No more sweeping under the carpet
It is pointless at this point to pick apart the published correspondence and press statements issued by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and Michael Holding. Careful reading left a sense that information was manipulated for the wiliness of spin on the one hand, rather than the frank hostility of pace on the other.
Given the histories of those involved, it might be more instructive to try to figure out why this is happening. The natures of the parties may shed something of a clue. The WICB has spent decades immersed in crisis and controversy. It has remained alive by the one skill it has truly honed as a collective - survival at all costs. It has done that by learning to prevaricate, to sidestep, to insulate itself with the protective cover of being a private company, and to run its affairs with little regard for public opinion. Heck, it has even been willing to cut off its own head to save its carcass.
Clive Lloyd is a former West Indies captain of great repute, an ICC match referee and a man who was sidestepped by the WICB on more than one occasion. His stint as team manager led to an acrimonious parting of ways. His pass over for the presidency in 2005 could not have forged any profoundly warm bonds between the WICB and himself. Yet he accepted the invitation to head the Cricket Committee and even resigned from his lucrative position on the Stanford Board in order to avoid any conflicts of interest when things, rather scandalously, slipped out of hand.
As man, how did Lloyd overcome these issues to join hands with the WICB? By his own declaration, to serve West Indies cricket for the better. Who could fault such noblesse oblige? It is, after all, the kind of commitment craved from leadership. But surely there must be moments when he remembers what he had described as a "slap in the face" from the WICB. In that 1999 interview he had complained that the Board did not allow its cricket committee to function without intervening, commenting that "it might simply be a power thing, who knows?" Maybe now he knows.
As a fast bowler, Holding epitomised West Indian pride. Admired for his silkiness on the field, he revealed another aspect after his playing days. As a broadcaster his dry, laconic, caustic comments divided his listeners. Many were delighted at the frankness with which he opined; many were appalled at the harshness with which he delivered, especially when it came around to West Indies cricket. On the middle ground, it remained generally accepted that he was calling it as he saw it and such candour was to be admired, even if one disagreed. Yet, there had been hints and accusations that he was often driven to pick on certain players because of their attitudes and this distorted his ability to assess their cricket skills.
All the recent announcements and statements still do not afford one a clear picture of what has actually triggered these unseemly exchanges. Even if one were to accept that misrepresentations have been made as to who said what and how it was meant to be interpreted, the spectacle of these two legendary cricketers battling it out is unwelcome, not to mention baffling. And if Holding's initial complaint was that Ken Gordon had sidestepped the Cricket Committee and this triggered his resignation, why did Lloyd's email to Gordon become the basis of a WICB rebuttal? The email itself seems to have been mandated from Gordon, and suggests that Lloyd was called upon to take up Gordon's cudgel.
For his part, Gordon loves lofty positions so it was no surprise that he said he was not going to be drawn into verbal conflict. "We have spent too much time talking about contentious issues rather than focusing on the important things. Now is the time to go forward," he said, as he deputised someone to talk contentiously.
For Lloyd to do so, and then have Holding counter each claim with far more than whispered fury, was to set these two unnecessarily at each other's throats. But we have seen that collateral damage is par for the WICB course, and cricketers are the most easily expendable resource at its disposal.
Something unsaid is driving this.
It stemmed from Holding's outrage that Gordon had indicated that it was upon Brian Lara's advice that the team for Pakistan was not to be named until the conclusion of the DLF Cup in Malaysia. This was offered as one rationale for the resulting cancellation of the big-buck Stanford All Stars match against South Africa. Lara is not known to be Holding's darling, but surely their personal relationship could not have provoked these outbursts. Or did it?
Whatever games are being played behind closed doors might be none of the public's business, but these sorties have been put on the world's plate, and people remain unconvinced that this has anything to do with selections and committee mandates. It reeks more powerfully of a trend for world cricketers to show absolute disrespect for each other. And the sight of legends quarrelling is cause for real dismay.
Gordon is right that now is the time to move forward, but contentious issues can not be swept under the carpet. Rather than having them so biliously aired, it might be prudent to acknowledge that they exist and provide a proper forum for them to be discussed with solutions, not graffiti in mind.
Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad