Tony Cozier joins the nay-sayers
Every now and then you read something that truly takes your breath away, a piece of journalism which emerges from the daily mist of verbiage by virtue of its lucidity, or conversely, its sheer, audacious stupidity.
It is, unhappily, to the latter category that we must assign a recent article by the generally respected West Indian commentator Tony Cozier, who has chosen to link the continuing problems of West Indies cricket to a quite staggering attack on the ICC's Global Development Program.
Taking up some comments originally made by his colleague Mark Nicholas in the Daily Telegraph back in September, Cozier argues on Cricinfo that the money that the ICC currently ‘wastes' on global development would be better spent on helping to bail out the ailing West Indies.
Cozier develops Nicholas's suggestion that ‘the ICC pump millions into the global development of the game, often wasting cash in places where it has little impact' into a fully fledged denunciation of the project, focusing especially on the Intercontinental Cup.
‘The ICC doles out heaven knows how much cash every year,' he proclaims, ‘to fly them, and their own entourage of officials, across the world and to house and feed them at venues as scattered as Aberdeen, Dublin, Namibia, Toronto, Sharjah and Windhoek.'
And he goes on to condemn as ‘gobbledygook' a perfectly sensible account by ICC High Performance Manager Richard Done of the reasons that this competition is so crucial to the long-term development of the game outside the magic, privileged circle of Test countries.
Two minutes' research online would have enabled Cozier to establish that the entire High Performance Program, including the Intercontinental Cup, cost $US 887,000 in 2006. That compares with the West Indies Board's 2006 revenue of $17.7 million, and even if the new, global round-robin version of the competition is likely to be considerably more expensive than its pool-based predecessors, it is still unlikely to come anywhere near, say, the $3m. the Windies received as appearance money for the DLF Cup/Tri Nation series in Malaysia in September 2006.
The ICC's entire expenditure on global development, indeed, was less than half the total revenue of the WICB. We can go further: the Board's income from television alone ($5.75m.) was more than the ICC's allocations to its Europe, Americas, Africa and East Asia-Pacific regions combined.
And the $4.5m. ‘Full Member Financial Assistance facility' the Board extracted from the ICC to enable it ‘to meet its commitments under the Future Tours Program' would have been enough to fund the development programme in Africa for seven years!
The WICB website lists a staff of 20, and that's not counting the administrative teams in each of the West Indies' constituent unions. What could the global development programme achieve with comparable staffing levels?
The truth is that the sad decline of West Indies cricket is due to years of petty inter-island politics, abysmal financial mismanagement, general organisational incompetence, and the emergence of a generation of spoiled, arrogant players who believe that they are entitled to the same glory that their predecessors won through hard graft and committed on-field performances, without having to put in the same sort of effort.
As Fazeer Mohammed wrote in the Trinidad and Tobago Express in June, commenting on the Board's performance and that of its players, ‘West Indies will continue to languish among the ranks of the foreseeable future . . . the bottom is nowhere in sight.'
Cozier knows all that, and has been among the WICB's most cogent critics in the past. What a pity it is that he has now decided to put the boot into a project which should be acknowledged as among the ICC's proudest initiatives.
And what an irony it is that in doing so, he turns reality on its head.
‘Canada were unable to raise their strongest team for African tour,' he observes, ‘because many of their best players simply could not get time off from their jobs. The same problem affects others, rendering the tournament even less relevant.'
A more perceptive, less bigoted observer might draw the conclusion that what top-level Associates cricket needs is more money, not less, so that the leading players - many of whom would not be out of place in a West Indian first-class team - could move towards at least semi-professional status.
Whingeing about the money and effort devoted to global development by the ICC is a common theme among a certain kind of cricket commentator. Instead of paying tribute to the vision involved in making cricket a truly global game, they seek to perpetuate a system which harks back to the days when the Imperial Cricket Council was complacently seated at Lord's, while at the same time trying to grab as much as possible of the vast resources generated by the sport's worldwide popularity.
There are some from whom you wouldn't expect anything better. But frankly, it's a shame that Tony Cozier has chosen to join their number.