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You just did not tell Pat Rousseau 'no'

Chris Dehring

Sunday, April 21, 2019

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Allow me to add to the many well-deserved tributes pouring in for Patrick H O Rousseau.

Our paths first crossed when my friends and I started the (in)famous Red Stripe Mound in 1995. Despite all the howls of protest from the traditional cricket and media world on the “inappropriateness” of such fun and frolic at a Test match, the newly installed president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) embraced the party stand concept as what cricket needed to attract younger audiences. He was a visionary, as formats like T20 have unfolded globally.

He enticed my “temporary” leave of absence from Dehring Bunting & Golding in 1997. It was supposedly “just for a couple of years” to help him set up the WICB's commercial operations and put together the region's bid to host the world's third-largest global sporting event — the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup. I learned then — and many successful negotiations and deals later — that no one told Pat “no”.

I became The General's trusted lieutenant during those years, as we traversed the world seeking bigger and better deals for West Indies cricket. Sponsorships and player incomes quadrupled. More funding was found for cricket development than ever before. The longevity of Scotiabank Kiddy Cricket is a reminder of his legacy and the successful programmes started during his tenure.

The Sky TV rights deal in 2000 was a watershed. For the first time we negotiated directly with the broadcasters, bypassing the agents that had left WICB with mere leftovers in the past. After a series of presentations, and eventually some hard-nosed manoeuvring, the monumental US$40-million deal was done. It included for the first time upfront payments by the broadcaster to be invested in player development. It was a record at a time when many cricket boards suffered declines in TV revenues caused by the collapse of the dot.com bubble.

Thereafter, it was a whirlwind time, now only a blur in my memory; from London to Johannesburg, Paris to Singapore, Delhi to Sydney, the late-night negotiations, and all those deals, deals, deals.

I wish the Caribbean could have witnessed how he represented the region at the ICC. No one there believed the region was capable of hosting and successfully delivering the Cricket World Cup. After all, our cricket grounds were antiquated and we had never hosted anything close to its magnitude or importance. But Pat rallied the Caribbean governments, the private sector, and eventually the member countries of the ICC, and unanimously won their approval.

I was there that day in the hallowed “Long Room” at Lord's, and, yes, I might have made the actual presentation of our bid, but the die was long cast. The General had “prepared the wicket”, forging important and impenetrable alliances long before the voting started. Those doubting members found out, like everyone who had ever dealt with the P H O Rousseau, you just did not tell him “no”.

Of course, he then insisted that, having won the right to host, I could not leave him “stuck with it”, and he insisted I stay on to deliver it. The couple of years I was supposed to give West Indies cricket, he somehow managed to turn into 12!

Have I mentioned how impossible it was to tell Pat “no”?

When I had an idea for a 24/7 Caribbean sports channel, there was only one person I knew could make it a reality. And, of course, The General was way ahead of me, and with his much bigger vision and new lieutenant – Oliver McIntosh — he took SportsMax way beyond what I ever imagined it could become.

Thank you, Uncle Pat. Jamaica and the Caribbean benefited tremendously from your presence. You changed the direction and trajectory of my life, opening doors to new worlds and teaching me so much. Your integrity, honesty and kindness knew no bounds. You were, and will always be, The General.

Chris Dehring is an entrepreneur and former CEO of ICC Cricket World Cup 2007. Send comments to the Observer or cdehring@hotmail.com.


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