Between 2005 and 2007, Jamaica spent more than Ja$3.0 billion to raise up the Trelawny facility and to rehabilitate Sabina Park in preparation for hosting matches for the then ICC 2007 Cricket World Cup. From my perspective, it was never a wise investment (business-wise) but the arguments presented at the time alluded to the importance of providing cricketing/sporting infrastructure to benefit the population as well as supporting the Regional institution that is West Indies Cricket.
In fairness to the authors of the decision at the time, Jamaica’s role in the development of the regional game has been seminal and worth preserving. After all, Jamaica gave the game, the likes of George Headley, Allan F. Rae, JK. Holt, Jackie Hendricks, Easton McMorris, Maurice Foster, Jeffrey Dujon, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Jimmy Adams, Chris Gayle, among so many others too numerous to mention. Theirs has been an incredible legacy and for the generations yet unborn, this ought to not only be cherished and protected, but every opportunity used to promote the development of sport. Having said that, it begs the question of what price is too much to pay for our history?
Proposed Grassroots cricket-fix a political fantasy
Jamaica’s decision not to bid for participation as one of the host countries in next year’s 2024 World Cup immediately comes to mind. According to Sports Minister Babsy Grange, the decision stemmed from an apparent cost/benefit analysis that determined that Jamaica’s participation was infeasible. Grange said that after consulting the stakeholders, it was decided that the best course of action was for Jamaica to invest in cricket at the grass-roots level instead. To that end, she continued, the government plans on investing J$ 100 million in the development of youth cricket and cricket in schools over the next five years to “fix West Indies cricket.”
Really Minister Grange? To the unschooled, this may appear as perhaps, a nice-sounding idea, but promising to spend this paltry sum on development of the game at the grass roots level is nothing but a “crock-pot of crap.” The proposed budget translates to Ja$20 million per year across the island’s 4,400 square miles, or Ja$1.42 million per parish. Keep in mind that given the exchange rate of the Jamaican dollar the amount translates to a paltry US$9,200.00 per parish, a value that is certain to continue to depreciate over the proposed five years given our sliding exchange rate.
Missing the bigger picture
Jamaicans, I believe, ought to look at this announcement against the background of the granting of more than Ja $1 billion per annum in pay increases to the gaggle of politicians who for the most part could barely justify the pay and other emollients they had been receiving prior. According to the Minister, the projected Ja$450 million to host matches in Jamaica has been deemed excessive. It would be well worth knowing that this claim of excessiveness is in relation to what? The current administration has a history of finding money to do whatever it deems important. The salary payment issue immediately comes to mind. When converted to US currency, this amount is less than US$3 million. That the government is claiming a need to have a positive return on investment runs contrary to policy formulation and implementation. Their job, one would believe, ought to have been to create the environment within which international sporting events of this nature will find Jamaica as a favorable location. Given the island’s Tourism record, this event is a magnet for cricket-loving tourists coming in from India and North America. Further, in an Era of internet technology, the transmission of games from Sabina Park would spread images of the island across multiple tourist destinations around the globe. In addition, the invisible Tourism advertising benefits to the island from televising the games, the opportunities for hotels, air-b-and-b, restaurants, and just simple itinerant vending opportunities for the informal traders over the period, tells me that this is another decision made by people who are out of touch with Jamaica’s realities.
Babsy Grange’s unrealistic conflation
It is beyond dispute that the current state of West Indies Cricket may not in itself provide much encouragement for any serious capital investment. I get it, but the game, its history, and its value in shaping Caribbean society is incalculable. Babsy Grange’s proposed US$9,200.00 expenditure is the price-tag that Jamaica’s Ministry of Sports has placed on the value of the only sport in the Caribbean archipelago that has helped Caribbean unity for more than 100 years. More so, this sport, despite the regional team’s faltering, still provides an incubator for dozens of Jamaican cricketers who ply their skills in various formats of the game played in venues around the world. Essentially, this is the Jamaican government thumbing its nose at regional unity while extricating itself from any participatory role in the regional game.
Earlier in this piece, I named several Jamaican personalities who not only shaped Jamaica’s but also West Indies Cricket legacy. As a Nation, our political leaders have a responsibility to its people to defend the legacy of its heroes. We depend on their wisdom and foresight to be able to not only see the biggest picture but also to articulate it. Surely, such a picture is incomplete when the understanding of the value of cricket to the ethos of being Jamaican and West Indian, is lost on the island’s political leadership.
It was the great Trinidad writer CLR James who once said, “What do they know about Cricket that Cricket only knows….” He and his contemporaries must now be turning in their graves.
About the Author
Richard Hugh Blackford is the host of a 2-hour music-driven internet show Sunday Scoops on yaawdmedia.com each Sunday from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. The show focuses on Foundation Jamaican Music and takes its audience on a nostalgic but historical musical journey, peeling back the years of Jamaican musical development as the hosts explore the careers of Jamaican artistes. Sunday Scoops provides interviews with personalities, and discussions on Jamaican music and other topical issues. The show is co-hosted by noted DJ Garth Hendricks.
Photo – Nick Ford