The heads of government committee should dissolve the WICB

Dear Editor,

There is a drastic drop in the standard of cricket by the official West Indies team. The W Indies is at the lowest grade of world cricket, and just when we thought it can’t go any lower, the team does not fail to disappoint us, and sinks even lower as happened in Australia, and prior to that in Sri Lanka. The decline is attributed mostly to the management board (WICB) and the selection committee, neither of which seems to have a clue as to what to do to save cricket in the region, and neither of whom wishes to go into retirement. The state of cricket has reached crisis proportions and warrants immediate political or judicial intervention. But the decline of cricket does not seem to bother the administrators or the selectors and no one wants to take responsibility and step aside; they only think of themselves and the perks and high salaries they enjoy. Drastic intervention is needed by the political administrations in the region to revamp the board in order to save not only West Indies cricket but international cricket as well. If the governments of the region do not want to act, then the ICC should intervene and suspend the board.

Many may feel the action I am suggesting to save W Indies cricket is a near impossible task, but it is doable as similarly happened in the case of Zimbabwe (although for completely different reasons). The ICC suspended Zimbabwe in order to moderate the board’s behaviour and it worked, though Zimbabwe cricket is still suffering (but for different reasons than those which affect the W Indies); Zimbabwe is back as a full-fledged member. However, unlike say other international teams, the West Indies cricket team falls under several sovereign jurisdictions making it very difficult for unanimous judicial or political intervention. The good news is that regional governments feel the board must go. It is noted that every regional government feels the WICB must disband and a new structure established to guide cricket. But the board members do not want to resign and/or to dissolve the body, resulting in a stand-off between the regional governments and the board. If the regional governments are unwilling to act to save cricket, then the big three (England, India, Australia) from the ICC should act by suspending the West Indies from further participation in Test cricket while at the same time establishing an interim body (of former legendary players) to select a team to participate in ODIs and 20/20s. All proceeds collected by the interim body would be used to transform cricket and establish a new permanent board to guide future West Indies international cricket.

The ICC has an interest in saving W Indies cricket because the team’s miserable performance is affecting commercial sponsorship of games and gate receipts, which affect ICC revenues. Thus, the key administrators in the ICC may not be averse to taking action against the WICB. India may also want a change in the WI board which owes India US$42M for the disastrous cancelled tour of India last year that resulted from bad WI management. Unless the W Indies team is strengthened with quality players and star power, revenues will be affected and India will not want to engage W Indies. So the WI board must go to save cricket.

I should note that Indian cricket had faced a crisis some years ago (not in terms of performance but over management’s unwillingness to act regarding allegations of corruption, gambling and conflict of interest). The government got involved and urged the BCCI to clean up cricket. Nothing significant was done as the board ignored the politicians in a way not dissimilar to what is happening in the West Indies. And the Indian politicians, many of whom have financial stakes in cricket, did not want to take bold action against the board that would undermine their own self interest. But interest groups decided to get involved and went to court to force changes in the board. The Indian Supreme court suspended the BCCI management and selection committee and appointed an interim board to manage cricket. At various times, former legends, men of integrity like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri were asked to manage and clean up cricket. Just last year, the Indian Supreme Court appointed Gavaskar as BCCI interim chairman tasking him with cleaning up cricket. The court also empowered players giving them a powerful role in the administration of cricket.

The heads of government committee set up by Caricom to look into the decline of cricket should take immediate action to dissolve WICB and inform the ICC of its action and why such a drastic move is necessary. Then it should appoint an interim board of former great players like Michael Holding, Dinanath Ramnarain, etc, known for their acumen and administrative skill along with the ability of Gavaskar, to manage cricket for a few years until a proper structure is established to professionalize the management of cricket. This is about the only way to revive W Indies cricket fortunes.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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