By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published June 1, 2015
Carlos Smith has been an insurance agent most of his life. He entered the field straight out of high school and has worked 41 years for the same company. Carlos has won many individual performance awards, including insurance agent of the year, but he can be unassuming, sometimes even forgettable. He is a guy who gets the job done, doesn’t toot his own horn, a honest team player. He is respectful, resilient, and humble yet takes pride in his job. After a generation with this prestigious company, they retired him after he took ill and missed work for two months. He wanted to come back, but they said no. A fresh out of high school recruit eventually replaced him.
Peter King is narcissistic, as the name evokes, and everyone knows it. He was the chief financial officer (CFO) for another insurance company for 15 years. Peter famously mouthed off to the company President, let the cat out of the bag about the CEO, and other executives in disparaging terms with coworkers, and even with rival companies. He was a top performer, though, and did his job exceptionally well. However, after 58 quarters of making and exceeding targets, they sacked him after two consecutive quarters of less than expected profits. The company got a new President and CEO. Peter applied for his old job and they informed him that if he worked his way upward through their junior accounting department, he could get his old job back. After two years of exceptional performances in the junior department, the President and CEO told him that he would never be CFO again. Simply, the other executives on the board didn’t trust him.
Business can be rewarding yet cruel. Anyone who has functioned in the private sector knows this and has come to expect it. However, in sports, sentimentalists like myself can often forget that in today’s world, sports are big commercial enterprises, and many business practices, good and bad, have found its way into sports. In business, difficult decisions are made every day. Similarly, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the English Cricket Board (ECB) had to make some difficult decisions about two of their stars: Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kevin Pietersen.
Carlos Smith reminds me of Shivnarine Chanderpaul: a hard-nosed, steady at the mill type of guy. Sometimes unconventional, but gets the task done. Peter King without question reminds me of Kevin Pietersen: talented, bright, exceptional, but has some baggage that becomes life-sized elephants when the talent and exceptionalism fades a time or two.
Both could not have more differing personalities, however, their love for the game of cricket, and being out in the middle with willow in hand is what they both share. Their cynics will say they both had it coming. Shiv didn’t know when to walk away, KP didn’t know when to shut up. Their sympathizers will say Shiv should have been allowed to leave on his own terms after years of stellar service, similarly, KP should not have been tricked or told a farce by the English Cricket Board chairman when they had no plans to reinstate him.
Truthfully, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kevin Pietersen have always been misfits in their respective teams. Misfits, in any organization, institution, or society suffer consequences reiterated by the famous Japanese proverb: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Without a doubt, Chanderpaul, and Pietersen have been hammered into retirement. Both were presented with statistics highlighting their demise in form which warranted their axing. Convenor of Selectors, Clive Lloyd read Shiv his final rights before burial. Newly appointed director of English cricket, Andrew Strauss delivered KP’s eulogy. It’s the death, burial, and incarceration of two lionized careers. Both players want to play on, but we have to accept that their respective selection panels have moved on.
A former teammate of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brian Lara obviously disturbed with the manner Shiv became a castaway before the Australian series, after 21 years of yeoman service, vehemently said, “This has absolutely nothing to do with runs or numbers. It has to do with respect and Chanderpaul has earned the right to say goodbye in an acceptable way. In fact, he should be allowed to do it in his own way. He deserves it. The WICB and the Caribbean owe it to Shiv to send him off with dignity and respect.”
Michael Vaughan, a former English captain and under whose leadership Pietersen flourished, said of Pietersen, “He’s been misled and mistreated. He’s done everything that was asked of him, but taken down a path that was a dead end.”
Shiv, the crab-like batsman from Guyana who meanders along without West Indian flair or boastfulness was never West Indian enough. Like Carlos, the insurance agent, he worked long unappreciated hours after everyone else had clocked out at five. Kevin, the South African playing for England was never English enough. Like Peter, the finance buff, they accepted him, tolerated him until his usefulness showed the first sign of uselessness.
To be honest, this is what happens when you mix business with sports: a flammable dichotomy void of a tender heart. You will hear the idealists shout, “All men should be treated equally”; however, the realists will add “But some are more equal than others.” I guess Chanderpaul and Pietersen thought they were more equal than others. However, I guess they have now found out that in the synergy of sports and business, no one is more equal than others and no one is treated equally. Sports executives will constantly tell you, it’s a business decision, not a sporting one. Business executives will remind you, its business, not personal. Shiv and Kev they say it isn’t personal, they say its business, but as a sentimentalist my heart sighs because without individuals there are no business or sports. They should have treated you guys better. But hey, what do I know about business or sports?
Until next time … walk good
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, June 1, 2015)