The Caribbean hurricane season runs from 1st June to 30th November, but last Sunday, the first heavy gales for the year struck the region. The winds of change blew into Jamaica during the afternoon, bringing with it highly unexpected relief and hope to the people of the Caribbean.
The eye of the hurricane struck the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston where the Annual General Meeting and elections of Cricket West Indies (CWI) were being held. The results of the latter sent shockwaves throughout the region as word quickly spread that the incumbent president Dave Cameron had been ousted after six years at the helm, an epoch marked with strife and controversy.
The elections, which were conducted by secret ballot, following a motion by the Trinidad and Tobago representatives, were held under the scrutiny of the international audit firm, KPMG. The 8 – 4 margin of victory for new president Richard “Ricky” Skerritt came as a complete surprise, as the confident Cameron, who had expressed total confidence in retaining the position, had forgone a campaign having received two nominations for the post. The first proposal by the Windward Islands was seconded by Guyana, while Barbados supported Jamaica’s nomination.
Skerritt, who arrived at the meeting with the expressed support of the Leeward Islands and the Trinidad and Tobago cricket boards, had “also received the backing of the Jamaica Cricket Asso-ciation in the build-up to the elections,” according to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. The other board which cast their two votes for the new president remains unknown to date.
The defeat must have been a bitter pill for Cameron, who, it is alleged, had the meeting switched to his home turf, to swallow. An obviously shocked and very disappointed Cameron, who had been seeking a fourth two-year term, later claimed that he was leaving West Indies cricket in a better state than when he came to office. He was quoted as saying, “I trusted the process that we are men of integrity and I banked on that, that we are a group on integrity and we stand for something, so that’s where I am very disappointed that men gave me their word and then went a different way.”
Diehard West Indian cricket fans who have been waiting patiently, and hoping, seemingly in vain, for the changes in the governance of West Indies cricket as proposed firstly by the Patterson and then the Barriteau reports, and pushed for by the Caricom Heads of Government, must have smiled ruefully upon hearing the latter statement. Cameron, who had steadfastly refused to have any discussion on change of governance and al-ways appeared to be at loggerheads with the players, now has the gall to use the word integrity.
Ricky Skerritt, a former Minister of Sports and Tourism in St Kitts and Nevis, and the new vice-president Dr Kishore Shallow, the current president of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Cricket Association come to bat at a very difficult time in the history of West Indies cricket. Interest in the game, apart from the T20 format, is at an all-time low ebb throughout the region, as clearly reflected in the empty stands during England’s recent Test series in the Caribbean and the relationship between the board and the players over recent years have bordered on toxic, to say the least.
In canvassing for office, Skerritt stressed the need for greater transparency and commitment, and promised that his stewardship would bring about the governance and performance principles necessary to push West Indies cricket forward. He disclosed that he had found it troubling that Cameron planned to “implement sweeping changes to the democratic process of decision-making” in Caribbean cricket.
“By advancing his plans for an autocratic leadership structure, which marginalises the role of commercially recruited executives, the incumbent has placed his personal thinking diametrically opposed to the values of West Indies cricket,” Skerritt and Shallow had pointed out in their initial campaign email back on 21st February.
Skerritt, who was endorsed by West Indian legends Clive Lloyd, Sir Viv Richards and Sir Andy Roberts, enters office on a tidal wave of widespread support across the region and has pleaded for patience as he begins to implement his ten-point Cricket First Plan, with immediate focus on rejuvenating the high performance centre disbanded by the Cameron administration two years ago, governance reform and finding a permanent West Indies coach.
Across the Caribbean, all eyes will be on the steps being taken for governance reform, as the current archaic structure is light years behind the rest of the world, and needs urgent attention. No doubt the Caricom Heads of Government Cricket Committee, which recently met with the ICC, will be in touch with the new president. The Patterson and Barriteau reports have laid out the framework for change. There can be no delays or excuses. The time for change is now.
Here in Guyana, fans and observers will be paying close attention to how President Skerritt will deal with the imbroglio that has occurred with the administration of local cricket, more so that the current controlling body was a strong supporter of Cameron and it was generally perceived that in return it received ‘non-interference in local matters.’ We expect that the Skerritt Administration will soon add this unacceptable situation to its agenda of urgent matters.
Best wishes to Ricky Skerritt and Dr Kishore Swallow as they are entrusted with the reins of the one truly unifying Caribbean force. The ball is in your hands, may the winds of change propel your efforts.