JEFF BROOMES: Respecting the rules of the game
THERE THEY WERE; 15 young men, their managers and coaches as well as millions of supporters all overjoyed with success.
They had won, and we were world champions.
I left my bed, went into my daughter’s kitchen and poured myself a celebratory glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. The rest of the family was asleep, so I simply whispered, “Kemo Paul” three times as I toasted the West Indies Under 19 cricket team. World Champions. Wow!
Of course, the memories of the journey back from Heathrow to the Caribbean in 2001 came rushing back. There was laughter, there was singing and there was much hand pumping.
I had just managed the first West Indies Under-19 team ever to beat England in both Test and One-day Internationals on their own turf. We were happy and proud, but I am sure that nothing could compare to being world champions. My pride then was quadrupled now.
But how did they do it? Did they disrespect the rules or the spirit of the game? I say no. Did they use all legal tactics that caught some opponents off guard? Yes, they most certainly did. That, to me was the manifestation of a well- oiled machine. Strategic preparation at work.
All sports are governed by rules that are adjudicated by officials. Respecting these rules, abiding by the decisions of the officials and punishing opponents who seek to gain unfair advantage is consistent with both the law and the spirit of the game.
I played baseball in my college days and, because of my status as a track athlete, I was expected to steal bases. I did on numerous occasions, but I was sometimes thrown out by the catcher. I also suffered the same fate from the pitcher when I drifted too far off base to get that little advantage. This was within both the rules and the spirit of the game.
I see Mankading and the heads up play of our wicketkeeper to run out the Indian opening batsman, in the same vein. Let’s be clear, today’s game is about winning or losing within the rules. We now also see bouncers being bowled to tail-enders in the quest for victory.
Part of the role of coaching is to keep players alert and aware of the intricacies of the game with an acute focus on the rules and regulations. If you slip you will certainly slide. That applies to both teams. And, as one of my friends puts it, if you don’t eat, you will get huff.
These young men started a process more than a year earlier. They obviously worked hard and sacrificed greatly. They were well coached and the fitness preparation was of the highest quality. It is also clear that there was much discussion, explanation, thinking and analysis.
This team, under obviously good leadership, believed the best way to win a game was from the beginning, whether batting or bowling. The role of [Gidron] Pope was consistent with the thrust of [Gordon] Greenidge and [Desmond] Haynes. Then [Alzarri] Joseph and [Chemar] Holder showed the impact of genuine fast bowlers.
[Wes] Hall and [Charlie] Griffith never celebrated with ostentatious flair, but they had great spirit.
Young [Shamar] Springer and his teammates brought a freshness that kept me tuned in with interest. Oh, the chest roll, that’s the contemporary style with which we celebrate. The spirit of the youth.
It may seem incredulous, but I suggest that each of these youngsters was paid more for this tour than [Sir Garfield] Sobers or [Sir Frank] Worrell in their prime on any tour for the West Indies. That’s how the game has moved, and the word spirit carries greater meaning. But that’s not cricket, or is it?
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also serves as vice president of the Barbados Cricket Association and director of the West Indies Cricket Board. Email: [email protected]