WICB – CARICOM – Cricketers – Coach Fiasco
The impasse between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) the CARICOM and the cricketers continues to make global headlines, much to the disappointment of the regional sports fraternity.
In many respects the pronouncements coming from the key players involved in the impasse highlights the paucity of understanding of international sport administration amongst them.
Calypsonian, The Mighty Chalkdust, was the one to deliver calypso about ‘dem people laughin’ at we’. A close analysis of what is happening in West Indies Cricket today allows Chalkdust’s words to be prophetic decades after his first rendition of the aforementioned artistic piece.
There is so much being bandied about by everyone that the regional and international media are having a field day laughing at our inability to adequately address the situation in the very sport that catapulted West Indies onto the world stage.
Let us begin with the WICB.
Here is an organisation that has a very long history of failing to understand the product that it has and the players who make it all happen.
Perhaps it is that the WICB today has never taken the time to review the history of West Indies Cricket. It is essential that the current members of the WICB get a grip on where West Indies Cricket has come from to where it is today.
Perhaps the leaders of the game in the Caribbean have forgotten our people have used cricket to aid in our overall liberation.
Our cricketers have taken the game introduced to them by the English colonialists under very racist conditions and transformed it to bring pride fame and fortune to successive generations of Caribbean youth. Through all of this time the leadership of the Board seemingly remained oblivious to the role being played by the cricketers in refashioning the sport in the region.
Indeed the Frank Worrell-led episode with the leadership of the team in Australia came as something of a shock to the administrators of the sport in the Caribbean only because of the fact that the latter simply did not wish to be part of the transformative process. They were traditionalists and at the time that may well have translated into racists.
That the West Indies team was divided along racial lines was obvious to all except the administrators who could not extricate themselves from their own upbringing and socialisation.
Historically the Board looked the other way, away from the players and their needs and concerns.
It is not surprising therefore that successive Boards have essentially remained cast in the same mould of their predecessors. The colour scheme of the leaders has changed but the quintessential elements of their modus operandi suggests that they have retained the legacy of their predecessors.
Perhaps we may be correct in concluding that over the years the WICB has inculcated a particular culture that is at best debilitating if only because it is decidedly myopic in orientation.
The Caribbean heads of government have totally missed the boat in respect of their role in sport. Their approach from the very beginning, when they colluded to create a job at Caricom for Gary Sobers following his retirement rom the game of cricket, reflects their lack of knowledge of sport and its administration.
While the Caribbean political leaders mean well in respect of sport (and some would have practised sport at a fairly high level) their approach to addressing the concerns of sport in the region has been at best ad hoc. There has not been any genuinely studied approach to their understanding of sport.
The decision of our politicians in the region to create a cricket committee within Caricom is as misguided as the original decision in respect of the creation of the job for Sobers several years ago. This is the reason that it would fail.
Having recognised that they have been misguided and have made several critical missteps the Caricom heads are now seeking to use the ‘big stick’ approach.
That Caricom heads could now resort to an approach in respect of the sport of cricket in the region that they provide the facilities and therefore could now use that to influence the change they wish to see is indicative of how out of sync they are with global developments in sport.
The structure of international sport has always allowed for governments to insist that sporting organisations in their respective countries adhere to the laws of the land in every respect. There is also an insistence on non-interference in the administration of individual sporting organisations to avoid the manipulation that is often seen in national politics.
What we have seen in some countries is that governments have recognised the immense popularity of sport and move from insisting on the application of and adherence to the law to the use of funding to deliberately influence the sport development process of different organisations.
It is this latter approach that witnessed some sportspersons in St Vincent and the Grenadines a few years ago publicly stating that the leadership of football in the State must be supportive of the ruling ULP if the organisation is to progress.
In the case of West Indies cricket the stance of the Caricom leaders is as unacceptable as that of the WICB.
There is nothing wrong with governments requiring national sports organisations to operate as transparent and accountable institutions abiding by the established principles of good governance.
The West Indies Players Association (WIPA) began in the days of Deryck Murray and Clive Lloyd and that history-making team of the late 1970s. The intention was to promote and defend the interests of the players.
Admittedly WIPA came to the fore in the regional media under the leadership of Ramnarine who was a firebrand advocate who relied heavily on lawyers and trade unionists for advice.
The one thing that the frequent spats between WIPA and the WICB showed during the Ramnarine era was the failure of the Board to take seriously the business of sport in general and of West Indies cricket in particular. The records reveal that more often than not WIPA came to the bargaining table significantly better prepared than the WICB. Not surprisingly therefore WIPA came away with one victory after another leaving the hapless WICB the laughing stock of the international sport community.
In the recent past it does appear that the leadership at WIPA in the post Ramnarine era has lost much favour with the players on the West Indies team. This has meant that the organisation has been considerably weakened. Some may wonder whether this is a reflection of the influence of the president of the WICB, a fellow Jamaican, on the leadership of Wavell Hinds, the WIPA president.
The players’ action in India some years ago resonated around the world and brought to the fore the changing times in the way the sport is administered in the Caribbean. The players appeared to have lost all confidence in the WICB’s leadership.
The decision of the players to take a stand while in India appears to have been born out of what they perceived as the sheer arrogance of the leadership of the WICB. Obviously they did not take into consideration all of the ramifications of their action especially as it related to the significant loss of earnings to their hosts. Their primary focus was to show the WICB that they rejected what they interpreted as the display of arrogance by failing to address their concerns in a timely and responsible manner.
Sammy’s most recent comments after the West Indies team won the T20 World Cup in India was again a reflection of the continuing conflict between the players and the WICB. Nothing has really been settled.
Sammy’s comments may also have been spoken for and on behalf of the entire team, inclusive of the younger players who re quickly coming of age in the game as they represent the region at the international level.
It is most interesting that Sammy’s comments has sparked a discourse on the state of the game in the Caribbean at the global level, not just in the region.
The fact is that the sport of cricket in the Caribbean today cannot be viewed through the spectacles of what transpired decades ago. The game has changed significantly and our players have become millionaires, less from representing the region than from plying their trade around the world. They do not have to play for the West Indies to earn a living or to have their skill competencies in the sport recognised by the international sport fraternity. This independence must be taken into consideration in administering the sport today.
One must ask whether the leaders of the sport at the WICB have an understanding of and appreciation for the changing nature of the sport in the international arena and how it impacts the way the sport is administered in our region.
One must also ask whether the sports fraternity should find acceptable the governments’ seeming eagerness to dictate what happens in the internal affairs of national and regional sporting organisations under the claim that they provide financial assistance from time to time and construct sport facilities.
Finally, we must ask whether for all the financial independence that our players can now so readily attain do they have any sense of Caribbean-ness about them such that they feel some commitment to our peoples and the very rich cricketing legacy that we have established over the years.
Is it that the almighty dollar now holds so much sway over them that nothing else matters?
Sammy’s comments after the World Cup victory did to seem to take into consideration the peoples of the Caribbean. Do we feature in any way in their reckoning?
As it now stands the future of the sport of cricket in the Caribbean is as much of a challenge as is the future of the region itself.