Laurie Foster | Andre Russell and the Tallawahs
There appears to be a wind of discontent and discomfort swirling around the 2018 Caribbean Premier League. It is threatening to steal the action away from the fields of play and take it into the boardrooms.
Curiously, it came to light only after the Jamaica Tallawahs captain, Andre Russell, hit out against the playing of three of the team's five home matches in Florida. Supporters of the sport voiced their disagreement and disgust to this move on all public forums available to them. The quite legitimate claim, according to the hard-hitting batsman who also does fast bowling duties, was that the clear advantage of performing in front of our own people was lost. The fact that the Tallawahs did not win a single game at the North American venue has given Russell's thoughts added currency and credence.
Fans are further annoyed that it was the potentially more sought-after weekend encounters which were taken away from them. There were threats of a boycott of the local matches. Fortunately, this did not happen, as that type of action does not seem to be a part of Jamaican culture. Following the Russell outburst, the franchise owners stepped into the ring. What was revealed was amazing. It was explained for the first time that the Florida games were hatched from a policy that was all about maximising the holders' revenue take. They went as far as to say that they could take the games to any venue in the world to achieve their stated objectives. They also said that the Jamaican Government - confirmed subsequently during a radio interview by the sports minister - did not contribute a single cent to the 2018 staging. This could well have been their way of justifying the decision to play the games where they chose to.
There is nothing essentially wrong with the owners' response. Under the circumstances, it is believed to be their right. But, it also turned out that the skipper was not schooled on the inner workings of the business aspect of the series, and in the view of this columnist, could have led to his rant. Foster's Fairplay believes that a short brief to the captain would have prevented all these misunderstandings. Franchise holders should be very careful about what they give out and what they choose to keep close to their chest. In this case, the non-disclosure of highly relevant information has led to a certain amount of embarrassment to a few concerned parties.
It is difficult to believe that Russell would have hit out against the decision had he been made aware of the underlying factors related to the locations for the Tallawahs games.
In light of that, it should not be deemed just to come down too heavily on the captain. Cricketers are professionals and are expected to do what they are paid to do. This is utilising all their skills and strategies to perform to the best of their ability to win games and titles. It is not their business to delve into and comment publicly on matters which should be best settled at the conference table. The question of match locations and the reasons behind their choice is just one of them.
In querying the decision to set games in Florida, Russell mentioned the pressures on his team coming from not hearing any of the applause which usually accompanies outstanding plays like a wicket or a boundary. The deafening silence experienced was alien to that which the players expect during genuine home matches.
The franchise holders should be made to accept a large portion of the blame. It was inconsiderate and, in fact, uncaring of them, for Russell to be led blindfolded into a situation like this. He was left bereft of the tools required to give a proper response for the team's poor showing. Business people should be blessed with the vision and foresight to see these things before they actually happen and should arm their foot soldiers accordingly. This also applies to the Tallawahs' bosses. So what if Russell misspoke? He should not be blamed. He gave a natural reaction to being humbled by his opponents.
As the saying goes, he was given basket to carry water.