By Orville Higgins
In a way, it was inevitable that it would become a public spat. Those of us who follow local cricket closely knew about it from a few years back. We knew that Marlon Samuels did not see eye to eye with several of his Jamaica teammates. The row between himself and Nikita Miller has been the hot sports topic of the week, but the truth is that the frosty relationship that exists between them extends further, to include other members of the squad.
Where it began, nobody seems to be sure. Many insiders claim that it began when the senior West Indies team members decided to withdraw their services when the Bangladeshis were here a few years ago. This was to force the board to respond positively to a legion of complaints they had at the time.
The West Indies Cricket Board then selected what was effectively a third-string team. Nikita was on that team, and the hard truth is that there are some members of the senior Windies who were not happy with those who chose to play. Talk of 'Judas' and 'sell-out' was bandied about.
There was also a game at Chedwin Park, again going back a few years, between Melbourne and St Catherine - which was a complete farce - with both teams not playing in the right spirit as a sort of silent protest over some decision made in favour of eventual winners Manchester at the time. Miller was banned for one game by his club Melbourne, and that incident could have also led to some bad blood.
TEAM WITHIN A TEAM
Whatever the reason, it is a fact, as Marlon so correctly puts it, that there was "a team within a team". A group loyal to Nikita Miller apparently calling themselves the 'Croc' crew (hope I got the spelling right) were at daggers drawn with Samuels, who also had people within the team supporting him, including his cousin and dear friend, Carlton Baugh Jr.
The rift was so wide that it spilled over (or maybe started) at the club level. Both Marlon and Nikita play for Melbourne in local competitions, and there was a stretch where Miller wasn't turning up for Melbourne while Marlon was playing. Nikita claims he was injured - and I have no evidence to the contrary - but Marlon and those in his corner were not convinced, especially as, during some of those same times, Nikita was seen at national training sessions.
The mystery is that, despite the huge divide, not only between two people, but morphing into almost two factions, the Jamaican team has continued to do well. We are five-time defending four-day champions. We are also defending one-day champions, and have been to two T20 finals at a time when the stand-off was well and truly on.
The Jamaica management has been relatively quiet about it. Former president Paul Campbell did say he thought there were two Jamaican teams on the field in one tournament in those days, but couldn't act, although it appeared he wanted to, because the reports from those who mattered steered clear from it. The management and coaching staff apparently took the position that while the team was doing well, they were not prepared to rock the boat. It's a position with which I have some sympathy.
GAUNTLET THROWN DOWN
Now the brouhaha has had full media play. Marlon says Nikita is a perennial complainer who is getting ahead of himself, while Nikita feels he has done no wrong and is at a loss as to why he has earned the ire of his Melbourne teammate. The gauntlet has been thrown down, and many fear the implications could hurt Jamaica's cricket in the near future.
I disagree. First, this thing has been going on for a while, and it hasn't impacted Jamaica's cricket negatively, certainly not on the field. It's unlikely that it would do so now, when the public has become aware of it, and both parties will be keen to put on a show.
Second, I know both men well, and whatever else they may be, they are two proud professionals who always want to give their best. Besides, deep down, I feel that the two are not as far away from an amicable solution as it may appear. Like every family, there is the occasional squabble, but I feel this one will die a natural death now that both sides have publicly had their say. Sometimes that's all that needs to happen.
Orville Higgins is a sportscaster. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.