ROMAIN PITT reflects on hegemonies past and present
In the post-war world, there is no region whose cricketers have played a more dominant role in the game than the West Indies. Yet, with the exception of a handful of representatives like Sir Clyde Walcott, Clive Lloyd and Jimmy Adams, the region has not been actively engaged in the formulation of ICC policy. I see no sustainable reason for this state of affairs, especially since the West Indies’ absence from the august body may be partly responsible for some of the shabby treatment that has been visited upon the region.
An example of such treatment is the recent reduction in West Indies financial entitlement in the Future Tours programme.
One of the pressing issues in international cricket relates to umpiring and centres around the use of a third umpire with technological aids – the so-called DRS. West Indies should be particularly interested in that issue for several reasons. One is that over the years the region’s cricketers have been disproportionately the victims of umpiring errors confirmed by no less an authority than Bob Woolmer in his Magnum Opus “The Art and Science of Cricket”. On page 79, he says: “An early study by Samper and Mobley in 1981 produced some intriguing results. The researchers analysed every umpiring decision given in every Test match since the inception of cricket in 1877 until 1950. They drew five conclusions …” The third conclusion was that “in the West Indies, home batsmen have been more prone to LBW dismissals than have batsmen in other countries”.
Another reason is that the use of the DRS logically will eliminate the need for so-called independent umpires, that is, those from third countries, in international cricket. Such a development will give a tremendous boost to the umpiring profession locally and consequently to the quality of cricket in the region.
Most important, perhaps, is the treatment meted out to the West Indian team on international tours. When West Indies were champions, they limited the humiliation of opponents to the cricket pitch. In all other respects, opponents were treated with dignity. Once the West Indies ceased to dominate, they were subjected to threats of demotion, restricted to minor venues, limitation of practice matches on tours, inconvenient touring schedules and the like and, as indicated earlier, discrimination in the distribution of revenue from tours.
To return to the DRS: I am sure the West Indies could make a significant contribution to a debate that has disintegrated into the realm of the absurd.
It is beyond dispute that the system reduces umpire error significantly. The Indians have rejected the system on the basis that it does not completely eliminate umpire error. The Indian position is obviously not an argument. It can more fairly be described as an attempt to mollify the insult to the rest of the fraternity by not asserting their right not to provide a reason for their position. Umpiring errors are serious business in cricket, perhaps more so than in any other sport. For a batsman, one contra error means his involvement in the inning ends.
While we recognize that cricket, like life, is part physical and part mental, we tend to subordinate the mental to the physical with consequences that are not always benign.
India provides a good case study. Not long ago India either initiated or endorsed the idea of relegating the country (West Indies) that had produced the best cricketers in the post-war world to a second division.
At the same time, the deification of their batsmen rose above the level of ordinary fans to that of outstanding former cricketers who had become broadcasters.
Most important was their willingness, as I indicated earlier, to exclude themselves voluntarily from the cricketing fraternity by rejecting the fundamental tool of modern umpiring known as the DRS. The ostensible Indian rationale for their position does not meet the test of rationality. It merely conceals their true position which is that “we owe no one an explanation.”
Players representing a country that projects such an image have an intolerable burden placed on them. Their failures outside their home country are worsened by the motivation all other countries have to defeat them.