played, giving we black people a sense of pride that nothing else could give we. You mean we gone and destroy all this?
TK: Rufus, I feel as much hurt as you do. But my concerns go further than that. I notice that we continue to bring elements into our cricket that we can do without.
We keep bringing in people from all over the world to “re-organise” our cricket, pay them a fortune for holidays in the sun, when we have our own people who can do the job.
It pains to hear us talking about independence and indigenism. It pains further to see the thousands we are putting through university and still these other people have to think for us. As Trini would say, “We spinning top in mud”.
Rufus: But boss, this new system of regional competition I can see gine have problems. What we cricket want is to put some effort at the lower end and produce some fresh young talent. Everybody want to start at the top like gravediggers.
TK: My friend, you remember that some years ago, some men got involved in our cricket and made it obvious that money was what mattered most. That mentality has pervaded our game and now you can’t find men who understand the ethos of West Indies cricket.
Rufus, we have problems!
Both Rufus and I found it difficult to continue and agreed that we would wait to see if things could get worse.
Tony King is a former Barbados batsman and assistant West Indies team manager.