Last to arrive
Time is a terrible thing to waste, especially when you're about to take on the best in the world.
Since assuming the role of West Indies coach, John Dyson's public utterances have been, if anything, much more measured and cautious than the former Australian opener's watchful style of batsmanship. In fact, should the regional side happen to be in town in the midst of the next Carnival season, he would surely be able to hold his own at the Queen's Park Cricket Club's calypso competition, given his command of double entendre.
He has become a past master at saying nothing and everything at one and the same time, challenging the listener to focus so much on reading between the lines that he couldn't ever be accused of making a direct, damning statement about anything related to West Indies cricket.
Maybe in his brief time here he's already picked up on how insecure and sensitive we are to straightforward criticism, and how easily we fall instead for mamaguile.
So when he comments that he and the squad have "made do with what we have been able to do" in relation to last week's training camp in Antigua, you know, like an iceberg, there's a lot concealed below the surface. No doubt he would be much more direct behind closed doors, or at least you would hope so if he sees this assignment as more than just another job with a fairly decent salary and lots of travel opportunities thrown in.
But, then again, we didn't need Dyson to say anything to recognise that, once more, a combination of issues related to finance, planning, administrative competence and players' priorities has resulted in the failure to make the most of an ideal opportunity for intense preparation in a team environment, especially after finishing so strongly against Sri Lanka last month.
In the five weeks since rain washed out the last one-day international in St Lucia, we have been provided with even more compelling evidence as to how irrelevant the West Indies Cricket Board is when it comes to charting a way forward for its own senior team.
With no player under retainer contract, there was no legal obligation for any West Indian involved in the Indian Premier League to return to the Caribbean in time for last week's training camp. In fact, were it not for the mandate of the International Cricket Council, the trio of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo (Chris Gayle's injury prevented him from contemplating the same) could have skipped the first two Tests against Australia in pursuit of considerably more cash on the subcontinent.
It was a prospect that WICB CEO Donald Peters had actually conceded as a virtual certainty a week before the ICC meeting in Dubai established that sanctioned international fixtures must take priority over private tournaments. To argue that the players should have been swayed by a sense of moral obligation to the regional side ahead of the filthy rich franchises is a waste of time, simply because such an unwritten obligation no longer exists in an environment of looking after number one.
Clearly all the kissing-up to and bigging-up of the players by regional officialdom--Peters' claim that Marlon Samuels' two-year ban was the consequence of some sort of entrapment reflects that kowtowing mentality-has not dented their collective resolve to seek their own interests first and foremost.
In the immediate aftermath of the punishment handed down to Samuels, the WICB brought players and team management up to date with the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Policy, a presentation that could very well have included sound effects of a gate being slammed shut and the clattering hooves of an increasingly distant steed.
Once again, embarrassingly, a part of the world that produced a sporting unit 20 years ahead of its time is caught scrambling to make amends after yet another horse has bolted from the stable.
Dyson's veiled lament is no different from that of his compatriot, Bennett King, who was coming to the end of his first 12 months as West Indies coach during the last tour of Australia in 2005. On the eve of the first Test in Brisbane, he commented that since succeeding Gus Logie in the job after the dramatic Champions Trophy final triumph in September, 2004, he had to work through three disruptive showdowns between the WICB and the Players Association and was struggling to establish any sort of harmony or team ethos, given that he had already worked with more than 30 different players in such a short space of time.
Less than three years later and with a record financial windfall supposedly in their coffers from the hosting of the 2007 World Cup, we are faced once again with the consequences of weak, reactionary leadership. At least now the bitter adversaries of 2005 appear to be on the same side, although it's not too clear which side that is. And let's not stoop to the level of equating frenetic vupping (at Eden Gardens or Guaracara Park) with preparation for Test cricket.
Yes indeed, a Test match starts tomorrow, with the recently-arrived stand-in West Indies captain Ramnaresh Sarwan walking out for the toss at Sabina Park with Ricky Ponting, who probably understands the Jamaican dialect by now. Hopefully, Sarwan will have the good sense not to enquire of his Australian counterpart as to the weather on the island recently.
Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad