The West Indian Cricket Board contains a structural flaw

Dear Editor,

Approximately a year or so ago, I wrote a song about the travails of the West Indies Cricket Board suggesting that they “Take A Rest” and Tony Cozier’s recent article in Stabroek News (January 20, 2009) tells me that the advice pertains more than ever. Further, on reflection, asking the board members to take a rest is only side-stepping the problem which is essentially the structure of the board itself.

I’m not sure how widely apparent it is, but to me the fundamental issue with our management of cricket in the Caribbean is that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is a combination of different nations and territories (6), each, understandably, with its own agenda.  No other major team in sport anywhere in the world operates under such a structure. The political forces inherent there are a recipe for disaster, and disaster it has been for us for the past 20 years or so.  Those who point to the previous good order of our cricket administration forget that that was in earlier times when we had, in effect, one national board, answerable ultimately to England; what we have now is, in fact, not a national team at all, but one made up several independent nations. The result, as insiders will tell you, is a WICB President whose power to act is nullified by wrangling among these national delegates each of whom has to be satisfied. There are too many different cooks in that kitchen, all of them stirring the pot for their own ends, and there is no clarity of purpose.  Allen Stanford is right when he says no professional sports organisation can be run that way.

The most recent inanity by Dr Peters, reported by Tony, is one of a chain of WICB blunders too long to present here; we can all recite our favourite episode − mine is the naming of a captain who was not even on the team. But once we stop laughing, the core reason behind successive incarnations of the WICB running aground has less to do with the members of the board and more with the structure under which they operate. This present arrangement is, in practice, a bottom-up configuration, with a range of national representatives, each with self-serving agendas, but somehow expected to abort those agendas for a regional team. That is simply naïve.

Face reality: our history is strewn with the failures of such expectations. Our experience with the Standing Free Association, the West Indies Federation, Caricom, Carifesta, the CSME, free trade, and, more recently, the EPA, shows us how thorny the path of regional consensus is.  We have been trying to operate our cricket with a structure proven to be unworkable every place it has been applied. The statement that West Indians are united in cricket is a half-truth; we are united in our love of the game of cricket, but in our administration of it we are a collection of national units with, understandably, different priorities.

The further evidence of this structural defect is that successive personnel changes at the WICB have not changed anything; the malfunctions continue because the various national representatives have too much clout, and changing presidents, we have seen, does not change that scenario; from Rousseau to Hunte, the one constant has been disarray.

The solution will have to be an innovative approach where West Indies cricket is organised on business lines, perhaps, as Tony Cozier has suggested, as a private sports entity; or operated with shareholders (as many have suggested); or with a board answerable to those shareholders, as the WICB’s own committee (PJ Paterson; Ian McDonald; Alister Hughes) recommended.

However structured, some sort of professional sports organisation, with an authoritative and accountable president, must be created (ideally by the Caricom ministers as the Patterson Committee proposed) to replace the existing dinosaur. While certainly politically difficult to achieve among these now independent nations, each with their own priorities, it is the only way we will get back on track.   If we persist with the present WICB structure, the mismanagement will continue, our cricket results will remain poor, and (brace yourself, Tony) Dr Peters’ most recent inanity will not be the last one we hear.

Yours faithfully,
Dave Martins

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