IT is important that the legacy associated with Barbados’ achievement in cricket is clearly defined and further enhanced.
That was one of the standout statements of the Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur, former Prime Minister of Barbados, as he delivered his address to the audience at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre for the Barbados Cricket Association meeting.
He mentioned that because of the achievements of cricket, the nation can be inspired to reach higher heights.
Arthur gave the context of where Barbados’ cricket achievements stand as he said during the 50 years of the country’s Independence, we achieved in 2007 the world’s smallest developing nation status for the quality of life managed by its people. “A society which made its living on a 200 000-ton sugar industry in 1966, has managed against the odds to build a highly sophisticated society that has been held up for others to emulate.”
Along with pointing out the strong middle and the physical transformation, he also pointed to the juridical independence of Barbados as “its acceptance of Jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Appeal has been an accomplishment since it reflects our nation’s confidence in standing as an independent society”.
“It is one of the few nations in the Commonwealth whose elections do not have to be supervised by observers, where independent judiciary has been totally respected.”
Though these are major accomplishments, Arthur said that relatively, they pale by comparison with Barbados cricket.
“Cricket is the only field of endeavour in which Barbados has reached, has set and has often exceeded global standards of excellence.”
The strategic role of cricket was of such that while the late Right Excellent Errol Barrow and the rest of the Barbados delegation were negotiating the terms of Barbados’ independence, the West Indies cricket team led by Garfield Sobers and including several Barbadian cricketers were completely dominating the English at cricket.
“It was a statement of confidence and competence that the country, which was about to become the world’s smallest independent nation, could master its affairs and also exhibit high levels of global excellence.
“That is the legacy we have inherited and is the legacy we must now enrich.”
But the success at cricket in Barbados has been a product of the social and national communities as well as corporate institutions coming together for a single purpose.
“It is simply not possible to discern a similar combined national 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 on in the future.”
However, it was the words of Sir Frank Worrell that also led to some change as he said that, “Barbados has one exceptional feature – it is the only territory in the world without a local hero. That obtains in all aspects of life. What is the future of a country without heroes?”
However, since his statement, that has changed as the country has come to embrace our heroes. It is an important part of the legacy that must be carefully nurtured.
Arthur also quoted Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, who observed some danger signs as it relates to cricket and West Indies cricket.
“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 apolitical, transnational, global professionals, who desire to maintain financial earnings within an attractive market and are motivated and guided by no other considerations.”
Arthur stated that to enrich the legacy, a careful balance has to be struck. One which will enable the cricketers to make a living in their chosen profession, while continuing to be icons whose exploits can inspire others to reach for higher heights.
Barbados can help in this regard as they can look at development holistically, though they are in the period of resurgence.
According to Arthur, Barbados cricket is in good shape today largely because of a five-year plan which started in 2007 and among other things, saw the creation of the Sir Everton Weekes Centre of Excellence, paid coaches at the Elite and Division One Clubs, and coaching courses.
What he believes is needed now is a “holistic approach to the development of the sport, with particular attention being paid to the capacity building at the level of sports administration”.
“It has long been accepted that high level performance in sport at the international level has a high correlation with the high quality of management of sports and if you are to create more high level performance in cricket, then there is a need to embrace a culture of professionalism and business in cricketers and administrators alike as the two must be equally yoked.”