Why Ramdin, Viv?

Like so many of us, my respected friend David Hinds is clearly a fan of West Indies cricket. But unlike most of us, David’s perspective on the goings-on seem a bit out of touch with the reality. A case in point is David’s take on Ramdin’s gesture re his note responding to Viv Richard’s criticism of him, a perspective that seeks to intellectualize and academize a gesture that was only about cricket and nothing more. The fact is that Ramdin was merely telling Viv that his century is an indication that Viv’s criticism was not totally accurate. But Ramdin was also expressing his hurt that Viv chose to publicly put him down in that manner when the legend could have spoken to Ramdin in private, as a real mentor would choose to do.
Was Ramdin wrong to ‘get back’ at Viv? As sports writer Garth Wattley recently pointed out “Remember, before Ramdin, there was Chris Gayle, who got his own back at his coach, Ottis Gibson, and the West Indies Cricket Board CEO, Ernest Hilaire, on public radio.” Gayle lost over a year in international cricket as a result but the avalanche of criticism that accompanied Ramdin’s gesture was never directed at Gayle. And, as has been pointed out by many, Ramdin was also exercising his right to freedom of speech, in the same manner that Viv had exercised his right, although one might concede that Ramdin’s verbal message could have been differently constructed.
Now had David truly wanted to contextualize Ramdin’s gesture with relevance he could simply have done so with respect to cricket per se. To begin with Ramdin’s gesture was reflective of a culture fostered by the current West Indies cricket administration of employing an over abundance of media – print, audio and video – in inverse ratio to the actual performance of the team. Thus each time a player performs beyond the average, the WICB’s bloated media/communications unit goes overboard and we end with a message that seems to say the team is on the right track, victory is around the corner and the boys are doing great. And so Ramdin was merely displaying that fostered characteristic whereby the talk does not only, not match the walk, but has come to replace the walk.
Hand in hand with this culture of words replacing action, is the intrinsic message that mediocrity is acceptable and when the occasional excellence is displayed the world should be emphatically told about it. And so amidst his display of mediocrity a la the rest of the team, Ramdin’s moment of excellence was emphatically told to the world in a manner not to be easily forgotten.
In a sense however, one can understand David’s analysis given that this intellectualizing and academizing of West Indies cricket has been the benchmark of no less a personage than Dr Hilary Beckles, principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, apologist par excellence for the old boys’ network that is the WICB and a man who has come under a flood of criticisms for stated positions on West Indies cricket and cricketers that conflict with reality. In fact, Beckles, in a sense, is one of the intellectual authors of the culture that currently pervades West Indies cricket – one in which stars/senior players must either kowtow to powers that be or face the risk of being sidelined; players must be ‘yes’ men to an all-powerful coach, who, along with the captain talks about a new ethic, which as it turns out is not one of burning desire to win but simply to compete; one in which balance and fostering of individual potential is subjugated to the a ‘fitness regime’ that ironically sees players breaking down regularly.
Incidentally while the general consensus that Ramdin’s message indicated disrespect to the legend Viv, it seems that many have forgotten that it was this same Vivian Richards who disrespected an entire ethnic group, when, as captain of the West Indies, he referred to the West Indies team as a black team, thereby consigning the contributions of a host of brilliant players to the dustbin – Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kalicharran, Faoud Bacchus, Sunny Ramadhin, Shivnarine Chanderpaul Ronnie Sarwan, et al. Ironically, Viv had a relationship with Indian actress Neena Gupta with whom he has a daughter, Masaba.
Now while some may argue that Viv meant a team without white players, no one really believes this line because it was also generally known exactly what Viv meant with a reference to a region in which the two major ethnic groups are blacks and Indians. And so when one juxtaposes Ramdin’s note alongside Viv’s words of decades ago Ramdin’s gesture pales into comparison. Thus one is forced to ask this question: ‘had the player (Ramdin) been black instead of Indian would there have been such a furious fallout?” And a further question would be: ‘Why Ramdin? Why not any other member of the current team or any other cricketer whose record does not indicate a flowering of his true potential?’ God knows there are an abundance of such cricketers in the team or on its fringes.
In effect the response to Ramdin’s gesture reflects another characteristic of the WICB and by extension West Indies cricket– different strokes for different folks. This is best exemplified by comparing the Gayle and Sarwan saga. Both Gayle and Sarwan were unfairly dumped by the selectors. However, the overwhelming response to Gayle’s plight forced the board to bring back Gayle, but Sarwan’s plight has elicited barely a murmur. Even if we accept that Sarwan was unfit (some have argued that his victimization was more a response to his involvement with the militant players association, WIPA), his current showing in English county cricket clearly indicates that his fitness is no longer an issue. At the same time he has publicly spoken about the mental and psychological agony resulting from the treatment meted out to him by the WICB, and especially the unwarranted words of Otis Gibson, the West Indies coach. To date there has been no furor over the disrespect implicit in Gibson’s words towards one of the current stars of West Indies cricket nor has there been a groundswell of support for Sarwan or a reverberating echo for his recall. Besides we cannot forget that the rock of West Indies cricket, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who was also dissed by the coach and unceremoniously dropped by selectors, only won his spot back after he was championed by the former Guyanese president, Bharat Jagdeo and, as well, had threatened to sue the board.
And thereby lies a historical narrative if any can be propounded. It is this narrative of doublespeak and unfairness that has seeped into the very sinews of our cricket, spawning a culture of mediocrity best symbolized by a captain whose appointment had nothing to do with potential, merit or track record, and who, in spite of clearly displaying that he is out of depth as a test cricket captain, is still being championed by the likes of Professor Beckles and sadly, my good friend David Hinds.


About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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