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FAZEER MOHAMMED: Backed into a corner


FAZEER MOHAMMED

FAZEER MOHAMMED: Backed into a corner

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FROM OLYMPIC officials in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago to cricket administrators at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, the chastening experiences of the past few days represent yet another opportunity to critique the role of officialdom in facilitating optimum levels of sporting competition.

If the feeling in Bimshire is that the social media criticism levelled against the nation’s squad just returned from the Rio Games is way too harsh, they should consider what is happening in the twin-island state to the south-west, where the multitude of media outlets have become portals of unrestrained emotion as anonymous individuals trade insults and engage either in savage attacks of what they see as an underperforming Olympic squad or rally to the defence of a team that supporters maintain performed to the best of its ability given all the circumstances.

Indeed, it says a lot for the increasing disregard for West Indies Test cricket that not even a succession of newspaper headlines heaping shame on the authorities for a final match of the series against India that saw only 22 overs’ play has prompted anything like the fearsome verbal jousting over the Rio de Janeiro escapade.

Managing expectations will always be a challenge for administrators, and it certainly doesn’t help when officials make bold predictions that fall way short of the mark.

On what basis did Noel Lynch, the vice-president of the Athletic Association of Barbados, forecast two medals for an island that has a sole medallist for the Broken Trident in the shape of Obadele Thompson in the men’s 100 metres on the track at the 2000 Sydney Games?

Was there a succession of unprecedented outstanding performances leading up to Rio that warranted such a forecast, along with the belief that there would be as many as four finalists in the world’s premier quadrennial multi-sport festival?

Often enthusiasm and public relations get in the way of pragmatism and the backlash can be quite severe, even when the intention may be a noble one.

Last year, Brian Lewis, the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, launched a campaign entitled Ten Golds 24, establishing a target – ten Olympic gold medals from the Games of 2016, 2020 and 2024 combined – that many critics deemed all but impossible for a nation that has just two gold medals to show for 68 years of Olympic representation.

It is felt that the intensity of the backlash against the Rio contingent, which returned home with one bronze medal courtesy of 2012 men’s javelin champion Keshorn Walcott (the medal haul in London was four – gold, silver and two bronzes) had much to do with a heightened level of expectation from a public that bought into Lewis’ aspiration without pausing to consider that the lofty goal may have been intended more as a means of generating greater support from a notorious fickle and indifferent Trinidad and Tobago public than an automatic expectation of a Jamaica-like golden harvest.

In any event, as Lynch and Lewis are now discovering, going out on a limb hardly ever results in a soft landing.

“Soft” was certainly the description that stung the ears of officials of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club, especially as the all-powerful Indians were the ones looking on in smouldering disappointment at having to surrender the top Test ranking, if only briefly, to arch-rivals Pakistan due to the shambolic state of the Oval outfield and the authorities’ blatant lack of readiness to cope with the challenges of torrential downpours in the midst of the rainy season.

Short of covering the entire ground this was bound to happen sometime, somewhere in the Caribbean, given the loss of the traditional international cricket season more than a decade ago. Even before the advent of the Indian Premier League in 2008, the West Indies Cricket Board found itself backed into a corner by the more powerful nations in scheduling home series outside of the dry season months.

In 2002, as rain wreaked havoc with the latter stages of an Indian tour, then WICB president Reverend Wes Hall spoke in his usual mellifluous style of “proselytising with evangelical zeal” over the folly of such scheduling to the other members of the International Cricket Council. But to no avail.

That the farcical situation in Port of Spain coincided exactly with a similar experience in Durban, where the South Africa versus New Zealand Test was also ruined, would appear to merely confirm that the increasingly crowded international schedule is pushing the lesser lights of the sport to accommodate fixtures at venues that are likely to result in the embarrassments of Queen’s Park Oval and Kingsmead more often.

For officials it’s a case of damned if you do or damned if you don’t, although they must know that such a dilemma comes with the territory.

 

Fazeer Mohammed is a regional cricket journalist and broadcaster who has been covering the game at all levels since 1987.

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