Bridgetown, Barbados, August 16 - (www.bcacricket.org) - The following appeared in the online newspaper, Barbados Today, in my weekly column on Friday, August 14:
As we said farewell today (August 14) to the former Barbados Prime Minister, Professor The Right Honourable Owen Seymour Arthur, it is most fitting from a cricketing perspective to share a touching address, which he delivered at the first quarterly meeting of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) "Enhancing the Legacy”, just over four years and four months ago.
Arthur spoke on the topic "Cricket has a Strategic Role in Barbados' development as a society" at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on April 7, 2016.
His address came at a period when there was great joy among West Indian cricket fans. Four days earlier, West Indies men’s team, under the captaincy of St. Lucian Daren Sammy, had captured the ICC World Twenty20 Cup for the second time, beating England by four wickets with two balls remaining in the Final at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India.
That triumph will always be remembered for four consecutive sixes, which Barbadian all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite clobbered off pacer Ben Stokes in the very last over when 19 runs were required. Brathwaite scored 34 not out off only ten balls.
Brathwaite also took three for 23 off four overs.
With Player Of The Match, Jamaican Marlon Samuels, who made an unbeaten 85 off 66 balls with nine fours and two sixes, Brathwaite featured in a breath-taking partnership of 54 off only 25 balls.
Hours earlier at the same venue, West Indies Women had captured the Women’s World T20 title, defeating Australia Women by eight wickets with three balls to spare.
And mind you, another Barbadian, Hayley Matthews, starred in the Final. Matthews scored 66 off 45 balls with six fours and three sixes to earn the Player Of The Match award.
On February 14 the same year, West Indies Under-19s had set the stage for glory, overcoming India by five wickets with three balls remaining in the 50-over Final at Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
So touched were those in the audience by Arthur’s address that many of them surrounded him at the end, expressing their appreciation.
Following is Arthur’s address:
You must allow me to begin by observing the proper spirit and to join the rest of the Caribbean in offering congratulations and gratitude to our three World Champions Teams on their splendid victories.
It was a moment in time when the people of the Caribbean soared as one on the wings of pride.
It was a feeling that has done more than anything in recent memory to lift the spirits of a whole people.
It was a feeling that we would love to get accustomed to.
Had circumstances been different, I would be addressing you this evening, as of right, as a former West Indies cricketer, rather than by reason of office as a former Prime Minister.
Growing up in Barbados, my highest ambition was to be a West Indies opening batsman.
Indeed, I have often said that had the choice ever realistically been open to me I would have preferred to be a West Indian cricketer rather than a Prime Minister.
For me, it was, however, a case of ambition not buttressed by the relevant skills nor trades.
So since I could not ascend to Test cricket, I descended into politics.
I am very conscious of the fact that I address you this evening at a time when our nation is celebrating Fifty years of Independence.
As such, it is very important that the significance of our nation’s achievement in cricket is given its rightful place in the celebration of Barbados’ post-independence development.
It is especially important that the legacy associated with Barbados’ achievements in cricket is clearly defined and is further enhanced as one of the means by which this nation can be inspired to reach for higher heights.
Let us spare a moment to establish context by reflecting on some of the other things that Barbados has managed to achieve during its fifty years as an independent nation.
Pride of place must go to its attainment, in 2007, of the designation as the world’s smallest developed nation on the strength of the quality of life it had managed to afford its people.
In addition, a society which made its living on a 200,000 ton sugar industry in 1966 has managed, against the odds, to build a highly diversified and sophisticated economy that has been held up as one for other small states to emulate.
In the process a strong middle-class, empowered by access to educational and economic opportunity, has emerged as the sturdy backbone of post-independence Barbados, and is a significant national development.
In addition, a physical transformation of the rural society has taken place here and it also stands out as a major post-independence accomplishment.
Barbados’ assertion of its judicial independence by its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Appeal has also been an accomplishment, since it was an action which reflected its confidence in its standing as an independent country.
Our country has also stood out as a model of good governance among the family of nations. It is one of the few nations in the Commonwealth whose elections do not have to be supervised by observers; where the independence of the judiciary has been totally respected; where a robust civil society has evolved and is now playing an enlarged role in national development.
These are all major accomplishments, which are worthy of being celebrated this year.
But in relative terms they pale by comparison to the Barbadian cricketing heritage as representations of Barbadian accomplishment.
This is because cricket is the only field of endeavour in which Barbados has reached, set and often exceeded global standards of excellence.
Indeed the strategic place it has occupied in Barbados’ development, and the processes by which excellence in cricket has been attained have caused it to play a central transformational role in the creation of a modern Barbados.
I deal with each in turn, beginning with the strategic role of cricket in Barbados’ development as a society.
In 1950 when the West Indies cricket team defeated the English cricket team at Lord’s, the victory was celebrated by Learie Constantine not just in cricketing terms.
He saw it as “The End of Empire”.
By the same token, Barbados’ claim to independence was validated by the exploits of its cricketers on the fields of England.
For while Errol Barrow and the rest of the Barbadian delegation were negotiating the terms of Barbados’ Independence from Britain, a West Indies cricket team led by Garry Sobers and including seven Barbadians were completely dominating England at cricket.
It was a statement of confidence and competence which clearly proclaimed to the world that the country which was about to become the world’s smallest independent nation could both master its affairs and exhibit high levels of global excellence in so doing.
That is the legacy we have inherited.
It is the legacy we must now enrich.
For attaining and maintaining excellence by global standards in all of its affairs is the only sure means by which a small society can be assured of successful development.
The process by which Barbadian excellence at cricket has been achieved is also a critical part of the Legacy, which must be drawn upon in our wider developmental efforts.
For it can truly be said that success at cricket in Barbados has been the product of a total national effort, involving the schools, communities, corporate institutions, and national institutions created for the purpose.
It is not possible to discern a similar combined effort across so many institutional forms in any other sphere of national life in this country.
It is therefore an important part of the legacy of cricket that must be built upon for the future, not only for the sake of the development of the game in a narrow sense, but also for the wider development of the society in the grand scheme of things.
The transformation of a society is also profoundly affected by the icons and symbols it adopts to inspire human endeavour.
In 1963 Ernest Eytle wrote a biography of Frank Worrell in which Worrell offered an opinion after each chapter.
He declared in one of those contributions:
“Barbados has one exceptional feature. It is the only territory in the world without a local hero. This obtains in all aspects of life…
What is the future of a country without heroes?”
We are all aware of the defects in the workings of the pre-independence society, which prompted such a dismal outpouring from Sir Frank.
But we can draw comfort from the fact that the country has come to embrace its heroes. And among these, our cricketers hold both a formal and transcendental place in the pantheon, including Sir Frank.
By their exploits at the global level, our cricketers have contributed massively to the development of the society by helping to generate a pride in our identity as a people.
We feel that pride and exult when our cricketers excel at the global level.
They perhaps more than any other group show the world what our people are capable of.
So it is an important part of the legacy that must be carefully nurtured.
But the danger signs are there.
For, as Sir Hilary Beckles has observed with a great tinge of sorrow:
“West Indies cricketers now see themselves as individuals who wish to be identified as professional craftsmen with no primary responsibility for the wider socio-political agenda …
They do not wish to be the role models for the youth, nor carry the burden of responsibility for nationalist pride.
They see themselves as a political, transnational, global professionals who desire to maximize financial earnings within an attractive market, and are motivated and guided by no other considerations.”
To enrich the legacy, a careful balance has to be struck to enable the cricketers to make a good living from their short chosen professions while continuing to be the icons whose exploits can inspire others to reach for higher heights.
It is as important a part of the development of the sport as any other endeavour to be undertaken in the field.
And what does the future hold for Barbadian cricket?
It cannot be gainsaid that Barbados’ cricket is going through a period of resurgence. West Indies has won three (3) World Cups in this year 2016 and in each case, Barbadians have featured in all of the winning performances throughout the tournaments at all levels: Youth Under-19, Women T20 and Men T20.
Barbados cricket is in a good shape today largely because of the resources made available to the BCA to implement the late Lindsay Holder’s 5-Year Development Plan. This 5-year plan started in 2007-08 and saw the creation of the Everton Weekes Centre of Excellence for all age groups (men and women), paid retainer contracts (men and women from 2011); paid coaches for the Elite and Division 1 Clubs and coaching courses for scores of local coaches who now have WICB Certification.
The funding for these development initiatives has come from the BCA lottery revenue.
But much more can be done.
In order to further enhance the legacy, we need a holistic approach to the development of sports, with particular attention being paid to capacity building in sports administration.
It is now accepted that high-level performance in sport at the international level has a strong correlation with high quality management of sport. If we are to create more high-level performers in cricket, then there is a need to embrace a culture of professionalism and business acumen in cricketers and administrators alike as the two must be evenly yoked.
Cricket administration also has to modernize its affairs and in doing be more supportive of the natural nurseries of our cricket at the level of schools and communities.
Above all the development of cricket must be seen in the same light as the development of any other commercial enterprise.
Developing a commercially viable cricket enterprise will attract commercial sponsorship if businesses can see the immediate rate of return and have the satisfaction of seeing their brand being associated with high-class performers.
Above all the business development model of the BCA has to have at its core the capacity to bring high-class performers to the world stage and to do so in a sustained and sustainable way.
On a matter that combines both symbolism and pragmatism, I wish to use this occasion to say a few words about the Legends of Barbados project.
The Legends of Barbados brand was created to be one of the permanent legacies from the hosting of the 2007 World Cup in Barbados.
It was conceived to be a physical expression of the nation’s appreciation of the contribution and achievements of its cricketers.
At a more practical level it was intended to create an investment that was meant to generate a permanent stream of income for the former Test players who qualify as the Legends of Barbados.
To facilitate this, the Government of Barbados made a substantial investment in the redevelopment of the former Herbert House property at Fontabelle as the Home of the Legends.
In addition, the Legends of Barbados investment was conferred a status not made available to any other commercial enterprise in Barbados. It has been granted freedom from the payment of duties and taxes on its operations and income in perpetuity.
Thus endowed, it was envisioned that the development at Fontabelle would be sequentially built out to become one of the principal attractions and enterprises in Barbados, befitting the title it has been made to assume.
That has not happened to the extent envisioned nor to the extent required to enable the Legends of Barbados to make an appreciable contribution to the wellbeing of the former Test Players of Barbados.
To enrich the Legacy, that needs to be rectified.
The BCA now has a substantial holding of Treasury Bills as part of the investments it has made to generate income to support its development.
It needs to make a substantial investment into the Legends of Barbados Project to build upon the initial capital investment and the concessions provided by the Government, and to enable the venture to fully realize the enormous potential it possesses to enrich the livelihoods of Barbados’ former Test Players.
If but one practical result emerges from my presence here this evening, it would be that the Legends investment should be adopted by the BCA in a manner that enables it to have a greater impact on the welfare of our former Test Cricketers than is the case at present.
It would be, of course, impossible to speak on an occasion and to a theme such as this without reflecting on the development of cricket in Barbados within the context of the development of West Indies cricket in general.
It is not very difficult to see how or why all of the circumstances surrounding the governance and development of West Indies cricket need substantially to be reordered and improved to restore the Caribbean game to its former glory within the family of cricketing nations.
Conflict and confusion at all levels and between all entities seem now to be the chief indigenous stroke being played in relation to Caribbean cricket.
I have no interest in adding to the controversies this evening.
Indeed, I have by prior statement urged that all concerned with the management and development of West Indies cricket declare a moratorium on controversy so that the focus can come to be placed on the things that will advance the development of the game in the region.
In this regard, it would seem vital that the West Indies Cricket Board and the Prime Ministerial Committee on cricket find and hold common ground on which to locate their interaction.
It is to be envisioned that Prime Ministers of the Caribbean are so engrossed with trying to manage their domestic affairs that they can see no point nor advantage in trying to assume responsibility for running Caribbean cricket.
For its part, the West Indies Cricket Board should recognize that the respective Governments have an important role to play in fostering the development of the game in their jurisdictions without which the game at the regional level will wither on the vine.
Finding common ground on developmental matters is the place where the two sets of entities need to locate their efforts.
Once this is accepted, it will become clear to both sides that the sustained and sustainable development of West Indies cricket cannot take place without access to a reliable and sustainable source of funds.
This is the common ground on which a joint effort is required.
A start to raise sustained resources has been proposed. For at its meeting in December 2015, the West Indies Cricket Board agreed to the creation of a West Indies Cricket Trust.
Such a Trust is to oversee a Fund specifically designed to ensure that they are dedicated funding streams for the development of cricket in the region.
The funding streams would serve:
1. The Kiddies Cricket Programme;
2. The Schools and Clubs Programmes across the Region;
3. Age Group and Women’s Tournaments; and
4. National and Franchise Academy Programmes to ensure the best young players graduate to first-class cricket from schools to clubs.
These programmes are intended to be gender neutral.
The Board has invited me to Chair the Board of Trustees to oversee the creation and operations of such a Fund and I have agreed to do so.
Extensive discussions have already been engaged in to set out a framework as to how the Trust would raise its funds.
It obviously can only do so if it is in a position to raise funds in the respective jurisdictions, which serve West Indies cricket.
Ideally, an initiative to create a Trust Fund to finance the development of West Indies Cricket must be one that enjoys the complete support of the West Indies Cricket Board and the Prime Ministerial Committee on cricket.
I have discussed the matter with Prime Minister Mitchell and the President of the Board.
I have expressed to them that such an initiative cannot be successfully executed if there is an atmosphere of acrimony between the Board and the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee.
Further action on the matter has therefore been put on pause pending a happy resolution of the issues that are bedevilling the relationship between the Board and the Prime Ministerial Group.
I do believe in happy endings.
Sometime in January 2002, I had occasion to write the BCA a letter expressing my strong outrage at the manner in which an action by an agent of the Association had offended the office of the Prime Minister of Barbados.
I ended that letter by the declaration that “I shall not find it possible to attend any function of the Barbados Cricket Association in the capacity of a member of the BCA, nor in any other capacity.”
But I am here with you this evening having famously declared in the interval that the Government of Barbados was prepared to move heaven and earth to ensure that our hosting of the 2007 World Cup would be the success that we all wanted it to be.
So all things are possible.
You must therefore allow me to close to capture the way in which the legacy of Barbados’ cricket must be enriched and what it must lead to, by citing a statement by William Allen White:
“Everyone expects to go further than his father went;
Everyone expects to be better than he was born;
And every generation has but one big impulse in its heart;
- To exceed all the other generations of the past in all the things that make life worth living.”
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com