WICB and Caribbean politics

This Caribbean of ours never ceases to display immense intrigue and virtually all levels and aspects of life.
In the case of the once dominant sport of cricket this is all the more true and the latest conflict reveals the level of insensitivity of the leadership of the sport in our region. It is not that we are not already well aware of just how ridiculous the leadership of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) have been over the decades but this new revelation takes this to another level altogether.

For several decades the WICB (formerly WICBC) operated as a veritable monolith within the Caribbean as the official representative of the region on the International Cricket Council (ICC). During much of this time the whites, more particularly the descendants of the English colonialists who remained in the Caribbean, dominated the region’s cricket.
Even when the WICBC was well established there was evidence of racism in the sport across the region that impacted the composition of the West Indies cricket team.
In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, the country’s representation on the regional cricket body was the Queen’s Park Cricket Club and not a national umbrella organisation for the sport. It was not until Alloy Lequay began to show immense interest and took on the challenge of establishing such a local organisation that things changed. He did not have an easy time since the Queen’s Park Cricket Club wielded the greatest influence on the sport in the twin-island Republic at the time.
Colour played a major role in the fortunes of West Indies cricket for many decades and was reflected in the selection process. This is not to say that some of them were not good players. The blacks were often denied the opportunity to get into the better clubs, not because of their playing ability but their colour.
It has to be understood that race was a critical factor in the exploitive endeavour of colonial expansionism and impacted every aspect of Caribbean society. It is in the context of taking the struggle for liberation onto the field of play in the sport of cricket that led CLR James to pen his outstanding piece, Beyond A Boundary.
James observed and correctly analysed the experience of the blacks of the Caribbean as they struggled to show that their colour did not in any way deprive them of the very talent claimed by the whites in the Caribbean in the sport of cricket.
As far as James was concerned the West Indian blacks involve din the sport of cricket saw it and used it as an opportunity to showcase their immense talent and eventually stake their claim for full recogniton and participation. The end result was excellence on the field of play. Beckles and Shepherd called it Liberation Cricket.
Frank Worrell, now deceased, played a historically remarkable role in challenging and breaking the back of race in the sportw hen the West Indies team was on tour in Australia and the blacks on the team were asked to use stairs on the players pavilion that differed from those being used by the white members of the team.
Worrell would forever be remembered for his defiant stance that led to a succession of changes in the way the governing body for the sport in the region treated people of colour who played the game in the Caribbean.
Perhaps the other significant turning point in the sport of cricket in the Caribbean came with the entry of Kerry Packer, the Australian businessman who brought a level of professionalism into the game that the International Cricket Council did not foresee and took quite long to fathom.
Slinger Francisco (Mighty Sparrow) produced a great song that chronicled the way in which Packer changed the course of cricket as far as the West Indies was concerned. He noted the way the leadership in the region operated prior to the entry of Packer and his innovative approach to the sport, inclusive of its marketing, opening the eyes of the international community as against what presented itself as leadership in the Caribbean hitherto.
Few have as yet chronicled the role of Wesley Hall in the identification and successful contracting of the players from the Caribbean by the Packer  grouping. But it was clear that given his extensive years with the WICB as a player he understood the opportunities that Packer was affording the players of the day and urged them to grasp them with both hands in each case.
Of course anyone can ask Wes Hall about his limp and how it was sustained and the support or lack thereof he received from the WICB at the time.
Old habits
Despite the many changes that have since taken place in the sport of cricket globally the leadership in the Caribbean have been particularly slow to abandon their old, outdated habits in respect of the way the sport is managed.
We have witnessed a continuation of a mode of operation that suggests a feeling of being in such great control that it often translates into a sense of power. In so doing the WICB have often ignored the players. They have essentially seen them as a means to an end – their own empowerment.
Over the decades we have witnessed several critical clashes between the players and the WICB with the latter failing to acknowledge the dynamics of change that his impacted the sport around the world and inevitably crept into the Caribbean.
The experience of playing and interacting with players from different cricketing nations would certainly have opened the eyes of the players of our region, a fact overlooked by the WICB.
In the recent past we had the issue between the WICB and Desmond Haynes of Barbados. That issue petered out without the Caribbean people ever having been duly apprised of the outcome. One thing was certain however and it was that Haynes was adamant that the Board was inconsistent.
More recently we had the injury sustained by Dwayne Bravo. He was left to fend for himself and so found it necessary to inform all that he would take his time to return to the game after he was fully fit, having paid for the treatment out of his own pocket.
It appears that overtime the WICB have certainly not learnt the error of their ways and have failed to engage in appropriately astute analysis of its own history and performance.
In many respects the WICB have to shoulder the blame for the state of the game in the region and the consequent significant fall-off in its appeal at the local and regional levels.
Indeed many of those charged with leading the sport across the Caribbean have remained stuck in the past with no idea of where they are  headed.
Chris Gayle and change
Chris Gayle may well be paying for his own approach to the game under Brian Lara. The same can be said of Marlon Samuels whose disrespectful turning of the back on Lara in the latter’s final game for the West Indies before his home crowd remains one of the blemishes on the sport in the region in the modern era.
Gayle’s rise to leadership of the West Indies team may well have led him to behave in much the same manner as his predecessors. He seemed to have control so much so that he may have felt a strong sense of power. This could not have met with the satisfaction of the WICB leadership who, in the aftermath of Lara, may well have felt the need to regain control of all aspects of the game in the region, especially the team.
The president of the WICB can respond to the concerns some have as to whether he was seeking to have his countryman, Darren Sammy, elevated to the captaincy of the team even while Gayle was at the helm.
This columnist holds the view that the current leadership of the WICB may well have been overly enthused when the opportunity presented itself to have Sammy installed as the team’s captain.
But the WICB still treats the players as though they are children waiting on their first treat. The West Indies Players Association (WIPA) has been able to defeat the WICB at every arbitration in which they have been engaged thus far. That speaks volumes about the competency resident at the level of the WICB and the growing professionalism of the Players Association.
Seemingly obnoxious all too often the WICB have fallen prey to its own sense of power. It may well be this fact that has landed in its latest embarrassment – the response to Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller.
Portia Simpson-Miller. While addressing the Jamaica cricketing authorities earlier this year made some comments about the treatment of Gayle by the WICB as well as about the omission of Jamaica as a venue for any match in the Australia/West Indies series starting in the region later this month.
CEO of the WICB, Ernest Hilaire, seemed to have found it appropriate to respond by declaring that the Prime Minister was apparently lacking in full knowledge of the facts of the case; that she was not properly informed of the matter.
Of course the Prime Minister responded by declaring that the WICB’s comments were at best very rude and out of order.
The former Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird, has gone one better and described the WICB as incompetent. He noted that the Hilaire and the Prime Minister were not at the same level and the former’s remarks were lacking in diplomacy.
Clearly hopelessly embarrassed the president of the WICB has been seeking a meeting with the Jamaican Prime Minister at which he is widely expected to submit an apology on behalf of his organisation.
Harsh reality
The WICB remains an incompetent organization. A clear reflection of this is its decision to host three One-Day Internationals (ODI) in St Vincent and the Grenadines between 16 – 20 March and then three in St Lucia. And one test in Dominica.
While the Windward Islands would certainly appreciate the number of  matches being allocated to them this time around it begs the question, what would happen next time?
Since the WICB does not have to explain any of its decisions to the Caribbean people while satisfying itself with their payment at matches, there seems little by way of care coming from that institution.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has a holiday on 14 March. That could easily have been one of the days for an ODI. We should not have taken more than two matches since we are very much aware of the state of the economy and the government is not at this juncture prepared to grant any of the days of competition as holidays. The economy cannot provide adequate support for all three matches for them to be considered profitable in St Vincent.
The WICB sees itself as an organization that wields some sort of power without recognising that without players there can be no Board and without fans there can be no growth in the sport.
The time has come for the WICB to review its mandate as well as its mode of operation and take seriously the importance of a more inclusive approach that is far less confrontational and far more open.