On tour in the West Indies last year South Africa first encountered a young man with rare talent. A left-arm wrist spinner, like Paul Adams, this young man had (or still has) the makings of a genius.
Like so many West Indians, he is a mix of two, three or even four cultures and his name appears to be a paradox of religions. It is difficult enough finding your identity in such a complex society without having instant fame, notoriety, wealth or expectation thrust upon you.
But that is exactly what happened to Dave Mohammed, a spirited but naive teenager who had played just two first-class matches before he was selected for the West Indies ‘A’ to play against South Africa in Barbados between the second and third Tests. He did OK but the ‘talk’ on the streets was of a world beater.
He had been plucked from ‘nowhere’ and his life suddenly changed. At least, that is the impression we South Africans were given while on tour and there was no reason to disbelieve it.
Just like several South African young stars, a bright start gave way to a couple of indifferent performances but he was inducted into the brand new and highly impressive West Indies Academy in Grenada which is based on the campus of the island’s University.
Mohammed was charged with rape last week.
An 18-year-old with a special sporting talent falling off the straight and narrow, going off the rails, unable to cope with expendable income, ‘fame’ and acclaim. Sound familiar.
The West Indies Cricket Board has appointed a highly paid and highly respected law firm to defend their client. Sound familiar? Mohammed has been released on bail and has been granted permission to return his homeland, Trinidad. Mohammed has maintained innocence of the charge. Sound familiar?
The crime is abhorrent but surely there are lessons the sporting world should have learned by now? Rapid promotion without proper guidance is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for South African cricket their ‘victim’ of success has undergone a full rehabilitation but what of Mohammed, and the others to come?
And far, far, far more importantly, what about the real victims in these episodes? Perhaps sporting bodies should be held accountable for the behaviour of their juniors.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.