September 7, 2006

Thanks for shattering the dreams

An open letter to Ken Gordon, President of the West Indies Cricket Board, over the recent cancellation of the Stanford Super Stars match against South Africa



Did Allen Stanford just get fed up of being messed about? © Getty Images

Dear Mr Gordon,

Greetings from South Africa. Hope you are well.

You may be interested to know that news of the cancellation of the 20/20 game between a West Indian 'Stanford All Stars' XI and South Africa, scheduled for November 10, has been received here in South Africa with utter dismay.

Your own reason for its cancellation was, at face value, straightforward: Pakistan "refused" to rearrange the dates of your scheduled tour to that country in order to accommodate the 20/20 fixture (which, as you know, was organised in February and ratified by the ICC).

Yet, last Thursday, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Mr Shaharyar Khan, said: "Because we hold the West Indies board in such high regard, I said [to the board] we must bend over backwards to accommodate them, even if it meant bumping into our national Twenty20 tournament.

"I spoke to my board which said we couldn't do a week but we could squeeze in four or five days. I was about to convey this [to the WICB] when I was told the Stanford exercise was off. I await the West Indies board's final comment on this".

Mr Gordon, I cannot comment on the attitude or effect that Mr Stanford has had on West Indian cricket although I have yet to hear anybody criticising the recently inaugurated 20/20 domestic competition. And it does seem extraordinary to stage a 'winner-takes-all' 20-over game worth five million dollars.

I'm not sure how the WICB and the players would have divided and spent the money had you won the game, but I am aware that one of the conditions of ICC's sanction was that a percentage of it should be spent on developing the game in the smaller islands of the Caribbean.

Here in South Africa the national players agreed to give 70 percent of it to our national board to be spent on the development of the game. Of course, there would still have been plenty for the players had they been fortunate enough to win, but the impact on cricket for future generations would have been life-changing.

I'm sure you must have heard the story of Makhaya Ntini's 'discovery'? A development clinic passed through his tiny village of Mdingi in the Eastern Cape and Makhaya's journey from goat-herder to inspirational role model for millions had begun.

I have heard many stories and rumours about why you didn't want this game to take place. I see you have shared some of the responsibility for its cancellation with the West Indies captain, Brian Lara. But I would prefer to believe none of them as I have never met you and every man deserves the benefit of a stranger's doubt.

One of the men in charge of development in South Africa is Vince van der Bijl. He told me: "If we had been lucky enough to win the match then it would have meant an extraordinary windfall for South African cricket, enough to make a lasting difference to the development of the game in the previously disadvantaged areas and to make a genuine difference to the lives of the people in those communities."

Mr Gordon, from here it looks like you prevaricated, confused and argued until the game's biggest benefactor since Kerry Packer finally lost his patience and the richest game in cricket history was postponed.

I'm sorry to put it this way, but you - personally - were responsible for shattering a thousand dreams.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Manthorp

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency