What do Babsy’s analysts “know of cricket that cricket only knows”

Pexels Stephen Noulton 17326031
A batsman on the pitch (photo: courtesy of Stephen Moulton)

Between 2005 and 2007, Jamaica spent more than J$3.0 billion to raise up the Trelawny facility and to rehabilitate Sabina Park in preparation for hosting matches for the then International Cricket Council (ICC) 2007 Cricket World Cup. From my perspective, it was never a wise investment (business-wise) but the arguments presented at the time alluded to the importance of providing cricketing/sporting infrastructure to benefit the population as well as supporting the regional institution that is West Indies cricket.

In fairness to the authors of the decision at the time, Jamaica’s role in the development of the regional game was seminal and worth preserving. After all, Jamaica gave the game, the likes of George Headley, Allan F. Rae, J.K. Holt, Jackie Hendricks, Easton McMorris, Maurice Foster, Jeffrey Dujon, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Jimmy Adams, Chris Gayle, among so many others too numerous to mention. Theirs has been an incredible legacy and for the generations yet unborn, this ought to be cherished and protected, and every opportunity used to promote the development of the sport. Having said that, it begs the question of what price is too much to pay for our history?

Proposed grassroots cricket-fix, a political fantasy

Jamaica’s decision not to bid for participation as one of the host countries in next year’s 2024 World Cup immediately comes to mind. According to Minister of Sports Babsy Grange, the decision stemmed from an apparent cost/benefit analysis that determined that Jamaica’s participation was not feasible. Grange said that after consulting the stakeholders, it was decided that the best course of action was for Jamaica to invest in cricket at the grass-roots level instead. To that end, she continued, the government plans on investing J$100 million in the development of youth cricket and cricket in schools over the next five years to “fix West Indies cricket”.

Really Minister Grange? To the unschooled, this may appear as, perhaps, a nice-sounding idea, but promising to spend this paltry sum on development of the game at the grassroots level is nothing but a “crock-pot of crap”. The proposed budget translates to J$20 million per year across the island’s 4,400 square miles, or J$1.42 million per parish. Keep in mind that given the exchange rate of the Jamaican dollar the amount translates to a paltry US$9,200.00 per parish, a value that is certain to continue to depreciate over the proposed five years given our sliding exchange rate.

Missing the bigger picture

Jamaicans, I believe, ought to look at this announcement against the background of the granting of more than J$1 billion per annum in pay increases to the gaggle of politicians who, for the most part, could barely justify the pay and other emoluments they had been receiving. According to the Minister, the projected J$450 million to host matches in Jamaica has been deemed excessive. It would be well worth knowing what this claim of excessiveness is in relation to. The current administration has a history of finding money to do whatever it deems important. The salary payment issue immediately comes to mind. When converted to US currency, this amount is less than US$3 million. That the government is claiming a need to have a positive return on investment runs contrary to policy formulation and implementation. Their job, one would believe, ought to have been to create the environment within which international sporting events of this nature will find Jamaica a favourable location. Given the island’s tourism record, this event is a magnet for cricket-loving tourists coming in from India and North America. Further, in the era of internet technology, the transmission of games from Sabina Park would spread images of the island across multiple tourist destinations around the globe. In addition, the invisible tourism advertising benefits to the island from televising the games, the opportunities for hotels, airbnbs, restaurants, and just simple itinerant vending opportunities for the informal traders over the period, tells me that this is another decision made by people who are out of touch with Jamaica’s realities.

Babsy Grange’s unrealistic conflation

It is beyond dispute that the current state of West Indies cricket may not in itself provide much encouragement for any serious capital investment.  I get it, but the game, its history, and its value in shaping Caribbean society is incalculable. Babsy Grange’s proposed US$9,200.00 expenditure is the price-tag that Jamaica’s Ministry of Sports has placed on the value of the only sport in the Caribbean archipelago that has helped Caribbean unity for more than 100 years. More so, this sport, despite the regional team’s faltering, still provides an incubator for dozens of Jamaican cricketers who ply their skills in various formats of the game played in venues around the world. Essentially, this is the Jamaican Government thumbing its nose at regional unity while extricating itself from any participatory role in the regional game.

Earlier in this piece, I named several Jamaican personalities who not only shaped the Jamaican but also West Indian cricket legacy. As a nation, our political leaders have a responsibility to its people to defend the legacy of its heroes. We depend on their wisdom and foresight to be able to see and to articulate the biggest picture. Surely, such a picture is incomplete when the understanding of the value of cricket to the ethos of being Jamaican and West Indian, is lost on the island’s political leadership

It was the great Trinidad and Tobago writer C.L.R. James who said, “What do they know of cricket that cricket only knows….” He and his contemporaries must now be turning in their graves.

Richard Hugh Blackford B.Sc., M.S (Ed).  Managing Director  YARDABRAAWD lNTERNATIONAL LLC.

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One Comment

  1. Interesting that Rudyard Kipling immortal phrase “What do they know of England, who only England know?” could be paraphrased into C.L.R. James’, “What do they know of cricket that cricket only knows….” and most importantly, ‘ What do Babsy’s analysts “know of cricket that cricket only knows”’ an apt critique of Jamaica’s contemporary political moment. You see Sir, at the international level there is more transparency and accountability, so graft is limited or stymied. . At the local level, there are more opacity and obfuscations, so thievery and corruption run rampant. Given the current state of affairs it is not surprising that the minister should choose the “cost [and] benefits” of the local route. Her decision is consistent with the decisions of other ministries: Health, Education. Transport and Justice etc. But what does Blackford know of Babsy that only Babsy and Anancy know?
    Sir, what you have so clearly put forward is a textbook case of current bad governance, where kakistocracy meets cronyism.

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