A few good things off the field have happened in sports over the last week. Unfortunately, it would be too good to be true if it was all good news, so allow me to start with some foolishness before we digest the positivity.
I have been advocating for what seems like an eternity that Nicholas Pooran should be included in the West Indies Test squad. But then again, I only played a couple of games for the national team and only captained the West Indies Under-19 team. The bigwigs who call themselves West Indies selectors could quite easily respond to my pleas with, “that man could talk stupidness!” But, when the legendary Sir Vivian Richards could openly call for Pooran to be given a chance at Test level, suddenly Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief selector Roger Harper found a voice to respond.
To be frank and I make no apologies for the brevity, it was better if he kept his mouth shut and ignored Sir Viv's comment because what came out of him was the usual nonsense that we have been hearing from the CWI hierarchy and their selectors over the last few years. His quite ignorant suggestion is that Pooran must play in the four-day format to be considered for Test selection - here we go again.
I really thought that when CWI president Ricky Skerritt and the new regime came into power in March 2019, all of this stupidity would have ceased, but it seems to continue with business as usual.
Surely as a selector, you don't only go on performances but you sometimes look at a player, see the ability of that player and throw him in the deep end with the confidence in his talent that he will do well. Even if he does not do well, it is certainly worth the risk. There is no doubting Pooran's ability, but to say that he has to play four-day cricket to be considered for Test cricket is the most brainless statement I have heard around cricket circles for a very long time.
The West Indies lost its last series to England and it seems that I have to remind the CWI selectors about the performances of its batsmen. The highest batting average was 35.16 and two of the batsmen who played in all three Tests averaged 16.8 and 17.5. Now, I do not want to embarrass any players as I'm sure that they gave 100 per cent playing for the region, but if Pooran can't make a batting line-up with some of those players, then one is left with no alternative but to question the foresight of the West Indies selectors.
I know Skerritt will not interfere with the selectors in terms of team selection, but surely he can intervene with this absurd and ignorant policy that a player has to play four-day cricket to play Test cricket. Once the player is consistently playing cricket and appears to have the talent coupled with the right attitude, then we should give that player every opportunity to showcase their ability at the highest level - the millions of people who follow and love cricket across the Caribbean region deserve nothing less.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see who these “esteemed” CWI selectors opt for to represent the West Indies on the upcoming tour of New Zealand next month. The West Indies will have to fight fire with fire as the Kiwis are a solid unit. They play their cricket with passion and have some outstanding cricketers, but unless the Windies selects some aggressive players with the proper mindset, they are likely to struggle. The T20 internationals should not be a concern but unless the powers that be get the balance of the squad correct, they will lose the Test series.
On to some good news, I note that Courtney Walsh has been appointed as the new head coach for the West Indies Women's team. To be honest, I like the move. Walsh is a fighter, he played his cricket hard and gave his all while playing for the regional team. If he can pass that fighting spirit and passion onto the women, he would have partially achieved his goals.
He definitely has his work cut out especially from what we saw in the T20 series against England; I certainly don't agree that they played well. They lost 5-zip and cannot fool any objective cricket fan into believing that they performed. The Windies women played well in patches but overall, we're just not good enough.
Outside of Deandra Dottin who scored two half-centuries and to a lesser extent, Stefanie Taylor who averaged 26, the rest of the batting was non-existent. CWI has to look at the territorial boards and assess the various development programmes that are in place for these women cricketers because Walsh has to start to look beyond this squad for results. The good thing is that he has first-hand knowledge of the shortcomings of the team and can apply this experience to enhance the ability of his players. I wish him all the best.
The other piece of good news came in the form of the national budget where the Ministry of Sport and Community Development has been allocated approximately $404.6 million. This is an increase of $281 million, however, until the finer details are known, it would be difficult at this time to say the allocation is great and is exactly what sport needs. These are extremely tough times for sporting bodies, associations, clubs etc. Even though the Minister increased the tax break ceiling from $6 million to $12 million, I would have preferred that he gave the corporate citizen that pumps money into sports the old figure of 150 per cent of a tax break against what they invest as that may have encouraged more sponsors to get involved. The record will show that very few companies take advantage of the previous $6 million ceiling.
With the tax break and the increase in the threshold, it may sound like music to the ears of many sporting organisations but it now means that these bodies have to plan their strategies more efficiently with proper proposals when they seek sponsorship. Please, as someone who knows a thing or two about sponsorship, don't tell the company that they will be getting a tax break so they can sponsor - they are already aware of that. What they want to see are proper marketing and advertising plans, the way forward and most importantly, mileage for their company or their brand. Gone are the days of handouts. Companies now want to see that whatever they are associated with is successful and adds a positive image to their brand.
With 2021 just a couple of months away, and with COVID-19 still around, the work has only just begun!
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.