Anthony Foster’s column in the Daily Gleaner of March 27, in questioning the appropriateness of recent statements by Jamaica and WI captain, Chris Gayle, ponders whether he is untouchable and rightly so. However, I cannot agree with him entirely. First, as a journalist he certainly has the right to present to the public his views on the appropriateness of the statements made by an important sporting figure such as Mr. Gayle, but he also has a duty to be more thorough and investigate the reasons for and the necessity of his statements.
Lets analyze the statements; first, those made in England, resulted because of a series of bad decisions by the WICB which left the team demoralized and floundering with half a tour to go. The cumulative effect of the WICB blunders did more damage to the team than any inappropriate remarks by any player could have done. I believe his statements then were appropriate. Someone had to tell the WICB that their decisions did more harm than good, as they disrupted preparation and team moral; which engendered negative vibes in a team that badly needed uplifting.
None of the stakeholders in West Indies cricket is above criticism, god knows the players get it all the time.
The fact that Gayle took the board to task for its actions galvanized the players and forged them into a more focused and determined group. As a result the team performed better after he became captain, many took a serious look at the craziness of WICB which ultimately resulted in positive changes in the WICB to the betterment of WI cricket.
Someone has to speak for the players and that is generally the duty of the captain. I think in this instance what was said needed to be said.
Second, statements regarding the money from the 20/20; far too often we get caught up in wining for nation, sometimes it is a thankless Job. I have first hand experience having represented Jamaica in Track and Cricket. Whereas, in prior years finishing second would have left the players disconsolate, poorly compensated and ridiculed – you know how Jamaicans can be so brutal when their representatives don’t win like the people want them to – just ask Asafa Powell and his coach how they were treated after Athens. So for Gayle to say we lost, but at least we got half a million dollars, in my view, was his way of saying to the public – curse us, criticize us if you want, but at least we made a half a million for the players who ordinarily would only get lunch money. Although we finished in second place, the half a million dollars proves we have something to show for our effort.
So again that comment under the circumstances is a valid retort and one that provides some sense of decency and pride in the accomplishment of his team, clearly a statement a captain is entitled to make.
With regard to the third utterance Foster referenced in his column, the comments regarding the many questionable decisions by a certain umpire in the Jamaica vs. Barbados game; I must agree and also disagree. I agree that where it was said and the fact that it was a public utterance was inappropriate. I would ask the JCA to admonish him for that, but only an admonishment. I would also suggest that they conduct a training session with coaches, captain and team leaders regarding how issues such as poor umpiring ought to be handled when dealing with the press after a game.
Having said that, I wondered where Mr Foster was when the Indians, on their recent tour of Australia, made strong vociferous statements against umpire Steve Bucknor, who no one has ever before accused of favoritism. I never saw an article ridiculing or castigating them for their conduct and or criticism of the umpiring. The facts then were umpire Bucknor allegedly committed two errors out of 36 decisions, yet he was taken to task and publicly humiliated and sent packing and nothing happened to Indians.
Now to the match in question; the captain said there were numerous occasions during the match where he felt the umpires cheated Jamaica. Believe me as a former Jamaica under nineteen cricketer, I know what it is to cheated playing overseas by home town umpires. Trust me it happens. So in that sense, Captain Gayle, is the one who should speak out when he has evidence to suggest his team was robbed by home cooking. In principle not only is he obliged to report the umpires conduct, but it is his duty for the good of the game. Every one in the game ought to strive for perfection, even umpires. Though no one is perfect, an umpire ought not to get away with obvious errors without review or discipline.
I disagreed with Mr. Gayle’s public pronouncement on the matter, instead I would have much preferred him to have written a strong letter to the JCA asking them to question (1) the efficacy of appointing a Bajan umpire in such a crucial match; (2) ask the board to review the umpires alleged decisions to see whether they were up to the required high standard for such competition; (3) demand that if such review indicated objectionable decisions were made by umpires then take appropriate actions against the umpires; (4) such actions to include retraining, suspension, demotion, eye examination, apologies, etc., etc., etc.; (5) look into the appointment of neutral umpires for all first class cricket matches.
I don’t know whether the Jamaican team has the confidence in the JCA to voice their opinions before the WICB regarding their views that they had been cheated. So I am not sure if this was a deliberate attempt by Mr. Gayle to bring the issue of bad umpiring to the fore or his disgust with the local officials who probably wanted to be quiet on the matter. In any event, as the captain I do believe Mr. Gayle ought to be able to say whether of not the umpiring decisions cost his team the game. If publicly stating so has violated some unwritten rule then he ought to suffer the consequences, but his comments on the issue ought not to be dismissed as the WICB so often does to comments by its cricketers.
Finally, in my view, on its face the substance of his comments were appropriate as he addressed issues which needed to be addressed. I am not in agreement with the manner in which he voiced his concerns, but I am not one to put form over substance. What was said needed to be said and the WICB and the JCA will have to deal with those issues. I don’t think for a moment that he is untouchable, however, he does appear to need a few lessons in diplomacy, a skill that he will soon learn is an important arrow in any captain’s quiver; and one he must master if he is to remain Jamaica and West Indies captain.