Bangalore – There is a quotation of C L R
James, a famous West Indies cricket writer, author, and among
other things noted political activist, that for the sake of
convenience is all too often misused.
Some writers, Yahaluweni, prefer to do it
this way as they feel it gives their opinions a slickness that
hides their ignorance of what James was implying. He later hit
at such devious plagiarism. To him it was a form of injustice
and hid his original thought, which brought into perspective the
initial issues of full West Indies emancipation.
From his book 'Beyond a Boundary' (published in
1963), the quotation is written about the game at Test level and
the growing West Indies cultural influence and the long-awaited
rebirth of Caribbean islands nationality and identity. This, as
he explained in conversation with this writer in April 1962, had
been highlighted by the West Indies tour of Australia under
Frank Worrell's leadership in 1960/61 that began with the tied
Test in Brisbane.
In James's view, it furthered the aims of island
identity as opposed to the Caribbean federation that was
'foisted on the British West Indies by London' and where there
was no allowance for genuine nationhood.
When he was reworking the book in the euphoria
of that 1960/61 tour, the plan was to explain how from icons
such as Worrell, Garry Sobers and Bob Marley to the average
islander felt: cricket had long been a unifying factor. However,
to present the James quotation in its full meaning it says,
'What do they know of cricket who only cricket know. West
Indians crowding into Tests bring with them the whole past
history and future hopes of the islands'.
So overwritten has become that first sentence of
ten words that it has become a sorry clich`E9. It was used here
again Saturday in a national newspaper to highlight a remark of
Indian captain Rahul Dravid. He was asked to comment on the ball
tampering event at The Oval and in a sense, his thoughts on the
general overreaction by several of the main actors involved. As
with his batting, and being the pragmatist he is it would make
sense to adopt a streetwise analytical approach.
As it was Dravid's thoughts were more
geographically focussed on Malaysia as the Indian squad, their
final practice session at an end, packed to travel to Chennai
and on to Malaysia and the triangular starting tomorrow.
'No one wants a game to be forfeited. What I do
think is that we need to move on,' was his diplomatic response.
'Look, England and Pakistan are playing a good one-day series
and the cricket goes on. The authorities will find the right
conclusion to this issue.'
It was the sort of pithy comment that need no
clich`E9d comment, but the ten word first sentence of the James
quotation was trotted out again. Why is hard fathom?
James, a warm and charming intellectual, enjoyed
the cut and trust of political argument and the hyperbole that
sometimes develops from such verbal jousting. Later, in Beyond a
Boundary, he adds another passage that clarifies the aspirations
of those who celebrated that 1960/61 tour and what followed.
'West Indian cricket,' wrote James, 'has arrived at maturity
because of two factors: the rise in the position of the coloured
middleclass and the high fees paid to players by the English
This was accurate when written 43 years ago. The
first reference still holds true, the second less so, but the
term maturity is the operational word here; the idea being
carried forward by a man of the people and by players who were
proud of their growing Caribbean islands nationhood.
Yet when we look for maturity beyond the
boundary that James wrote about, he was projecting the influence
the game had within the West Indies and its unifying factor. At
the time (April 1962), he was working on the final passages of a
book started almost a decade earlier. This was essentially about
a West Indian issue of colour, and agreed in our conversation in
his London flat how the topic went well beyond that of
identifying island nationhood. It was identifying with the game
that gave the West Indians a unified voice.
It was his hope that those reading his book
would recognise, in time the universality of the sport to give
it a more international character. This remember was early 1962
and at a time when the game's ruling body was called the
Imperial Cricket Conference, based at Lord's and was looked on
as an 'old boys club'. Four years earlier, Conrad Hunte had
scored 260 runs in a partnership of 446 with Garry Sobers, yet
along with a majority of West Indians did not have the full
rights of universal suffrage.
Or, as James, Hunte and other West Indians would
quickly point out the cult image of the game did not mean that
it should develop one, as this would create an image problem.
Unfortunately, the cult image was developed generations ago by
the founding fathers of the modern game (back in the 1700s).
Whether this or not has been the intention of those in control
of cricket's administration is not the point, it is that they
have tried to place themselves above the game and as such the
laws and playing conditions through which its played.
This is where the trusted edicts of efficiency,
integrity, professionalism and transparency become lost. Walking
away from something because there are those involved who lack
honesty, professionalism, transparency and competence is not
easy. Just as finding the answer to the problem is hidden by
Fortunately the Oval fiasco won't go away. But
at least Malcolm Speed has done what this writer suggested in
this column last week, that corpulent Inzi stop playing the
injured hero, zip his lip and get on with playing the game and
face up to the law when it comes. If he is fined for a breach of
ICC code of conduct, he has had it coming. Darrell Hair and
Billy Doctrove, although already judged, still have an ICC
inquest on the issue to face.
Several comments posted to my lbwbambrose email
address suggest there are those on the island don't like it at
all that the Marylebone Cricket Club (a private club), have had
control of the copyright of the laws of the game since 1787. Too
bad guys. As the laws were framed back in 1722 (known as the
London Laws) and the articles of agreement for a match five
years later between the Duke of Richmond and Mr Broderick of
It should also be pointed out, that as the two
laws being challenged: Law 21, note 3 and Law 42, note 3, have
been part of laws for more than 50 years, why suddenly query
them now? It is all quite bizarre.
This is when the game displays its ugly face. It
becomes sadly entertaining in the way that cricket can do
without, farcical and with a touch of irony. Instead of bridge
building it becomes bridge burning, or too much being said
without a thought given to commonsense and that is not what
should be expected of the game's leaders in this century.
It is easy to say it in hindsight, but had Hair
applied 'Law 43' which as any umpire would tell you is the
unwritten one known as 'commonsense', it would have rescued the
game. Whether Inzi would have understood this is another matter.
What has been interesting is that in general, the British media
have been quite sympathetic towards Pakistan, despite the
controversy surrounding the end of the game.
Now for something more positive that emerged
while opening emails Friday here in Bangalore. Brian Murgatroyd,
the hardworking ICC media manager sent emails that contained the
sort of news that should have an enormous impact on the island.
First is Mahela Jayawardene's selection in a list of 13 for ICC
cricketer of the year; he is also in line for captain of the
year honours (an award won last year by Marvan Atapattu), Test
player of the year and one day player of the year. The awards
are from August 1, 2005 to August 8 2006. This is quite a
fistful for a young man who deserves whatever four of the
accolades that the ICC may yet shower on him at the award
ceremony in Mumbai in November.
The nomination, among others, comes from a panel
headed by Sunil Gavaskar with Allan Donald, Arjuna Ranatunga,
Ian Healy and Waqar Younis.
As expected, Kumar Sangakkara’s name is in the
Test and one day player of the year categories along with
Muttiah Muralitharan. What is exciting to see is that names as
Malinga Bandara and Upal Tharanga among the eight candidates for
the emerging player of the year. Both deserve their place but
competition is going to be pretty stiff, and two names, Mohammed
Asif and Monty Panesar are not going to be easy to ignore.
Last year it was Kevin Pietersen who won the
emerging player award with a younger AB de Villiers edged into
Australian Simon Taufel has won the award the
last two years it has been on offer, and with him is another
quality umpire from the elite panel in Pakistan's Aleem Dar and
South Africa's Rudi Koertzen.
And to answer one query in the emails from
Colombo, no it seems to have been forgotten that former Indian
captain and spinner, Srinivas Venkat retired from the elite
umpiring panel at the age of 58 for health reasons and not as
was suggested removed from the panel. Memories it seems are all
too conveniently short when they want to be.