Fri | Apr 28, 2017

No, no, Mr President

Published:Sunday | September 7, 2014 | 9:00 AM
WICB President Dave Cameron - File
André Russell (centre) of the Jamaica Tallawahs being congratulated by his teammates after scoring an unbeaten half century and hitting the winning runs off the last ball of the match to enable the Tallawahs to defeat the Guyana Amazons in a Caribbean Premier League T20 match at Sabina Park last month. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
1
2

Tony Becca, Contributor

The franchise system in sports is a master idea, and there is no doubt about it. The system brings more equality into sports - more balance, evenly matched teams, and better competition.

It also brings big business into sports and, therefore, more professionalism into sports, and probably even more importantly, it brings more money, much more money, into sports.

Franchises like those in American sports - the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants, the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Milwaukee Brewers - and those in football around the world, especially those in Europe, like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, AC Milan, and Bayern Munich, even if they sometimes splurge a bit, are well organised and successful.

Franchises have turned the world into the playground of skilled performers, they have made sports teams into big-money enterprises; the players are each other's friends - at least they know each other - and most of the players are rich men - some of them, very rich men.

What is good for the goose, however, is not always good for the gander. Sometimes it is a case of different strokes for different folks.

WINDIES CRICKET DIFFERENT

West Indies cricket, for example - apart from its exciting action, its usual explosive stroke play, its screaming bouncers, and its amazingly fantastic fielders - is different from cricket played everywhere else in the world.

West Indies cricket is always hypnotising.

West Indies cricket and franchising do not go hand in hand, and it seems, cannot go hand in hand for these few but very important reasons.

Unlike America, England, and Australia, West Indies cricket is not played by one country. West Indies cricket is made up of many islands, many territories, playing as one team.

And they are not only different islands, or territories, playing as one: they are politically different. They all have different govern-ments, they all have different constitutions, different money, and sometimes different customs.

They also have separate national flags, and separate national anthems.

West Indies cricket is one sport played by many sovereign countries.

Yes, the West Indies is a special case. The islands are individual teams, and nothing can change that, regardless of the weak teams in West Indies cricket.

There is - and always will be - a thing called patriotism, and a thing called loyalty.

There will always be strong teams in West Indies cricket and there will always be weak teams in West Indies cricket, and to move players around the islands to balance off the teams will not work. It will only give a false sense of security as the weak teams will have no incentive to improve.

The easiest thing, then, would be to shop around - to buy another player, or two, or three, or better still, to buy as many players as you need.

There is another problem with this idea. Where is the money coming from?

Is it only coming from the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), from its annual payment to the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), or is it also coming from the new ICC board and its promised windfall?

Money in West Indies cricket, up to now, is scarce. The islands, certainly Jamaica, have none, and it does not seem like any will come their way shortly.

Against the grain of the franchise system, and based on the crowds attending the games, it seems that the WICB will be financing it all the way.

On top of all that, the West Indies teams have been playing as individual teams for a long, long time. They have been playing as Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, the Leeward Islands, and the Windward Islands, and the rivalry has been tough, sometimes so rough that sometimes no holds have been barred.

This year, Jamaica, for example, will contract, or has contracted, 15 players - 10 Jamaicans and five others from around the West Indies to play in the regional four-day tournament - and next year, if the WICB has the money, it may be the other way around.

It may well be only five Jamaicans, or fewer, in the Jamaica team - the team called Jamaica. In fact, according to WICB President Dave Cameron, the day may come - will come - when there are no Jamaicans on the Jamaica team.

Will a Trinidadian, a Barbadian, a Guyanese, a player from the Leeward Islands, or one from the Windward Islands give his heart, and soul, for a Jamaican, or two, or three?

Better still, will Jamaica, or any other country, accept a player from another island, especially whenever he fails?

And who will control the countries, or the teams?

Who will select the coaches? Who will select the captain of each country or team? Who will select the visiting players for each country or for each team? And who will select the teams for each match?

According to the president of the WICB, the national associations have been asked to form another body, which will be asked to look after the professional system, the franchise system.

What then will be the function of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) and what will become of the JCA?

FRANCHISE GOOD, BUT …

The franchise system is good, but it cannot take the place of a country. The franchise system is a business venture. It is geared to make money, pure and simple, and to provide entertainment, and to put on show the best players produced by anyone from anywhere.

A country, however, in sports or otherwise, is a country. The competition is most times designed as a test of strength. It is one against the other, and in the competition, the teams should be represented by nationals.

On top of that, in England, Australia, India, and South Africa, and in all the Test-playing nations, first-class cricket is played by their nationals. Franchise cricket is razzle-dazzle cricket, at least for now. It is all about making money.

Will Jamaicans give of their time to produce Jamaicans to represent another country? Will Jamaicans go to Sabina Park to see 11 foreigners representing Jamaica? And were the governments of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, etcetera, asked if they, as sovereign countries, were comfortable with their countries represented by other nationals?

The CPL is one thing, West Indies cricket is something else altogether.