So now we know.
According to Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron, President and Supreme Leader of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), it’s not his governing body that’s responsible for the woes that continue to afflict West Indies cricket but rather those of us who write and commentate on the game.
It is a Cameronised version of the timeworn ploy of shooting the messenger.
“We have a problem in the region in that we have lost for so long and were accustomed to winning for so long that our writers and sportscasters have only bad things to say about the board and the players,” he told Grenadian interviewer Mike Bascombe on an internet website earlier this month.
“It is almost like we’ve developed, I wouldn’t want to call it a sickness but it’s become commonplace, for all they do is criticize rather than trying to find the good in what is going on,” he added. “I think some of the names you mentioned are good because they have seen the game; they’re also bad for the game in that they keep reiterating what happened 20 to 30 years ago.”
In fact, Bascombe didn’t mention any names; Cameron obviously had some firmly embedded on his mind.
Throughout, Cameron made it plain he expects the media to toe his line, whatever the WICB’s several, proven shortcomings.
He challenged the media with encouraging the dwindling fan base to return to watch and support the game. Only the WICB itself can achieve that by raising standards on the field, so blatantly low at present, and mounting aggressive promotional campaigns for its various tournaments, now conspicuous by its total nonexistence.
Another one of Cameron’s points was this: “We need corporate sponsors to come aboard. That is what we need to be writing about.” Sponsors won’t jump on the bandwagon if they observe the President pointing the finger at those he alleges are “bad for the game” while the WICB does little to help itself.
Cameron is rightly proud of the introduction of the WICB’s new Professional Cricket League (PCL) that converts 90 new players into day-by-day professionals; he carped at those who contended that it wasn’t going to work.
Those not making it work are the WICB’s own franchises that rejected an essential tenet of the venture, the free movement of players, by keeping their squads entirely home-based during the draft in October.
Writers and commentators didn’t put them up to that.
There is one issue, Cameron revealed, that raises his hackles above all others.
“It (cricket) is something that connects all of us, something that identifies the region,” he said. “When we as sports journalists talk in derogatory terms about our players and our administration and administrators, what we are saying to the rest of the world is that there are people in the region who don’t know how to manage and conduct themselves. That, for me, is a big deal”.
And so it should be. But he needs to look at himself in the mirror.
He might just see that the several strikes, real or threatened, over the past decade and the repeated need for individual political leaders and CARICOM to intervene to settle internal disputes are undeniable proof of his board’s inability to properly manage its affairs.
While Cameron and his board dithered over how to respond to the crisis of the team’s premature pullout of the tour of India in October, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves gathered together the feuding parties at the Hyatt Hotel in Port-of-Spain and, in the space of six hours, brokered a temporary settlement.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) fumed over the abandonment and what led to it; it pointedly accused the WICB of just the thing that, for Cameron, “is a big deal”.
It stated its shock and extreme disappointment at “the WICB’s inability to resolve internal issues with its players”.
“The withdrawal gives little thought to the future of the game, the players and the long-standing relations between the BCCI and the WICB,” it chided.
When the BCCI advised it would sue for US$42 million in damages as a consequence, the WICB responded with a groveling letter of apology also pleading its virtual bankruptcy.
No West Indian writer or commentator was involved in that exercise.
Nor did any prompt P.J. Patterson, Cameron’s former prime minister in Jamaica, to state that the issue exposed “a total collapse of a governance system” in the WICB’s administration.
Yet Cameron spoke of commentators who are “bad for the game,” in other words those who don’t see things his way. Their penalty is apparently exclusion from any media work under the WICB’s control.
After I had been approached by the British television company contracted by the WICB to produce last January’s Nagico Super50 in Trinidad and accepted terms to join its commentary team, its director called a few days later to say that the WICB had removed my name from the list.
Its explanation, I was told, was that it wanted a better mix of voices, not just Trinidadian and Bajan; as it turned out, three of the five commentators were Trinidadian.
I had been on TV panels for every series in the Caribbean since 1991; suddenly there was nothing this year. I reverted to radio, my first location, joining the Caribbean Super Station for the Super50 and the BBC for England’s T20 and ODI matches in February and March.
I wouldn’t expect things to change as long as Cameron is president. As his defiant tweet at the height of the Indian chaos revealed (“They’ve criticized you. They’ve doubted you. They’ve lied on you. They’ve done all they can do, but one thing they can’t do is stop you”) he seems certain he’ll be there for some time to come.
If so, he’ll no doubt continue concerning himself with the perceived criticism of the region’s cricket commentators and journalists rather than concentrating on properly managing WICB affairs.
Then again, he might just be stopped