An interesting thing happened on the last day of a trial match to select the national under-19 team for the West Indies Youth Cricket Tournament of 1984.
Francis Perreira, an East Zone middle-order batsman contending for selection on the basis of prolific form in zonal competition, was at the crease at Gilbert Park in California when play was halted for a water break.
At that point one of the presiding umpires left the field to be replaced by a prominent South Zone official (now deceased), who within a matter of minutes of play resuming ruled Perreira out LBW.
A couple overs later the official returned to the pavilion to be replaced by the original official once more. You won’t be surprised to learn that Perreira did not make the squad.
Two years earlier I made it into the national squad in similarly dubious circumstances for the first match of the West Indies Youth Cricket Tournament, played here at home. On the same day that I was maintaining a tight line and taking one wicket in an economical spell of left-arm orthodox “straight-breaks” in a trial match at Presentation College in Chaguanas, David Hamilton was bowling South to victory over Central with a five-wicket haul on the last day of the zonal final at another venue (I can’t remember the location).
Apparently the East Zone lobby (that is another story I will have to find the time to tell on another occasion) prevailed over the South Zone faction as the leg-spinner didn’t make the cut for that first match against the Windward Islands, although he was rightfully selected for the remainder of the competition at my expense and was part of a squad including such notables as Phil Simmons, David Williams, Robin Singh and captain Shirvan Pragg (who died tragically in vehicular accident later in 1982) which successfully defended the regional title.
At least I made the squad for one match, if not the final 11. Fast bowler Tony Gray, my schoolmate from El Socorro Islamia who went on to play for the West Indies in a handful of Tests and a few One-Day Internationals from 1985 to 1991, didn’t make the squad at all for that opening match.
Since those experiences almost 40 years ago, nothing has transpired to alter my utter, complete and unapologetic disdain for cricket administration and most cricket administrators at all levels in this country.
So to see the latest controversy surrounding the replacement of Gray as chairman of the senior national selectors, Keno Mason after only one year on the panel and, apparently imminently, the non-retention of Mervyn Dillon as head coach -- notwithstanding Trinidad and Tobago’s best finish in the regional first-class competition for years -- is merely a continuation of a process of questionable decision-making going back decades, and obviously way before my own experiences.
This is therefore the standard state of play in local cricket. What is also standard is that none of the highlighting of these issues will change anything in the governance of the game here because the priority has never been the overall welfare of Trinidad and Tobago cricket, only the faction -- whether based on race, class or geography -- that each cricketing personality of any influence sees as his or her priority.
And just for the purposes of clarity, none of this implies that new chairman Rajendra Mangallie, Mahadeo Bodoe and new selector Richard Kelly are in any way incompetent. Those who automatically associate success as a player with success as a selector are just as blind and narrow-minded as the fanatics clamouring for their kind to get a pick.
No, this is about the alien concept of establishing, adhering to and respecting a process which, by the consensus of the stakeholders, is designed to maximise positive results while being transparent enough for decision-makers to be held accountable.
Oh, and please spare me any tales of your own experiences about how “dem fellas” is the worst, and how they do this to that person and how, if you give them a chance, they go leave out this whole group altogether. Or how so-and-so do such-and-such way back when and how they deserve the jammin’ they getting now.
Having grown up in the game, I am all too familiar with the North-South divide, the ethnic tensions which are nurtured by often-told tales and current examples of perceived discrimination, and the resentment towards the seeming know-it-all perspective of voices associated with the Queen’s Park Cricket Club (of which I have been a member since 1982).
At least there is commonality in ignoring the needs of Tobago. In this crabs-in-barrel environment confusion, indiscipline and injustice must reign. Anyone seeking to do the right thing for the sake of the national game cannot survive. Again, please don’t tell me your story. I have had enough.