“Look man, when they slam that prison door at 5 in the evening, and you hear and feel the vibration of that big, heavy metal door like a bomb, it hits you. To be honest, I just wanted to sleep and not wake up.” It’s probably the first and only time Franklyn Rose’s voice quivers and he turns emotional, the eyes reddening a little, as he recounts his horrific ordeal in a New Zealand prison last year. The former West Indies fast bowler had originally shifted base after getting an offer to be a player-cum-coach at the Auckland University club team in 2010. He soon became an influential figure in the club cricket system, moving to a weaker club, Birkenhead, and helping them finish second during his first season there. But here he was six years later, enduring a real-lift ghastly Banged up Abroad experience.
The charges that were used to send Rose to prison were based on him over-staying his visa. But he insists now that it wasn’t his intention, and that his Kiwi sojourn had turned pear-shaped, and quite dramatically, ever since he was attacked by four unknown men outside his home back in 2012. It was an attempted car-jacking that he’d tried to stop, the 45-year-old recalls now but little did he know that it would change his life forever.
“It was 1 am and I saw two guys approach my car parked right outside the gate. I instinctively ran to stop them and two others emerged, one carrying a knife. They slashed my face and when I tried to block, the knife went through my finger and I’ve lost that nerve. They screamed “m***e*****in* nigga go back to your country”. They punched me like a rag-doll and I ended up in hospital unconscious,” he recalls.
Bad to worse
Things only got worse from there according to Rose. Since he didn’t possess any insurance, the hospital discharged him the same day despite him complaining of an acute pain in the side. It turned out he had developed a blood clot in his lung and he ended up spending most of the money he had then on getting treated in a private hospital. He was prescribed a range of medicines, including blood-thinners, Warfarin, and even anti-depressants, for as Rose reveals, “some tests they did convince them that I was suicidal, which is nuts.”
The case itself remained unsolved, and in Rose’s opinion the police brushed it aside alleging that he had been dealing in drugs and gotten beaten up because of a some deal gone wrong. His medical condition meant Rose wouldn’t be allowed on a flight and also that he couldn’t undergo the medical tests needed for a visa extension. That left him jobless, with just enough money for his treatment and in many ways as an illegal immigrant. And things were only about to get worse.
“I had been stuck for nearly four years when at 6 am one morning last March I heard a knock on the door and they said they wanted to take me for questioning over some rape case. It was a ruse to get me to the police station and after 5 minutes of insane questioning they asked me about my immigration status and before I knew, they put me in custody. I slept off immediately and the next thing I know there was someone banging on the grill saying it was dinner-time. My immigration officer who was supposed to come at 2 never came,” he says.
Though he was promised to be flown out in three days’ time, on a Saturday, a day earlier they shifted him to a prison and he was led to a room he recalls being called “At risk”, which meant he was locked in by himself and allowed to step out for only 15 minutes a day. It was only 13 days later that he got a chance to take his first shower, it’s here that the grave reality of his situation really sunk in.
“They brought me a towel, a razor and a piece of soap. I’m having my first shower and so happy about it. And while I had soap on my face, the water stopped. I didn’t know the shower lasts only for 5 minutes. Soap ever burn you in your eyes?” he says before his voice beings to tail off. He then tells you about having finished the shower in the toilet bowl, the moment he claims it hit him that he was in prison.
“You see the toilet bowl in prison, the s**t, the black s**t, and thousands upon thousands of prisoners having used it, and I had to put my hand inside the bowl and smell the stale shit coming on your face. At the same time, you have to enjoy and value that shower from the toilet because of the soap wants to blind you,” he says. Breakfast, meanwhile, meant toast, a little bag of cereal and a little packet of milk, that had to be consumed even if it at times had expired. Why? So that they didn’t send him to the psychological ward, which would happen to prisoners refusing to eat.
But what really hurt Rose, he recalls, was on Sunday when his fellow inmates would return from having met their relatives and with new provisions, toothbrushes and clothes in tow. “They would walk in looking happy, and there I was, not knowing anyone from Adam in my stinky prison clothes. Every morning I cried for a lawyer but was denied one,” he says. Then one day he met a fellow inmate, a millionaire in his 50s who was in for fraud, and moved by Rose’s story he informed his wife the following Sunday to get a lawyer. Rose had a lawyer the next day, and within days was put on a flight back to Jamaica, though not by himself. He was told he was a flight risk and that they expected him to run away. So he was escorted by medical personnel and two armed guards.
“There I was walking through the airport, literally in shackles, with two armed guards on either side, not allowed to even go to the bathroom alone. It was a long flight and even once we reached Montego Bay I was treated like a criminal,” he recalls. Once back home, Rose booked himself into a hotel for six weeks and didn’t meet anyone. And it’s taken him nearly 12 months to get back to being himself and socializing. He even gave away the man-of-the-match award to Virat Kohli on Thursday.
Once a bright promise
Twenty years ago, when he burst onto the scene with pace and passion, knocking out six Indian batsmen on debut, including Sachin Tendulkar’s stumps which is believed to have generated the loudest roar in years at Sabina Park, it looked like West Indies finally had the man who’d take the mantle from Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. Unfortunately after three years, which included a self-imposed exile, sporadic wicket-taking bursts and numerous allegations and brickbats regarding his “bad-boy” image, his career was over while Ambrose and Walsh were still around.
“I could have retired the moment I bowled the great Tendulkar out. My goal though was to one day fill in the boots of Walsh and Ambrose and lead the pace attack. I never got to do that and never got to a point to value my career,” he says now. Rose, who spent seven years playing cricket in Los Angeles, is honest enough to put it down to a lax attitude and getting too cocky too early on with his success.
“In my opinion, professional athletes are all womanisers. I wish I had reached a point of maturity where I was level-headed, and didn’t get distracted by a woman walk by. Also that at the end of the day, I wasn’t thinking about some hot-date and instead focusing on every ball. I wish I had someone who put their arm around me and got me to focus. If you see someone dropping off a cliff, you pull them back. Don’t just watch them walk off,” he says.
The prison experience though hasn’t just made him wary of traveling overseas, it’s also left him very angry and intent on getting the authorities in New Zealand to render an explanation to the treatment meted out to him. But he hasn’t given up hope of continuing his relationship with cricket, and is planning to pursue coaching and commentating ambitions. “You will only see me smile though once they’ve apologized for the injustice done to me. But the only reason I didn’t kill myself or even think about it in that prison cell was because I knew someday I would be back on the cricket field.”