Fresh leadership needed for Cricket West Indies

Watching Cricket

with Garfield Myers

Friday, March 22, 2019

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A problem I have always had with adversarial politics is the tendency by contenders to go way below the belt during campaigning.

So that even highly respectable people – some of whom visit their places of worship multiple times per week – seem willing to do anything to boost their side and make the other side look bad.

I sense much of that kind of unpleasantness in the current debate leading up to Sunday's Cricket West Indies leadership election.

Up front, let me make it clear, I thought that for the good of West Indies cricket president Dave Cameron should have walked away after his three two-year terms.

My view is that he seems unable to unite West Indies cricket behind him. His presidency has been marked by divisiveness and poisonous quarrels. There is nothing to suggest that this will change for the better if he is returned.

I still struggle to understand his response to the immature decision of elite players to strike while on tour of India in 2014.

Since then, it seems to me, tiffs with players – not least Darren Bravo – could have been easily avoided if good sense had been engaged. And why was it necessary to sack Phil Simmons? A decision which seems set to cost cash-strapped Cricket West Indies a huge sum – yet again.

At a time when the support of Caribbean governments is badly needed to nurture and develop cricket at grass roots across the region, the Cameron administration and most CARICOM heads appear unable to even reason together.

If he and regional leaders are chronically at loggerheads, Cameron can't absolve himself.

All of the above must be a discouragement for those in business who would otherwise want to partner with Cricket West Indies or indeed with individual regional boards. The drying up of private sector sponsorship for cricket is a huge problem which needs to be addressed.

The shortage of money in West Indies cricket threatens the viability of the game. Only last year, we heard that help had to be sought from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka cricket boards to finance tours by those national teams to the Caribbean.

It seems to me that the current situation threatens the very gains that Cameron and his team can justifiably lay claim to having made.

What are those gains? I am not referring here to the glimpse of a renaissance as a result of the triumph over England by Jason Holder and his men in the recent Test series – though, it seems to me administrators do have the right to claim some credit.

I am talking about initiatives such as the rewarding of players at regional domestic level with a decent wage. Not just elite West Indies players in international cricket and high profile T20 leagues, but those playing at regional franchise level are now able to support their families by playing cricket. The Cameron administration has to be credited for that. Also, against the odds, they have been able to maintain 10 4-day games for each regional team per season.

I strongly applaud the purchase of the former Allen Stanford-owned ground in Antigua – in partnership with the Antigua and Barbuda government. It means that at long last, Cricket West Indies has a facility of its own to nurture and build talent without having to 'sponge' on anyone.

Last week, I was able to sit in front of my computer and watch Brandon King's marvellous century in a losing cause for the Jamaica Scorpions against Trinidad and Tobago Red Force at the Brian Lara stadium in Trinidad. I was able to do that because of video streaming facilitated by Cricket West Indies via its website. That may seem to some like a small thing. But in the context of the backwardness so often associated with West Indies cricket, that's a big thing for me.

However, it seems to me that if the situation continues as is, all of those positives as well as the glimpse of a renaissance will gradually wither and die.

That's the overarching reason West Indies cricket needs new, fresh leadership to gradually return stability, trust, belief and unity so that cricket can grow.

Should they win, Ricky Skerritt and his team will have to find a way to unite all contending forces behind cricket. They will have to set about building consensus with CARICOM and the region's private sector leadership, towards the nurturing and development of the sport.

At the base of their approach, must be recognition that cricket more than any other sport played by Caribbean youth, encourages disciplined behaviour and good order, respect for others and critical thinking. This, even as regional societies struggle to deal with crime, social delinquency and problem solving.

In house, a new administration must set about governance issues, including financial accountability. The recent reports about expenditures and proposed expenditures have left many of us aghast. In a context where Cricket West Indies is broke and there is a staffed secretariat, why is there need for the board president's office to be spending so much money? One report listed the president's entertainment allowance in the region of US$100,000, presumably annually. Surely that's not true?

My problem is that up to the time of writing I had not heard a denial of that specific claim.

These are not Dave Cameron issues. These are Cricket West Indies issues. Caribbean people need swift explanations and corrective actions.

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