By Basil Springer

“Although the science of epidemiology began with the investigation of the infectious disease outbreaks, the modern plagues of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and injuries are also considered by the modern epidemiologist…Epidemiology comprises the research methods which identify and isolate the underlying causes of disease and injury as well as health” – Definition used by the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in Southern California -

As if the intensity of the 2004 hurricane season, recent persistent rainfall, continuing earthquake tremors, complacency about the diversification of the agricultural sector, failure to aggressively embrace renewable energy as a sunrise industry and the challenge of the formal advent of CSME were not enough, we are now faced with a widespread disease which is affecting many West Indians at home and in the global Diaspora. Will we, in the Caribbean, ever make any sustainable progress?

The disease is cricket flu and is caused by ‘chaotic governance’ (where governance is defined as the effective management of relationships). The population susceptible to this disease comprises W.I. cricket loving fans around the world. The symptoms of the disease, although not yet apparent as a change in bodily function, manifest themselves as depressive disorder. Given the global interest in the impending 2007 World Cup, cricket flu has the potential to exceed the bounds of an epidemic and could reach pandemic proportions.

The primary stakeholders in W.I. cricket are the board, the players (who are international stars providing a service, not just mere employees), the sponsors, the cricket loving public (the customers) and the media.
The board is the current custodian of the brand ‘W.I. cricket’ which has been established, notwithstanding the recent lack of success of the W.I. team, as the most exciting brand of cricket that there is. This is supported by the statistics of TV sponsorship. It is, like W.I. Sea Island cotton, a unique regional economic asset to be cherished, protected and exploited for the benefit of the people of the region.

The players have built the brand value on providing a positive experience for their customers. Dr. Suzuki, at the recent Central Bank of Barbados Sir Winston Scott memorial lecture, addressed the question “The Economy or the Environment - What is the Bottom Line?” He concluded that the environment should not be perceived as an externality to the bottom line. In fact, factors in the environment contribute more to sustainable development than do factors of the economy. The analogy to W.I. cricket is that even though the brand value contributes to economic success and hence must be maintained, the success of the team on the field directly and indirectly contributes to the socio-economic well being of the people in the region.

The actions of sponsors, in their own long-term interest, should be compliant with the best long-term interest of W.I. cricket survival and success. I have said before that, given the present structure of W.I cricket, the average W.I. cricket supporter is disenfranchised, in the sense that he or she has no vote as to whom is appointed to the W.I. board.

The media are not proactive and aggressive enough in informing the general public about issues. They mainly report after the fact, which is a no-brainer.

When W.I. cricket wins we all win. As a layman, the present impasse between the W.I. board and the players’ association has not been guided by the principle that W.I. cricket must be the winner. Stakeholder egos seemed to have got in the way and then Prime Ministers have to spend their precious time exercising the influence of their position in the interest of the region.

An epidemiologist is concerned about preventive physical and mental health in the human population. In order for cricket to thrive as an industry, it seems as though the West Indies cricket board, in addition to a coach, manager, physiotherapist and the like, needs to recruit a consultant epidemiologist before we end up with a major disaster on our hands.

My ‘a priori’ position is that the recommended preventive and curative programme for cricket flu is the practice of the smart partnership philosophy among the stakeholders in WI cricket. The ten factors that are necessary for a smart partnership are a shared vision, cultural diversity, a code of ethics, trust, longevity, networks, transparency, equity, fair play and values. If one or more of these factors are weak then it will frustrate the attempt at a smart partnership. It will be interesting to review what the consultant epidemiologist’s ‘a posteriori’ view would be after conducting research.

By the way, congratulations to our first born, Dr. Karen Springer, who received formal notification last week of her success in the MSc Programme in Epidemiology which she pursued over the last year at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is the first female epidemiologist and one of only two epidemiologists in Barbados. Maybe some of the research methods, with which she is now familiar, which identify and isolate the underlying causes of disease and injury as well as health, may be applied to address the W.I cricket pandemic so as to mitigate future disasters.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) -