Pro cricket, university studies not mutually exclusive, says Professor Sir Hilary Beckles

Sunday, August 12, 2018

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Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, director and founder of the Centre for Cricket Research in the Caribbean, has given the assurance that no young cricketer within the region will have to make a choice between playing the game they love professionally and getting a tertiary education.

Beckles, who was the guest speaker at the recent Jamaica Tallawahs Foska Oats team breakfast held at the Melboure Cricket Club, lamented the fact that as a young man he was confronted with that situation and was unable to become the professional cricketer he had dreamt of becoming as a young boy.

“You all know there is nothing I would not do for a young cricketer and the University of the West Indies is here to support you in whatever way it can. I have always envied cricketers because I wanted to be a cricketer and nothing else. I was raised and socialised to be a cricketer, that was the only passion I had as a child,” he told the audience.

As the time came for him to move on from high school and from county cricket to university or becoming a full-fledged professional, the choice was made for him by an uncompromising father who insisted that education was the way to go.

“My father told me that I was not going to be a cricketer, I was going to go to the university. I was depressed. It was a choice that was imposed upon me. I was living in Birmingham and I was playing for Warwickshire County School boys and I had a contract to stay at Warwickshire to play professional and I had a contract to go to university and that was no choice. I was prepared to stay at Warwickshire until my father heard of the choice and at 17 you cannot make that choice, that's a parental choice.”

But the Tallawahs director is happy that things and times have changed where it is now possible for the two choices to coexist.

“Each time I'm in the company of cricketers I marvel at the nature of your choice. I wish to see you all do well and if the university can assist in any way, and this is what we have done, we have placed the university at your disposal. We have said that none of you should have to make that choice.

“If you want to play your professional cricket and at the same time acquire a higher education, a university education, the university is designed to accommodate that choice. You don't have to choose, you can do both at the same time. I have vowed that no young cricketer should ever have to make the choice that I had to make, that painful choice,” came the assurance from Beckles.

The Vice-Chancellor went on to speak of current players who are taking full advantage of that opportunity to wear the maroon cap of the West Indies team while being a UWI student.

“You can play cricket and attend to your education at the same time and that is why I'm very proud to see cricketers like Jason Holder, who is now our captain, but he is also a UWI student. It's good to see a UWI student as the captain of our team. In fact, Carlos Brathwaite is also a UWI student and they are doing their degrees while they are playing professional cricket and we have structured the university to enable that process to happen. I am hoping that both Jason and Craig Brathwaite and Carlos would complete their degrees in the next few years while playing professional cricket simultaneously.

“So this is the world that we have made available to you now, so that in the aftermath of your playing days you would be in position to plan the second phase of your career and the second phase of your life and you are young men, you have 70 years to live and you need to plan those 70 years very carefully,” he suggested.

Mark Neita, who is the president of Melbourne Cricket Club and who also spoke at the function, reminded the audience of two other players who had embarked on a similar path.

“Two other players who benefited from the university system are Chadwick Walton and Rovman Powell. I think it's quite remarkable that we now live in an age where, as you say, cricketers can now follow their dreams,” Neita said.

The five above-mentioned cricketers are West Indies representatives and are franchise players in the Hero Caribbean Premier League Twenty20 competition that began last Wednesday.

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