April 2023 Volume 19

Closing the Loop

Ray Ford
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At times, we make grand announcements, and then after that, not a whisper can be heard. I do not want to be counted among those. And so here I am, back again.

It was back in January 2020 when I told our esteemed editor of my plans to run for the office of Cricket West Indies President


and I did. And so here I am to announce, that I finished the race

https://www.stvincenttimes.com/west-indies-cricket-a-muse-worth-revisiting-by-ray-ford/ .

Finishing races is important to me, because at KC, 'Billy' Miller was one of my idols. And he always ran through the tape and left the judging to the judges.

I don't know what got into me - probably something similar to running into a burning house without a fire-suit, to rescue a child. Sometimes, win-lose-or-draw, some things must be done.

These days, people weigh-up the chances of favorable outcomes. I didn't. Some people are dead scared of failure. I am not one of those. Besides, success almost always, never teaches lessons. Failures do. And I'm a student of and for, life. I like to learn.

Sometimes, suspicions are harbored, but never confirmed. And we generally fear confirmations, because they run cross-grained to what we want to continue believing. But, would I rather not die a fool? For sure. And so, run I did. It's no use being swallowed into the belly of the beast, spat-out through the tail, living to tell the tales, and then not tell them.

West Indies cricket is like a labyrinth of underground pipes, which I thought I knew, but did not know. And so: "What of cricket, did you think you knew (or so such a thing)?" asked C. L. R. James.

But nobody has ever been able to tell Ray Ford anything. Because, he like to give people and institutions, the benefit of the doubt. But in the end, my suspicion was confirmed - that I was an outsider, and pleaded my case, as such https://barbadostoday.bb/2022/11/11/btcolumn-west-indies-cricket-the-case-for-the-outsider/ . And being an outsider proved tons of fun.

How can an outsider be thrown out? Besides, it's much more fun being on the outside - stoning them with rotten meat, when compared to dining-in with them, on the same! Bone china has never impressed me all that much. Coal Stove in New Kingston, had always been good enough.

All that I wanted to say, I have already said. And so, as Vinnie Isaacs would say: "Let it soak!" But what a pleasure it was, 'drinking-juice' with Sobers!

"Do me a favor," many months ago Sir Gary asked. "Just call me Gary!" And every time I backslid into 'Sir Gary', he would remind me not to. What a man!

"I remind you of 'Collie' (Smith)?" I at one stage asked.

"You know, 'Collie' and I were like this," said the greatest of them all, crossing his two index fingers. At which I quickly pulled him back up. "These things do happen," was the only thing I could have said. And I said it.

"So why didn't you tell him that you were running for president?" Sir Wes (Hall) asked me the day after I had met with Sir Gary this past October. "Why draw Sobers into this?" I in-turn asked.

Spending an afternoon shooting the breeze with Sir Gary, was like spending time on an oasis - sequestered from the cut-n-thrust. And what did I learn?

To be genuinely interested in people - to make them feel bigger than they think of themselves.

These days, people hardly have time for people. But Sir Gary had time for me. And the topic of cricket hardly came up.

I thought it best not to bring up that Saturday back in February 1968 at Sabina Park

Everybody suspected that Sobers would be batting that day, and I was among those who piled in. From the overflow seating section just north of the Kingston Cricket Club pavilion, I heard the little green gate creak as he pushed it. I could even hear the pad-flaps slapping against his thighs. The collar was up, and so was the sun. Talk about the regal splendor of Test cricket! That was it. But one ball. And Sobers was out. Ducks tu raass! Sabina was numbed into stillness. How could this have been?

Not giving up on my hero, I came back to see him bat in the second innings. And in scoring a century, Sobers was brutal, and so, forgiven. But it was his bowling that more impressed. Loping uphill from the press-box end - my end - Sobers made the new ball sizzle. I wanted to bowl like him. But never could. He came in 'over'. I preferred 'round'.

But now it was time to moor - watch TV, muse at the world's problems, and sip a few beers. "One more?" Sir Gary asked after my third. "Just as cheap," I said with a shrug.

Ray Ford has never been known to refuse another beer. So why start at this stage in life? And who was I, to turn down another beer from Sir Gary, when beyond his gate, the barbarians laid in-wait?

Here what Garth Wattley writing in the Trinidad Daily Express had to say about Ray’s candidacy for president of West Indies Cricket:

The West Indies couldn’t win a second One-Day match against South Africa.

Disappointing as the four-wicket defeat yesterday would have been for those expecting a 2-0 series win rather than a 1-1 stalemate, yesterday’s outcome was really right in line with the way West Indies teams now play.

Inconsistent play, from inconsistent, ill-equipped players is now the WI cricket status quo. And in the Caribbean, we don’t like to mess with the status quo.

The experience of Ray Ford, who failed in his bid to become president of Cricket West Indies, was therefore highly predictable.

Ray, a writer on West Indies cricket of long standing, was a rank outsider. Not part of the territorial board establishment, or one with WI legend credentials, he didn’t even get on the ballot. So, with Billy Heaven declining to challenge Kishore Shallow for the presidency, Ricky Skerritt’s former vice-president will assume Cricket West Indies’ highest office by default, so to speak.

Ford may not have been the best man to take over the wheel of this listing vessel that is West Indies Cricket. But the cricket-loving public will never know for sure. The outsider was not given due consideration. It was as if a silent code kicked in with cricket people.

That is the sense one gets from some of Ray’s writings — as published in this newspaper — on his attempt to be considered.

Read him again: “My run to lead West Indies cricket began when during the WI-India Test match at Sabina Park in August 2019, I pushed back my ice cream chair and made the grand announcement, so unbearable was the sloven I was seeing below me. Not long after, I went upstairs to the TV/radio quarters got the ear of a former West Indies player and whispered, ‘Let’s team together and overthrow the thing!’

Twenty-nine years before when I was just getting out of business school, Jordan D. Lewis’s Partnerships for Profit had hit bookstores. And my thinking was to form a strategic alliance with a CWI insider or a former West Indies cricketer with currency, to shake the thing up. But alas, it was as if I was talking Greek. ‘I’ll soon be back,’ I remember the former West Indies cricketer sheepishly saying to me. But he never did return, to continue the conversation.

Right there and then, I knew that I was embarking on a journey virtually all by myself.”

He continues:

“On the morning of January 10, 2008 - the first day of a WI-SA Test at the Sahara Stadium in Durban, South Africa, and after a long overnight flight the day before, as soon as I arrived groggy-eyed in the press quarters, a Caribbean cricket commentator saw me and pounced. ‘Ray, join me on-air at lunch time,’ I remember him saying. The same thing happened to me at Kensington Oval last October when I turned up as a guest to watch the BCA Super Cup 50 Over Final that Sunday the 16th. How come these people were so keen to talk to me on-air, and yet during my campaign, none would say a word publicly, on my behalf? In fact, on the preceding Tuesday, I had spent all day preparing for what I thought was an agreed-upon radio interview. But during the program, my phone never rang. Would the host have stood-up Johnny Grave or Dominic Warne?”

One more from him: “I have a record of sending my interest in running for the post to a specific nominator – a CWI director. But yet a few weeks ago, when the said nominator was asked on-air, if he had received any other requests for consideration besides the one from Dr Kishore Shallow, he said no. And to me, that was a mischaracterisation of the truth. Also, on a Caribbean cricket radio programme of February 21 last, when a Guyana-based journalist mentioned my name, the host bolted from the mention, swifter than Usain Bolt could have.”

Taken all together, those anecdotes suggest either that some people didn’t see Ford’s bid as being of any merit, or that they did not want to be associated with a maverick.

I was glad to give Ray the space to have his say; to make his case for how he would try to revive the game in the region. Maybe his bold and sincere attempt would encourage more discourse about a different approach to how WI cricket is both approached and managed. He may motivate others to try.

Make no mistake though, history is showing us that the current set-up is failing the game, regardless of who sits in the hot seat at Coolidge.

However, I suspect the Ray Fords in WI cricket will continue to be kept out of the reckoning.

WI only want to bat a certain way, no matter how often WI keep losing.

So lose WI will.

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