The attempt last year by Caricom to engineer the dissolution of the WICB, and the recent testy exchanges between the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and an unnamed WICB director, may lead observers of West Indies cricket administration to believe the tumultuous tenure of Dave Cameron is unique in our cricket history. That would be a mistake. Even a cursory examination of the history of West Indies cricket since the 1930’s leads to the inescapable conclusion that the WICB has always found it a daunting task to treat its top cricketers with the respect, and indeed the affection that are routine to sporting stars in other countries.
The inability of the West Indies cricket establishment to show proper respect to George “Atlas” Headley in the 1930’s and 1940’s, to Sir Frank Worrell in the 1950s, Lara’s and Gayle’s troubles, are all of a piece. From the 1940’s the game came to be dominated by working class cricketers who were late in appreciating their true value, and whom the WICB could for a long time have dominated, and indeed exploited.
The captaincy history of Headley and Sir Frank Worrell is the stuff of legend. Not so well-known is the provision in the contracts of the seventies, (discussed by Michael Holding in his autobiography), known as “no play-no pay” by which players were not paid for days when rain caused the postponement of the start or abandonment of a match.
What is unique about Cameron is that he is the first president, and likely his is the first board, to accept the notion that the bottom line is not merely the most important, but the only marker that really matters. When Cameron speaks of the success of his administration, there is never any misunderstanding that he is speaking of short-term financial success. It is probably a sign of the times, but it is also ironic, as the major indictment of the much maligned senior cricketers is their alleged mercenary attitudes. This board`s excessive emphasis on the bottom line, I believe, has led unfortunately to a reduction of interest in what actually goes on on the field. That has in turn led to a sort of recklessness about squad selection. A classic expression of that attitude was demonstrated in the last world cup for which the West Indies chose a totally inexperienced captain Jason Holder, and a player who had been selected for the ICC’s best one day 11, Dwayne Bravo was excluded from the squad of 15.
The tragedy is that such a selection policy has a significant impact in the longer run on the bottom line. For example a better performance in the world cup, which could not be dismissed as an unlikely consequence of a more responsible selection policy, might have meant a place in the following Champion`s Trophy and the 2018 world cup, that would certainly increase WICB revenues directly, and also indirectly, as participation in those events would likely result in a preservation of, and likely an increase in the fan base.
Mr Cameron’s lack of a deep interest in the game itself fuels his lack of concern with results and thus constitutes the most serious threat to the game the region has experienced.