Cricket needs sound, vibrant leadership

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

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Like it or not, the West Indies cricket team's good performances against England — regaining the hollowed Wisden Trophy and, up to now, doing well in a limited overs' tournament — is being shadowed by political campaigns.

At the regional level, president of the board of directors for Cricket West Indies Mr Dave Cameron, a Jamaican, is being challenged by former manager of the West Indies team and a former St Kitts and Nevis Cabinet Minister Mr Ricky Skerritt.

That election is set for March 24 in Jamaica.

Undoubtedly, the recent success of the West Indies team has provided strong impetus for Mr Cameron, who has stayed at the helm over recent years despite bitter controversies including damaging quarrels with elite players which his detractors say are directly related to his personality.

On the other hand, Mr Cameron's supporters say the recent relative success of the West Indies team flows directly from his leadership. They point to the professional contracting of scores of top players across the region and the acquisition by Cricket West Indies — in partnership with the Antigua and Barbuda Government — of the former Stanford ground in Antigua which now provides year-round training facilities for men's and women's teams, among his outstanding initiatives.

Also, the Jamaica Cricket Association's president Mr Wilford “Billy” Heaven is being challenged by the former Jamaica middle order batsman Mr Mark Neita in elections set for tomorrow.

A highly respected administrator and CEO of the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund, Mr Heaven is credited with having headed an association that has brought order to its unruly books and a more efficient management structure to the JCA.

He has also committed to cricket development programmes at the youth level.

However, during Mr Heaven's tenure as president Jamaica's competitiveness on the field of play has visibly declined with no regional men's title in several years.

Worse, people participation in cricket appears to be in rapid decline across the country. Interest in the sport among young people is also on the wane.

At the grass-roots level, it is the State-run Social Development Commission, through its twenty20 tournaments, that has succeeded in maintaining relative popularity for community cricket.

Critically, high schools' cricket, which is run by the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association, seems on the strength of available evidence to be on the decline.

Several high schools, noted for producing top cricketers in times past, are no longer involved at the under-19 level.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the situation is just as bad, if not worse, at the primary school level.

While schools' cricket is not directly under the purview of the JCA, it seems to us that the organisation must now seek to play a strong, assertive role.

Mr Neita, president of Melbourne Cricket Club — easily the most active and visible cricket organisation of its kind in the country — has pledged to do all in his power to build programmes that will restore success to national teams; restore dynamism to club and parish cricket; and attract private sector sponsorship which is mostly absent in Jamaica's cricket but which is always important in sport.

From this newspaper's perspective, it is crucial that winners in the elections, both locally and regionally, come up with policies and programmes to grow and sustain cricket — a sport which is beyond compare when it comes to nurturing discipline, good order, and strategic thinking.


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