Tony Becca | Land of my birth, I pledge to thee
Those who proposed and passed the franchise system, West Indian-style, probably have never heard the song, "Land of my birth, I pledge to thee, loyal and faithful, strong and free".
If they had, they probably would not have suggested it, much less forced it on the people of the West Indies.
As good as the franchise system sometimes can be, it is not good for the West Indies, and especially not for those Jamaicans who are touched by the words, "This is my Jamaica, my Jamaica", or for those, even though they are West Indians also, who are influenced by the words of another song, "I vow to thee my country".
The franchise system is a system used in sports, along with the name of a club or a community, to make money, and as much money as possible.
It is hardly ever used to lift the standard of sport.
Its main intention is not to improve sport by switching players around, from club to club, or from community to community, but rather to haul in money through the sale of players in an effort to win trophies, or simply to field a good, competitive team for the satisfaction of winning and to make more money.
It is a simple matter. If I cannot produce a good player, I can go and buy one, and if I am not satisfied, I can go out and buy another.
It is much easier than attempting to produce a good player. It is easier, and much cheaper, to find a good scout, or a not so good scout, to find a player.
The franchise system is a money system, even though it has left many a club, even the biggest of them, deep in debt and living close to the bank despite the appearance of affluence.
The clubs, particularly the European football clubs, are becoming more and more, and day by day, properties of American, Chinese, and Russian billionaires.
Some may say that sport today is business, and that it is just a part of modern-day business.
That may be so. In the West Indies, however, in West Indies cricket, the franchise system must be different, and it must be different if only for reason.
The franchise is used for club-to-club transactions and not for country-to-country transactions. In other words, it is used at the level below international representation, thus making it a good system for countries like England, Australia, India, and South Africa, for countries like the USA, Jamaica, and Barbados, and places like that.
The West Indies, however, and West Indies cricket, therefore, are unique.
The West Indies is made up of 12 sovereign countries, 12 independent countries, and of countries with their own governments, their own constitutions, their own money, their own national anthems, and their own flags, etcetera.
And not one of these governments, at least not to my knowledge, has given anyone the authority to fiddle with the constitution of their country by making a citizen of another country a citizen of their country for the purposes of cricket.
Neither have they given them the authority to sell off one of their players to another country, and only for cricket at that.
Once upon a time, when the West Indies were the best in the world at cricket, their cricketers all played for their respective countries, and they played well. The competition was good, and those countries which were not so good tried to develop themselves until they themselves became good.
Those days, the players were good, and the countries won and lost matches and tournaments. When they won tournaments, the countries celebrated, and when they lost, the countries looked around, built again, and tried to come again.
GOOD PLAYERS COME BACK
The good players always came back, however, and they came back through players like Michael Holding, Jeffrey Dujon, Courtney Walsh, Patrick Patterson, James Adams, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Fidel Edwards, Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Ian Bishop, Richie Richardson and Curtley Ambrose, and many more before them.
The West Indian islands have always produced good players, and the players always, or most times, won titles.
When Jamaica take to the field in March in their bid for the regional title, they will do so without some of their top players, without Gayle, Samuels, and Russell, and they will do so definitely without Nkrumah Bonner and Sheldon Cottrell.
Win or lose, it will not be the same to me. I am a West Indian, and I love West Indies cricket. But I am a Jamaican-West Indian. Jamaica is the land of my birth.
As Chris Gayle said recently, however, and apparently quite easily and with a smile on his face, "This is franchise cricket," the four words that cover up everything else, some quite understandable (family), some understandable (money), and some not so understandable (money, and more money).
In today's world, in the mad rush for money, and more money, the four words, "this is franchise cricket", trump loyalty, and sacrifice (even for those who would not any longer have to make the sacrifice).
The cricketers go wherever they want to go, so, too, do the nurses, the teachers, and whoever wants to do so, and thank God, they are free so to do.
To Carlos Brathwaite, however, for his commitment to Barbados and West Indies cricket, for leaving the Sydney Thunder and the Australian Big Bash and for deciding to play, after his brilliant last-minute blast of four consecutive sixes, carried the West Indies to victory in last year's ICC World T20 Championship and pushed him to the top of the world's "most wanted" list, for Barbados and the West Indies in the region's Super50 tournament, well done and good luck.
That's a good example, a perfect example, and one that brings new hope for West Indies cricket.