Even by the known standards of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), the statements by its chief executive in Port-of-Spain last week touched a new height of illogic and arrogance.
Dr. Donald Peters basically placed the blame for the recent loss of sponsors on the players and portrayed the continuation of the one-day tournament and the expansion of the first-class series, in spite of it, as some sort of triumph for the board.
Here is how he put it in an interview with the Trinidad Guardian: “I have already told the West Indies cricketers that they must start winning in order to help us in attracting sponsors. When this happens everybody wants to come on board and this would put us in a better position given the current financial crisis around the world.”
He continued: “I am happy to announce that this money being used to run the regional first-class series is not from a loan but from our resources that we have put away, in order to keep our cricket going. This will tell you that the board is a well-financed and well-run unit and is not being mismanaged.”
Somehow, the responsibility of his board and of its affiliates to properly prepare those cricketers to “start winning” escaped him. He ignored its failure to get the long-promised Academy, and its several off-shoots, up and operational after several missed deadlines. December 15 last was the latest given by him; now his president, Julian Hunte, puts it at the end of this year. While West Indies cricket continues to wait, the rest of the world marches on. There was no mention, either, of the scheduling of first-class matches on third-class grounds, last season’s embarrassing cancellation of an ‘A’ team match against an international touring team, the lack of coordinated coaching programmes and any one of the several administrative hindrances that have led to the weakest domestic competition in memory and the subsequent inability to produce winning teams. Presumably, some one would wave a magic wand and, just like that, a decade and more of despair would be transformed into glorious success.
Captain Chris Gayle’s comment, made over a year ago under a different dispensation and in different circumstances, remains as pertinent now as it did then.
“The WICB say they want the best out of the players but we also need the best out of the board,” he said.
To Peters, the fact that the WICB has had to use a sizeable chunk of its dwindling finances to fund what were the KFC Cup and the Carib Beer series is proof that “the board is a well-financed and well-run unit and is not being mismanaged.”
It is no such thing. Instead, it reveals the understandable aversion of sponsors to any involvement with an organisation so prone to chaos and controversy. Five times in the recent past it has been engaged in disagreements that have gone to arbitration, either involving the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) or, most recently and most damagingly, with Digicel, its main sponsor. Each time it lost. On a completely false premise, it launched a verbal broadside on Rev. Wes Hall, one of its former presidents and an icon of West Indies cricket, and became embroiled in a spat with P.J. Patterson, the former Jamaica Prime Minister, over the weighty report of a committee he chaired and which it itself commissioned. It had a messy internal squabble over who spent what in the refurbishment of the president’s office that led to the dismissal of its corporate secretary (and a consequent tit-for-tat legal battle) and the temporary suspension of Peters himself.
The level of disdain reached by those who have backed West Indies cricket with their millions was typified by the strong words of Denis O’Brien, the chairman of Digicel, last November. Unfazed by the humiliation and expense caused when it lost its case to Digicel at the London International Court of Arbitration (LICA) in the imbroglio over sponsorship rights to the Stanford Super Series, Peters said the WICB would have to review its agreement with its main sponsor as a result. O’Brien’s reaction was understandable. He told the media: “I am greatly perturbed by the behaviour of the president and the chief executive officer. I think that both of them really need to really withdraw.”
Of course, neither has. That is the way of the Caribbean.
Instead, Peters has remained to conveniently pass the buck.