It has been a lifetime highlight to serve, along with Sir Alister McIntyre, on the Governance Committee on West Indies Cricket chaired by former Prime Minister PJ Patterson. It was a privilege, a revelation, a shock and a challenge. I have loved West Indies cricket since I was a small boy and now to be near the centre of things for a while was an unforgettable experience. Very memorable was the eager and overwhelming desire expressed throughout the region to restore West Indian pride, superior performance and international impact in this greatest game of them all.
Amongst much else, there were four important questions which it was clear had to be answered forthrightly:
How might the governance of West Indies cricket be improved?
How might the current performance of our representative teams be taken to a higher level?
How might the broad base of the game, and its immediate prospects and popularity in the region, be strengthened?
How might the financial and commercial state of West Indies cricket be improved and secured on a lasting basis?
The committee came to conclusions on these vital matters and has made recommendations for urgent action. The expectation certainly is that what has been submitted for consideration by the West Indies Cricket Board in the first place should not be viewed as an academic exercise but should become the subject of vibrant debate leading to fresh approaches, structural change and new departures.
The precipitous decline of the performance of the West Indies team has been a particularly soul-searing experience which we found has depressed and angered West Indians everywhere. The Test team is struggling near the bottom of the league. The occasionally good ODI results cannot hide the fact that we have lost the art of winning consistently. Our recent summary dismissal from the Twenty/20 World Cup was another unpleasant humiliation.
And it is not only that the West Indies has lost the art of winning on the field of play. The high standards of fitness, discipline, commitment and behaviour associated with the West Indies have not been maintained. Of course there are exceptions and of course there is an element of idealizing the overall performance of our past great sides. But it will do no good to deny what is perceived and deeply felt throughout the region and embarrassingly commented on beyond our shores – West Indies cricket has not only sunk low in results but now sets no high example in fitness, discipline, team commitment or patriotic pride.
Thus a turnaround is needed at many levels and the committee proposed a range of measures required to effect a change in our fortunes. Of course nobody should be under any illusion that rising to the top again will be easy or happen suddenly, but there are many ways to make a start now while longer-term institutional and administrative changes take effect. A particular nettle which needs to be grasped is the undeclared war between the board and WIPA and the committee made a number of proposals for building a new partnership relationship.
Perhaps the most fundamental conclusion reached by the committee was that the governance structure of West Indies cricket must be radically changed. This has become necessary for a number of reasons:
The way our cricket is governed does not reflect the wide range of stakeholders’ interests involved.
It fails to meet the requirements and obligations of what is in effect a modern corporation operating in the global arena.
It has for some time now failed in its primary responsibility of keeping West Indies cricket at or near the pinnacle of world competition.
It has not fully exploited the extremely valuable West Indies brand name in world cricket and in general is not set up to cope with the rapidly developing challenges and opportunities of cricket on a globalised scale.
Recommendations for a new structure of governance, much more reflective of the interests of all stakeholders in the region, are therefore set out in the committee’s report. These recommendations lie at the heart of the report and deserve to be urgently considered.
Now that the committee’s work is over and its final report submitted a great fear must be that what the report has concluded and recommended will be allowed to slip into oblivion. This has been the fate of numerous studies and reports in the past.
The committee found during its work a history of shelved reports. There is an astonishing documentary record of investigation into all aspects of West Indies cricket, with detailed and sensible conclusions and recommendations, compiled and presented by a long line of expert and dedicated West Indians – but hardly acted on, victims of neglect, left to become mere archival material when they could have served to pinpoint and energize reform and renewal. Will the Patterson Report be left to join this dusty archive of unexamined good intentions?