By Neto Baptiste
Although representing the Leeward Islands cricket team for most of his amateur and professional cricket career may have provided some of his most memorable moments in cricket, former fast bowler Gavin Tonge said not all of those memories are pleasant.
While speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Tonge, who also represented the West Indies senior men’s team in both Test and ODI cricket, remembered one incident where even the opposing team used it against the Leeward Island’s players.
“I remember playing a West Indies Four Day tournament and if you bowled a no-ball I think you had to pay US $50 which the coach was fining us, and the batsman at the non-striker’s end kept saying, watch that front line, you don’t want to go over that because that is US $50 and that messed with my whole tournament. But you have players who know about this and they were not allowed to say it because you would get yourself in trouble and problems because there was a whole lot of crazy stuff going on. Players cannot be free,” he said.
Tonge, who has played 87 First Class matches and claimed 249 wickets for 6,679 runs, said there were many times when he felt like he had to battle some within his own camp even before suiting up against the opposing teams.
“Sometimes, we are not allowed to really say certain things because there is a big threat so if you say things, then you won’t get pick [selected] again. It didn’t matter how your performance looked, it doesn’t matter how many years you play, Leeward Islands — whether it was the selectors, president or whomsoever was in control — they have a way [of] punishing players and holding us at ransom. Some of the times so you have to be fighting this battle in Leeward Islands even before you get a chance to play that tournament and compete. Whether it’s against Barbados or whomsoever, there is a heavy fight there [in-house] before we get a chance and really be free and really play cricket and be cricketers,” the former player said.
The Bethesda fast bowler believes, however, that the talent exists currently that would allow for the sub-regional team to become a more dominant force in regional cricket, but says there must be an all-in approach by everyone involved.
“The problem in Leeward Islands is that we have the talent but players were not playing enough cricket; we didn’t do enough interviews [in the media] where we could talk and be free; we don’t write enough things in the papers that make sense and that are going to help players’ careers, but we are quick to write something that is going to drag someone down, and that is going to cost you at the end of the day. We need to be more selective and more understanding,” he said. In his lone Test for the West Indies, he picked up one wicket for 113 runs while in his five ODIs, he picked up five wickets for 224 runs.