Out of the mouths of babes
By: Basil Springer

“I am always amazed at the things my children come up with, thought I would share some of the things they have taught me coming out of their tiny little mouths” -
To witness the first ball on the first day of a test match at Kensington Oval has always been a priority of mine and last Thursday was no exception. My wife and I were privileged to be guests of Guardian General Insurance with the compliments of General Manager, Mr. Johnny Jones.

It was a sporting occasion with a difference since, given the number of English supporters present in the ground, one was given to wonder whether this was a warm, sunny day at Kennington Oval, London, or whether it was, in fact, Kensington Oval. The presence of the visitors was underscored by the vocal energy which was continually present throughout the day’s proceedings, as if we were at a soccer match in England. Some of my colleagues in the box were very concerned about this diminished home crowd support advantage. The authorities had made statements which have led you to believe that the overseas visitors would certainly not have been the majority.

Undoubtedly, the Barbados Tourism Authority, the Governor of the Central Bank and the Minister of Finance would be very happy with the foreign exchange influx from 10,000 visitors over a relatively short period of time. Let us hope that the tourism authorities can leverage this and seek to get repeat visits and referrals from these guests so as to boost our tourism revenues on a continuing basis.

The day before, I met Tony Howard, the newly appointed Acting Manager of the West Indies Team, after a Rotary Lunch at Accra Hotel, where the West Indies Team was staying. I congratulated Tony on his appointment, wished him luck and he quickly responded, “Thank you. What we need is crowd support”. I am not sure how the imbalance in the distribution of supporters actually affected the performance of the West Indies batsmen on the opening day. There were pockets of hope but then there was the inevitable slump of the last 7 wickets which contributed much less than the cumulative average of the fallen batsmen would allow you to predict.
The test match environment is, for me, very much a social occasion. One annual interaction is usually with Lalu Vaswani and his wife, who happened to be one of the guests with us in the box. After dispensing with preliminary greetings, he announced, as any proud father would, the appearance of an article in the Nation Newspaper that day by his 11 year old son, Avi, entitled “School Boys Cricketing Equation”. So impressed was Roxanne Gibbs, the Executive Editor of the Nation, that she devoted her entire column, ‘Editor’s Diary’, to present Avi’s intelligent piece. It is well worth getting a copy of the Daily Nation on Thursday, April 01 to read it for yourself on page 9 or maybe you can access it on the Net.

When I read the article, it immediately appealed to me because of the sophistication of the statistical presentation and the revelation of a logical mind. For example, he observed that, “I like cricket not only because it is a game of such high endurance but also because it tests one’s level of skill, willpower and strategy in every aspect of the game.” He went on to say, “Cricket is also important in the Caribbean because it acts as a uniting force throughout the Islands” and then “If each player were to perform how they should with the bat (based on the average of their test career performances), the West Indies would reach about 312+ runs.” Of course, if the opposition bowling were well above average, or the atmospheric conditions favourable to bowlers, or the pitch was under-prepared, then the expected total from the West Indies could be somewhat less than 312 runs. However, in the five innings, including the first innings of the third test against England, their average was less than 200 per innings. Maybe, some of the conditions which would inhibit the team from achieving its historical average are present in this series, but I suspect that we have to look a little further for the reasons of the sustained poor batting performance.

We have a human resource management problem on our hands as far as the players are concerned. One hopes that Mr. Tony Howard, with his many years of experience leading a successful Barbados team, albeit in the regional arena, would be able to pull out some stops and, with what has been reported as his no-nonsense approach, induce a change for the better in terms of the performance of the West Indies team, which might then lead to a change in fortune.
My suggestion is that we get back to basics, as presented by Avinash Vaswani in his article, and I am sure that, even Mr. Howard, would be stimulated by the statistical splash ‘out of the mouth of a babe’.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) - )