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A head should roll

by Tony Cozier

February 1 1998


IF Pat Rousseau is a man of his word, as he is widely known to be and as he has often stressed he is, someone on the New Dispensation of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) will have to answer for the latest, most damning addition to its growing list of humiliating blunders.

The way he has spoken in the past, he himself might consider resignation as president as the only honourable option.

The repercussions are too serious for the abandonment of the Test match at Sabina Park on Thursday to be dismissed with an apology at a Press conference to teams, sponsors and public and a refund of match tickets.

Lapses

The WICB has already treated too lightly other lapses such as the selection, and subsequent forced de-selection, of seven over-age players for the Youth World Cup, the loss of sponsorship and subsequent reduction of the annual first-class tournament and the whole question of the appointment of the captain that so provoked the wrath of its Trinidad and Tobago members. It cannot let this issue rest.

When he came to office in May, 1996, the new president summoned the media from all over the Caribbean to St. Lucia and, clearly and unequivocally, made what is referred to in the modern jargon as a ``mission statement''.

This is what he said then: ``I'm going to take the question of accountability very seriously. I've brought that from my business background.

``I'm afraid they're going to find that I'm going to be very strong on accountability and performance.

``I really have no intention of carrying along a set of passengers. The board was told that clearly.''

And there was still more from the tough-talking attorney and business executive.

``I don't believe in the school of thought that says because it is voluntary, you can do it when you feel like.

``I think the people of Jamaica who know how I operate will know I have thrown people off voluntary committees by telling them I can't use them if they're not performing.''

It is obvious that, in several areas, people have not been performing and just as obvious that there has been no accountability.

Yet, in his wide-ranging interview with Annette Beckett on VOB last November, the president was happy with the work of the board.

The board, whether through its member agent, the Jamaica Cricket Association, or not, is certainly culpable in the latest episode that has so besmirched the waning image of West Indies cricket and undermined its diminishing financial resources.

The warning lights were flashing and the alarm bells clanging long before a ball was bowled on that shocking surface on Thursday morning.

Anyone who watched Jamaica's President's Cup match against Barbados on the same pitch three weeks ago would have known, as Barbados team manager Tony Howard did, that there was no way it would be fit enough for the Test.

Howard spoke even then about the ``ridges, cracks and corrugations'' that were so evident last week. He said he warned Jamaican officials that it was ``potentially life-threatening'' but no one seemed to pay heed.

Let us be fair. The preparation of a pitch is not an exact science and its behaviour often defies predictions. In addition, the member boards of the WICB jealously guard their autonomy and are quick to take offence at even the most well-meaning critical comment from anyone from outside.

Duty-bound

Yet, on hearing reliable reports of the Barbados match, the WICB was duty-bound to pay closer attention than usual to this situation.

This was even more so following the disgraceful playing conditions provided for the opening match of the England tour at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay where the objective, and expert, judgement of Michael Holding was that it was the worst pitch he had ever seen. That was before Thursday.

If it made any inquiries at all, it is likely the WICB spoke to the wrong people Easton McMorris, the former West Indies opener who supervised preparation, and Jamaica Cricket Association chief executive officer George Prescod rather than Charlie Joseph, the head groundsman who has lived, literally, at Sabina Park and tended the square there for more than 30 years.

And that may well be the heart of the problem of late: that those who know most about pitches from sheer years of experience, are being dictated to by administrators, former cricketers and other supposed experts.

Until they started digging up squares, importing special soils and engaging in needless experiments, there never seemed to be any dispute that West Indian pitches were among the best in the world.

Except when rain-affected, they never caused batsmen to be physically maimed or Tests to be finished in three days or, indeed, after 65 balls.

Who, 40 years ago, would have dared command Badge Menzies at Bourda, Jimmy Bowen at Kensington or Kanhai at the Queen's Park Oval as to what type of pitch to prepare? They simply put out the best.

It is pertinent that when they were laying down the first turf pitch at the Queen's Park Oval in 1954 they sent not for soil scientists or cricketers to advise them but for Son Waldron from Barbados, the humble, proud head man with Spartan in Queen's Park, while Grandison Briggs, another Bajan pitch genius, did similar work in St. Lucia.

The various boards may now find it worthwhile to get back to trusting the expertise of their groundsmen.

If they had listened to Charlie Joseph last week, at least the cracks at Sabina would have been filled in with his muddy, soup-like solution, a polyfilla equivalent, and things might not have been so terrible.

As Rousseau and his board ponder over the embarrassment caused, the revenue lost and the claims for compensation to come in, the president is no doubt making his list of who was accountable and who he will throw out for lack of performance.

We wait to hear the WICB's response to its latest crisis. Then again, we're still waiting to hear its response to the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that and . . . .


Source: The Barbados Nation
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:32