When the West Indies defeated Australia in a key contest in the 2014 World T20, captain Darren Sammy, firing the winning six off Faulkner, said in the aftermath of the victory, “Talk is cheap!”
The former captain was alluding to the fact that it’s easy to say things, but difficult to implement a course of action that’s meaningful. Jimmy Faulkner had fired up the West Indians by saying something he may have wanted to avoid in the first place: “I don’t really like the West Indies!”
The end result was a flat six fired straight down the ground with Sammy celebrating albeit minus offering needless expletives.
Though this carries a lesson.
In an information age where just about everyone is an opinion-giver, rather opinion-maker, where perhaps thanks to social media giving a voice to the voiceless, everyone is an ‘expert,’ there exists a dearth of originality.
Voices that don’t rebuke wildly, but ask the right questions. Voices that don’t pander nor direct unwanted ire, but offer criticism through constructive feedback.
Frankly, never before has there been a more urgent need in the realm of cricketing media for those individuals who aren’t a part of the hype-driven mass culture whilst still appealing to the sensibilities of the masses for they’re driven by the power of self-conviction.
And when you direct your attention in this regard to the many voices in the Caribbean, one, in particular, stands out.
Everybody today has an opinion on the West Indies cricket team. Not difficult to know why.
You may usually classify opinion-makers into two brackets. First, that love the swashbuckling, two-time T20 world cup winning side that revived fledgeling interest in the game in the Caribbean. The dashers who muscle hits and make balls disappear into rivers and parking lots.
And second, those that long for the glory days to return; the ones who reminisce through sepia-tinted glasses of nostalgia the days of the yore, which according to Sir Curtly Ambrose may never return.
But there’s also a voice that belongs to a more rational, balanced unchartered trajectory.
One that doesn’t say things just for the heck of it. One that will offer with sufficient reasoning and restrained passion- instead of going ga-ga about a loss or conquest- thoughts and insights about West Indies cricket.
Vernon Springer- Chief Operations Officer of the Leeward Islands Cricket Board, Cricket Analyst, owner of VA Sports Media, Cricket Podcaster- but above all, a sincere and honest man who has dedicated two and a half decades of his life to West Indies cricket is that voice.
For someone born in St. Kitts and Nevis, currently based in Antigua, and known around the Caribbean, there’s little surprise in understanding why Vernon Springer’s voice is one that breaks barriers and goes a long mile in the island paradise that is West Indies.
Akin to that student who differentiates himself by opting for Human Resources or people management whilst confounded by a herd running after a specialisation in Marketing or Finance, Vernon Springer- a people’s person- made impressive strides in that part of cricket one finds to be extensively exhausting a challenge.
While some might reckon forging a career in sports was always the natural choice, since Vernon Springer’s late uncle was a Football coach, his mother, a St. Lucian was an active sportswoman (besides being a school teacher), and cricket happened to be his father’s first love, the journey toward administration of the sport was Mr. Springer’s own initiative.
Though what played a building block in Vernon Springer’s journey was his being an athlete himself- he’d play Cricket, Football as a youngster, the only two sports in which one could make a career in those halcyon days of the mid ’60s West Indies.
But what concerned Vernon Springer was that whilst everyone was playing Cricket in those days, there genuinely lacked a person who could be called a figurehead.
Most people spend lives searching for a mentor, but few decide to mentor themselves and then guide the generations to follow.
In treading the path less chosen, Vernon Springer decided to train the Leewards Islands team, realising soon enough, fitness was the key issue to be resorted. Through an interaction with Richard Skeritt (then the Secretary, Leeward Islands Cricket Association), who needs no introduction, he’d work closely with the Leewards Islands team cricketers and would soon enough strike a conversation with Sir Viv himself after being introduced to him as a youngster.
But the next chapter in the life of this fitness trainer was soon to arrive when a gent by the name of Tony, originally from St. Kitts but residing in England walked up to Mr. Springer having seen him train the boys at a local club New Town.
He’d immediately ask him whether he’d like to move to England to have an opportunity to do a coaching course, circa 1984-85.
There are many who, in a bid to work out their flaws specially board the plane to England to get accustomed to ‘testing conditions,’ but only a few devoted souls, go on to pursue a coaching course (when playing Cricket was the most desirable option) and only so, the knowledge and wisdom they garner could be passed on to a generation of cricketers who could forge their own paths.
Vernon Springer, soon enough, found himself at the Yorkshire Cricket School, from which he’d return having honed his professional coaching skills, having been a trainer earlier. But he’d also continue to do an advance course upon returning to the Caribbean truly committing himself to the cause of uplifting the others.
He’d soon train nearly all of Leeward Island’s cricketers, whether from the Under-15, Under-19 national teams. Though being the intrepid follower of the game for anybody can be a fan and wax lyrical all day, Mr. Springer decided to follow another passion of his, albeit connected to Cricket- that of being an administrator.
He began to study sports administration, only to understand the nuances and intricacies of a domain hitherto unsung but one that was central to the cause of raising much important tools that ensure cricketing success.
Sensing a genuine dearth in finances in the Island to procure cricketing equipment, Vernon Springer ran from pillar to post to garner support for those one and all who had the inkling to wield the bat and hurl the ball.
Just how many do it when the cosy comfort of being a journalist, for instance, writing in an air-conditioned room appears more alluring?
To this day, he reiterates, that unbeknownst to many, Cricket is an expensive sport and requires more than just talent to push oneself in the right direction. This is when to most of us, Formula 1 is an expensive sport alone, Cricket, maybe not so much.
Though life for Vernon Springer was only going to get more interesting from hereon in, as amid his extensive occupation as a cricketing administrator in the Leeward Islands, he decided to further push himself to become a Cricket Journalist.
All the analysis you see whether on SportsMax or Grenada Sports or other noted portals, comes from the intrepid desire to learn about a sport to which he’d already been contributing, not just from the heart but from the cerebral powers as well.
What truly stands out about Vernon Springer- among the few lives who’ve given to West Indies cricket in versatile forms- is that he never forgets those who helped him in getting better.
Michael King, a journalist who helped push Mr. Springer in his new endeavour is among the many the smiling man recounts to this very day. He remembers them as ‘Folks who ignited me!”
What many know about Vernon Springer is his unsparing analysis, when the team does poorly on revered Caribbean TV shows. What few know, however, is that he’s a trained commentator on sports outside of Cricket- such as Netball, Basketball, just to name a few.
For someone whose life epitomises the epithet that, “one mustn’t restrict oneself to just one set of action or goal,” Vernon Springer is the living example that you can don multiple hats at the same time for as long as you have the desire to do so.
Not a man who’d be satisfied with any set of laurels, one of the most poignant next steps would be the induction of a cricketing program he helped formulate in St.Kitts and Nevis, called the 13 and under tournament post returning from England. This involved countries like Antigua, Trinidad, Anguilla, Dominica, Bermuda, Barbados among the many, the core idea being to introduce a bottom-up approach in building cricketing talents from the scratch.
A point, that in Mr. Springer’s own words, stands absolutely vital, “For many point that in order to work out ones weakness, you must return to grassroots cricket, but why not make the foundation so strong that whence you reach the top, you don’t really have to go down or backwards?”
“I tasked myself to do something to organise at the base-level,” he exclaimed in our interaction.
What was incredible about the outcome of this project of which Mr. Springer was the mainstay, alongside noted personalities like Edgar Gilbert and Clem Hicks which many current fans should note without batting an eyelid- is that it was out of this grassroots cricketing contest that took place in the serene island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis that talents like Kraigg and Carlos Brathwaite, Kieron Powell, Milton Small, and others first came to the public’s eye, then barely kids.
“It takes fifteen years to produce a world champion player, so you need to develop a talent from the very beginning, from the bottom-up approach.”
What must fill the heart of the cricketing purist in the Caribbean with pride is that the tireless Vernon Springer, relentless in his surge to assist cricketers, would scout for talents at the primary school level, taking one to the Under-19 level, where he’d align talents to someone else.
Today, decades after serving the sport, he’s still putting a structure in place that can help both male and female cricketers.
In an age where many are focused on simply filling out deep pockets and remain interested in self-vested interests, it’s contributing to the larger cause, of helping talents reach their fulfilment that keeps Vernon Springer going when he can simply rest back and marvel at all he’s achieved.
But akin to a pacy Ferrari that would keenly set fast lap times, having already burned hot rubber in a race, rest isn’t a word that appears in Mr. Springer’s dictionary, a dictionary where you could find phrases like commitment and dedication underlined in bold.
“My heart goes out to parents who struggle to provide 5000 USD for their kids’ immediate cricketing needs and future development, because it is a lot of money.”
Yet, to this day, Mr. Springer communicates, networks and builds a line of communication so that those who deserve the support get all of it.
You might find some of his takes, on occasions, a tad bit caustic, but he’s never someone willing to be a pillion rider in times where West Indies perform ordinarily. Insisting that the T20 and ODI captains should be different, so that workload can be effectively managed and cricket be better orchestrated and streamlined, there’s never a dearth of a frank and reason-backed opinion from a mind that always thinks about the game!
But one must be glad that in souls like Vernon Springer- whose heart beats for the Caribbean and mind thinks constantly about the cricket- there are benevolent spirits who made a purpose of their lives to bring a cricketing purpose to those of the others.
In an era where self-interest is one’s priority, this is benevolent and indeed, remarkable.
Caught At Point tips its hat to you, Sir and shall support you in every possible way it can!
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