Public acrimony between those in charge of the World Cup is harming its image April 2, 2007

Raining on our parade

Fazeer Mohammed



Acrimonious outbursts of a number of so-called "golden icons," men are damaging the overall West Indian effort for the World Cup, both on and off the field © Getty Images

Everybody's running for cover as the rain gets heavier on the home side's much-anticipated World Cup parade.

Even before yesterday's match against Sri Lanka, storm clouds were already gathering ominously low over the West Indies' campaign to become the first genuine home team to claim the premier prize in the limited-over game. That Sri Lanka were able to rally from an indifferent start under grey skies at the Providence Stadium to post a challenging target of 304, in what was already a virtual must-win situation for Brian Lara's men, had only served to deepen the growing Caribbean depression over the fate of the regional cricketers, a mood that was already as worrying as any weather pattern in the hurricane season.

It is one thing to be lamenting the indiscipline that defined the effort in heavy losses to Australia and New Zealand in Antigua, even before another lacklustre performance in the field yesterday in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Guyana. However it is entirely another issue--and an even more worrying one in the context of the stability of the regional game--to see the very public and increasingly acrimonious outbursts of a number of so-called "golden icons," men who clearly lack an appreciation of how much their angry public outbursts are damaging the overall West Indian effort for the World Cup, both on and off the field.

Andy Roberts wreaked as much havoc as he had done in any new ball spell in his heyday when he distanced himself, and his fellow selectors, from any of the decisions made at the tournament since they collaborated on February 2 to name the 15-man squad. His frustration at the present structure of West Indies cricket, involving the selection of the senior side, was painfully obvious. Painful, because a lunchtime radio interview last Thursday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, surely was neither the place nor the time to let fly in that manner, even if he had members of the media salivating at the juicy morsels he was dishing out liberally.

Faced with the unexpected tirade, Lara's knee-jerk response in the post-match press conference mere hours later only made the situation worse.

For a man of his global experience in dealing with predatory journalists, he should have had the presence of mind to duck those bouncers, especially as his mood was already grim in the aftermath of a seven-wicket whipping at the hands of the Black Caps.

To counter with the surprising statement that he had no say in the selection of the squad and could only work with the players given to him was like trying to hook one of those bouncers out of the ground but only top-edging a catch to the wicketkeeper. Just imagine how his players, those who are expected to play for him, would have felt on hearing their skipper imply that some of them would not have been there if he had a choice.

The word from the ICC is that the LOC's were given the freedom to determine a number of matters relating to the World Cup, from ticket pricing to what fans are allowed to bring into the ground. In other words: "Don't blame us, chaps." And what is the response of the respective LOC's? "We? No, no, no! We just following the dictates from the ICC."

At least Lara recognised how his remarks would have only added fuel to an already inflammatory situation. However as much as he attempted to pour oil on troubled waters in offering a public apology to Roberts on his arrival in Georgetown, the whole issue was already up in flames. They are flames that have been fanned elsewhere and in a different direction with other former players seemingly walking around with boxes of matches in their back pockets and needing no real urging to add to the incendiary situation.

Richie Richardson's reported comments that the International Cricket Council (ICC) has "hijacked" the World Cup in robbing the event of its Caribbean flavour, because of the many restrictions, are the sort of remarks that create an atmosphere of acrimony off the field, as if the plight of the home team out in the middle isn't dire enough.

Yet even in the matter of the administration of this highly-touted global event, no-one seems to want to take the responsibility that the buck, whether the US or Guyanese variety, stops with them.

From the very first ball that was bowled in the very first match on March 13, fans have been complaining of the suffocating restrictions placed on them in terms of their usual enjoyment of international cricket in these parts. But finding someone to own up to implementing the regulations is like searching for a man of honesty and principle in the houses of parliament around the territories.

The word from the ICC is that the LOC's were given the freedom to determine a number of matters relating to the World Cup, from ticket pricing to what fans are allowed to bring into the ground. In other words: "Don't blame us, chaps." And what is the response of the respective LOC's? Something like:

"We? No, no, no! We just following the dictates from the ICC."

So no-one is responsible for this widening fiasco and, of course, Caribbean governments, who are bankrolling the whole thing-having made grandiose promises about enormous returns and long-term benefits to our perpetually needy part of the world-are saying that all is well. What else can they say, that we have messed up big-time?

I'm sure that a positive spin could also have been found with West Indies at 42 for 3 yesterday when Lara was stumped.

No wonder then that, in a region where extreme degrees of undress are celebrated, we are privileged to host so many naked emperors surrounding this World Cup.

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