West Indies Cricket’s challenges

There seems never a dull moment in West Indies Cricket and the battle for leadership that concluded yesterday revealed the extent to which this remains a truism.

Historical review
The history of West Indies Cricket has often been trumpeted as a means of our people liberating themselves from the colonial past. But this took a very long time in coming.
Early Cricket in the region featured the male colonisers playing the game while their wives and girlfriends sat under tents sipping team brought to them by the blacks.
The blacks were also assigned to collect the balls once they had been struck away into the nearby bushes.
It took some time before the blacks were allowed to bowl to the colonisers since they were not trusted. The colonisers may well have thought that the blacks would have seized the opportunity to get at them by using the ball as a weapon.
Once the game was introduced on a more solid footing at the turn of the 20th century it the leadership obviously rested on the heads of the colonisers. Later the representatives of the old planter class assumed the leadership of the sport in the respective islands.
It is most interesting to note that in all of the islands where Cricket was introduced in the region the clubs were led by the remnants of the old planter class. The major clubs were actually complete racist in their orientation demanding whites-only membership.
Stoddart’a article, Cricket and colonialism in the English-speaking Caribbean in 1914: towards a cultural analysis (cited in Liberation Cricket – West Indies Cricket Culture, Berckles and Stoddart, 1995), informs us that Barbadian cricket created the illusion of social equality but, at the same time, preserved rigid and complex social distinctions.
In the aforementioned article we learn that in Trinidad and Tobago the Queen’s Park Club was mainly for wealthy whites and established mulattoes. Shamrock had an almost exclusively white Catholic clientele, and Stingo was a lower-class black preserve.
We also learnt Around the 1900 in British Guiana the Georgetown Cricket Club was dominated by the white elite.
Jamaica was no different since the Kingston Cricket Club was for the colonial while elite.
Of course Barbados has the Wanderers Cricket Club.
It came as no surprise therefore that when the international Cricket fraternity organised itself and the West Indies was duly represented the regional governing body for the sport featured the leading all-whites club in each of the countries. Thus the Queen’s Park Cricket Club was the bona fide representative of Trinidad and Tobago on the West Indies Cricket Board of Control – WICBC (now the West Indies Cricket Board – WICB).
It was not until well after independence that the cricket fraternity in some of the islands took the bull by the horns and established national bodies truly representative of the population playing the game. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, a former politician, Alloy Lequay, led the charge to transform the representation of the country’s cricketers on the WICB by establishing the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB).
West Indies Cricket therefore was led by whites and people of the lighter hue for generations and they seemed to care more about retention of their upper class position and high social status even as they maintained their colour distance.
The regional team’s tour to Australia in the 1950s saw the black players of the team being directed to climb stairs to the players’ pavilion separate and distinct from those climbed by the white members of the team. Australia itself had become renowned for its own stance on race. In the early 1960s that country in an attempt to redress its low population numbers ushered in a sort of whites-only immigration policy.
It was during the West Indies tour of Australia in the 1950s that Frank Worrell displayed his immense leadership. It was he who insisted that if the black players on the West Indies team could not walk the same steps as their white teammates then the former would not play at all. This was the move that started major change in the way in which West Indies Cricket was administered.
Suffice it to say that despite the action it was several decades later that the West Indies Cricket would see a black man rise to leadership of the regional governing body.
Administrators versus the players
Slinger Francisco (a.k.a. The Mighty Sparrow) captured in calypso the plight of successive generations of West Indian Cricketers at the hands of the administrators of the game in the region when he sang on the Kerry Packer intervention that transformed the sport for all time at the global level.
The fact is that the administrators were more interested in fraternising with their global counterparts rather than addressing the developmental needs of the sport at home and the importance of establishing a sound base for sustainability in the region.
Wes Hall walks with a limp that resulted from an injury he sustained while playing for the West Indies and for which he was not adequately and readily treated. He carries that burden with him through life.
There are numerous stories of successive generations of players who gave their all for the team through the ages yet who have been discarded as some used utensils once they came to the end of their playing careers.
A recent article by Fazeer Mohammed on the fearsome Charlie Griffith in the Trinidad Express dated 17 March 2013, captioned, Charlie Griffith’s Heavy Load, highlighted the way in which our administrators treated our players. Called for chucking twice in his career, Griffith was eventually sidelined from the game. This was after he had successfully teamed up with Wes Hall to introduce the world to the first pair of fearful fast bowlers the region produced on the same team. Griffith still feels the hurt inside.
Of course, given the way the rules have changed relative to what constitutes chucking may well make a mockery of the accusations levelled at Griffith in his prime.
Generally there seemed to have been a lack of care about the genuine development of the game in the Caribbean and this is the basis for the current deficiencies evident at the administrative level to this day. In many respects this is the legacy of the game in the Caribbean.
Fast Forward
Julian Hunte led the Windward Islands Cricket Board for several years and eventually gained the top sport as President of the WICB.
Not so long ago the news broke that Hunte was contesting for the presidency of the regional board. This led to a feeling that change was in the air and that it opened opportunities for others to be upwardly mobile in the organisation and bring new ideas to the administration.
Whycliffe Cameron of Jamaica has been Hunte’s vice president or the past three terms that the latter has been the president of the WICB. He must have thought his moment had arrived when he heard of Hunte’s stance.
Clive Lloyd, former West Indies Captain, selector, manager and ex oficio Director of the WICB appointed by Hunte, was apparently interested in contesting for the top job and received favourable support from two former cricketers, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding, neither of whom has a vote on the WICB.
Lloyd’s problem was that he had run afoul of the WICB when he accepted the leadership of the Interim Management Committee put in place by the Guyana government to replace the officially WICB-recognized Guyana Cricket Board (GCB). He must have known the rules of engagement once he acceded to go along with government intervention/interference.
Lloyd’s ambitions were further derailed when he received no seconder to his nomination by the GCB – a posture that many are yet to understand.
Hunte, for his part, announced that he was contesting the presidency yet again. To some this seemed a significant turnaround from what they had earlier heard.
Hunte cleared the air, in a manner of speaking. He declared, I never ever informed the board that I was not going to seek re-election… To the contrary, I said to the board that some of my actions and utterances may have led them to believe I was not seeking re-election. I did say to the board in January, I was going to seek re-election.
Of course, in the final analysis, Hunte may well hazard a guess that for many people following the game around the region, his declaration did nothing to dissuade them from believing otherwise.
Hunte is now 73 years old while Cameron is 42. The WICB membership was split over the two going into the elections.
Hunte picked Joel Garner of the Barbados Cricket Association as his vice presidential candidate while Cameron selected Emmanuel Nathan of the Windward Islands Cricket Board.
At the time of writing this Column the elections were not yet completed.
Suffice it to say here that the leadership of Cricket in the Caribbean leaves much to be desired. The sport is as fractious today as it has ever been and the intrigue continues as Tony Cozier noted in an article dated 16 March 2013.
The weak leadership over the years has left the region without any clear vision and goal that can be pursued with vigour.
The anxiety in the recent years has been with raising revenue and it appears for its own sake rather than the more systematic development of the game.
There must be much that is wrong for Michael Holding and Andy Roberts to be as acerbic as they have been about developments or lack thereof regarding the sport in the Caribbean.
The full details about the deal made for the regional T20 Championship effective 2014 may well reveal more of the weakness of the current leadership.
Some may well suggest that the region’s game needs a fresh start. The increase in income has not been matched by increased professionalism in the way the team is prepared, selected or managed.
For the most part West Indies Cricket remains an old boys’ club that does not yet understand the changes taking place in the sport and its impact on the fortunes of the players and of the region.
There is much work that needs to be done to develop cricket in the region. We have not made enough of the impact we have had on the global game. Our players do not know the history of the sport, its importance to us as a people and they do not seem to care that they are, for the most part, decidedly ignorant in the aforementioned respect.