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West Indies cricket

May 5, 2013

The Caribbean public deserves better

Roger Sawh, West Indies

Andre Russell takes the field for Jamaica in the Caribbean T20, Combined Campuses and Colleges v Jamaica, Caribbean T20 2011-12, Group B match, North Sound, Antigua, January 10, 2012
Just as the West Indian fans have always stuck by the players, the players should always stick by the fans © Randy Brooks/West Indies Cricket Board
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Series/Tournaments: Indian Premier League
Teams: India

Recently, Delhi Daredevils allrounder Andre Russell was quoted as saying, "People in India treat us like stars. We don't get that kind of treatment in the Caribbean."

It was a comment made at a 'promotional event' for the franchise at which Russell, a Delhi allrounder, judged a beauty pageant with some of his teammates. He was reported to have entertained the audience with a Gangnam-style jig, thus fulfilling one of the many obligations in his gargantuan $450,000 IPL contract.

At the time of writing this, Russel has scored 11 runs, and taken no wickets in three games this season. On this season's performance, it is little wonder that Russell is mindful of the warmth of the reception he is getting in India - he's probably very aware of the fact that such results on home soil would put him in line for considerable verbal abuse from a Caribbean crowd. It's also unsurprising that he would play to his audience with dance moves, and proclaim the superiority of his adopted fans to his local ones. Some may argue that he was strictly referring to the treatment he's been receiving, but words must always be taken in context - in front of a promotional crowd in Delhi in the capacity of a team representative, Russell's words surely went further than mere treatment. He was, effectively, placing Indian fans on a higher pedestal than Caribbean fans. Jamaica and the West Indies - the teams, the fans, and the exposure that he had long before inking his name to a fat cheque - all take a back seat to his role as a Daredevil. If you haven't yet noticed, as a West Indian, I'm peeved.

One of the dominating fears of the advent of tournaments like the IPL was that player allegiances would be brought into question. Those fears emerged when some players were forced to choose club over country and fulfill contractual obligations over national ones. The driving reality has always been and will always be money, and fans in the Caribbean have taken their lumps and had less-than-full-strength teams represent them from time to time.

There has been a growing acceptance among West Indian fans that players are pursuing a living, and that their efforts should be respected - as cricketers, the window for them to make big money is quite small, and their need to secure their futures is one that the whole of the Caribbean region can relate to. Given that thousands of West Indians live in foreign lands in order to have better lives bears testament to the fact that we understand the cricketers' rationale - play in India, make some money, live happily ever after.

While that's all well and good, there is a missing element that is crucial to the narrative of our cricketers going elsewhere to maximize their profits: 'Wherever they may roam, there's no place like home'. Caribbean fans can and will accept that players are doing their jobs abroad, for we know that the grass is often greener on the other side, but at no time should the Caribbean fan be put down. I doubt Russell was seeking to denigrate the Caribbean public by lauding the treatment he has received in India, but intentionally or not, he has promoted himself by deriding his own.

The Caribbean cricket-loving public is the heart and soul of West Indies cricket, and we have stuck by our team and our players through the highs and the lows since Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine wore maroon. The Delhi public fetes Russell because he is a Daredevil, and that's fine - cricket in India is known to be a borderline religion. In the West Indies, we don't go gaga over our players because it isn't in our nature and, from our perspective, it just isn't necessary. Fans support with all their heart, and love West Indies cricket from the cradle to the grave, but the reality in the Caribbean is different - our style is simpler and more laidback, people don't get thronged in public places, and good results will be praised while bad results will deservedly be criticized. This is our way.

Several players have shown outward allegiance to the Caribbean public no matter where they have been, and they ought to be commended for that. On the same note, I am almost certain that the sentiment that comes out of Russell's statement does not represent his entire view on things, and that his intention was not to malign the West Indian public. However, it needs to be said - the Caribbean public is no one's foot mat. No player, past, present or future, including Andre Russell (West Indies, Jamaica, and thirdly and least importantly Delhi Daredevils allrounder), should ever be compromised when it comes to West Indian support - just as the fans have always stuck by the players, the players should always stick by the fans.

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Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by Zorina on (May 12, 2013, 3:35 GMT)

Look Andre Russell does have a point. West Indian cricket is beset by all sorts of problems, especially of ethnicity, geography and poor management. Russell would have seen the way fans celebrate the achievements of his colleagues (WI), commiserate when they do not do well. Gayle, Pollard, Bravo and Narine are well loved players and the franchise fans are proud of them. The player who said he would rather play in the IPL was proved right. One can be victimised by the all powerful WICB. I will never forget how happy Sreesanth was when Kevon Cooper took a wicket for RR. Russell is a young man, he will learn as he goes along. Let us not attribute motives to him that are clearly not present.

Posted by Derek on (May 7, 2013, 14:53 GMT)

Rubbish WI has a bunch of fair weather fans. I've asked countless WI if they care to come to the Kia Oval, I even offered FREE tickets to others to come to the swalec for SA vs WI only to be met by 'they don-t won' when WI win they have 'supporters' when they compete those supporters hide their allegiances. True supporters don't bemoaning going along to lift the spirit of their team. Russell or any other pro simply need to remain grounded. Those of us who know better are aware of the benefits these so called mercenaries bring to their national board. This article serves to highlight the fact that the WI board is falling short on educating all its employees.

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 6, 2013, 20:15 GMT)

Simply put, some people appreciate effort and sacrifice more than others, and I'm a firm believer in speaking my mind when it pertains to the truth.

Posted by Roger on (May 6, 2013, 4:38 GMT)

I humbly disagree that the article is nitpicking, as the context of the statement was clear from the setting he was in - he was at a promo event, speaking to a crowd supporting the franchise, and in all likelihood he said what he said because he was in his full Delhi Daredevil persona. He was often given the benefit of the doubt throughout the article, and it's a well known fact that the West Indies team has always loved its fans and vica versa. What's important here is the message to the players - never in the fulfillment of their corporate obligations should there be a need to sidestep the West Indian public (of which we're all a part), harmless as it may seem. There was a comment from another West Indies player some time ago (about 1-2 years) where they said they preferred to play for their IPL franchise ahead of playing for the West Indies - again, some may view that as harmless as a pure statement, but contextually it's heavily loaded. Interesting to hear different perspectives :)

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 5, 2013, 19:19 GMT)

Nit picking of the highest order from the writer. If ever a comment was taken out of context and milked for all it was worth, this is it.

The comment was: "People in India treat us like stars. We don't get that kind of treatment in the Caribbean." - what exactly is wrong with this statement ?

Wavel Hinds, Chris Gayle, Nikita Miller, Courtney Walsh, Michael Holding are not treated anywhere near how Indian fans react to cricketers when they were playing. Are they mobbed by adoring fans regularly in Georgetown ? Castries ? Port of Spain ?, St. Johns ? Rosseau ? Did he say something that was not true ?

At no time did Russel disrespect or bash his home teams. I am a Caribbean Public and I see nothing wrong with his comment.

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 5, 2013, 14:21 GMT)

Great article .

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