West Indies cricket

Right place, right time

Fazeer Mohammed

October 15, 2007

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"It is heartening to hear Richard Kelly saying that his omission from the T&T squad for the KFC Cup is motivation to work even harder." © Getty Images
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In the midst of disappointment, Richard Kelly should realise that he still has more opportunities to pursue a lucrative career than Richard de Souza and so many others ever had in the prime of their lives.

As the cricketing fraternity in particular and sporting community in general mourn de Souza's passing, it offers us a few moments to pause and recognise how fortunate modern players are when compared to their counterparts from the last time Trinidad and Tobago dominated regional competition.

So often we lament the inability of the current crop to appreciate their place in history, yet we still have a duty to remind them, and ourselves, that there was a time when love for the game, personal pride and sense of national duty were more than enough to bring out the best in our sportsmen and women.

It is heartening to hear Kelly saying that his omission from the T&T squad for the KFC Cup is motivation to work even harder, while acknowledging that his performances in the trial matches leading up to the regional limited-over tournament were sub-standard. This is in stark contrast to the depressing sense of denial that pervades West Indies cricket, where senior players who should know better are more likely to point fingers of blame in an assortment of directions instead of acknowledging their own shortcomings and working doubly hard to remedy them.

Even if the only concern is revenue lost (which I doubt it is) at being dropped, the fact is that the Merry Boys all-rounder, and so many other players on the fringe of national selection, are now the beneficiaries of fairly substantial financial remuneration at local level. This growing trend of wealthier clubs signing up the best available players has a considerable downside in creating a mercenary culture, not to mention giving ordinary performers an inflated opinion of themselves. But at least those who are good enough to attract the attention of these generous benefactors cannot complain of living hand-to-mouth.

Then there are the prospects of playing in the English minor leagues, providing the sort of exposure and additional income that has benefited Kelly, off-spinner Amit Jaggernauth and several others. Add to that the out-of-competition support from the local cricket administration (I understand that a supervised training programme is being finalised for a handful of players including Kelly, Nicholas Ramjass and the recovering Dave Mohammed) and the personal development courses now available through the University of Trinidad and Tobago's sports programme, then there is absolutely no reason for a 23-year-old to believe all is lost because he is not in Guyana preparing for tomorrow's opening match against the Combined Campuses and Colleges side at the new Providence ground.

No-one wants a return to the time when sportsmen and women were expected to give of their best for their country while being treated like second-class citizens. However it should prove enlightening for contemporary players to recognise how the likes of de Souza, Davis and others were able to achieve so much with so little support, financial or otherwise

Compared to the environment of the early 1970's, before the first economic oil boom kicked in and when the West Indies were still a few years away from developing into the most awesome force in the history of the game, the current circumstances must seem like paradise on earth. It is therefore worth reminding this generation just how fortunate they are.

Would any of the current national players, in the midst of all the success enjoyed over the past three seasons, contemplate bowing out of representing Trinidad and Tobago? Would it not be considered insanity for those who are also members of the West Indies side, especially with more than a few years still ahead of them, to quit the international scene, unless it is to sign up for the unofficial Twenty20 league in India?

Yet de Souza, who made his senior national debut as a 17-year-old against the 1965 touring Australians, lifted the bails on his Trinidad and Tobago career just eight years later, coincidentally, against Ian Chappell's triumphant visitors at Guaracara Park. An established member of a formidable batting line-up, the stockily-built right-hander had an outstanding season in 1971 (325 runs in four matches at an average of 81.35) when T&T repeated as Shell Shield champions under the captaincy of Joey Carew.

But it was not enough to earn the nod of the West Indies selectors for the home series that year against India and must have dented his resolve, especially as the regional side were in the midst of a prolonged slump.

Ironically, one of the few star performers during that low period, Charlie Davis, also retired from national and international duty in 1973 at age 29 despite averaging 54.20 in 15 Tests. At least he enjoyed considerable success with Trinidad and Tobago with the back-to-back Shell Shield titles, however it is sad that so few acknowledge his prolific form in one of the more tortuous chapters in West Indies cricket.

Those were the days, of course, when it was impossible for even established Test cricketers to make a living without a professional contract abroad, to say nothing of the national player who had to balance his cricketing aspirations with grim financial realities. Unlike today, there were no sponsors to boost match fees or offer performance incentives and no financiers to bid for your services for a rival club.

No-one wants a return to the time when sportsmen and women were expected to give of their best for their country while being treated like second-class citizens. However it should prove enlightening for contemporary players to recognise how the likes of de Souza, Davis and others were able to achieve so much with so little support, financial or otherwise. Their successors have a lot to be grateful for.

© Trinidad & Tobago Express

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Players/Officials: Richard De Souza | Richard Kelly
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