April 10, 2016

World T20 win highlights friction between players and WICB

The victory in Kolkata was followed by more combative words from both parties. Little will change till the administration is overhauled

The players rejoiced after winning the World T20 title, but their celebrations had an edge because of the way they feel they have been treated by their board © AFP

The euphoria that swept through the cricketing Caribbean following last Sunday's men's team's victory snatched from the jaws of defeat in the World T20 final in Kolkata has been accompanied by the heated, long-running debate over the future of the West Indies board.

The two were simultaneously linked at the presentation formalities by captain Darren Sammy's impassioned denunciation of the WICB as he received the trophy for the second time in three tournaments. Dwayne Bravo's subsequent descriptions of the WICB as "the most unprofessional board in the world" and of board president Dave Cameron as "immature", "small-minded" and "arrogant" added fuel to the fire.

They were combative words that drew inevitably sharp responses from Cameron and his vice-president Emmanuel Nanthan. Cameron released a statement on behalf of the WICB, apologising to the "millions of fans who witnessed it… for what could be deemed inappropriate comments" by Sammy. He went further with a typically biting tweet to the captain: "When is the last time a critic paid one of your bills? Always remember that when you start to give your energy."

Nanthan termed Sammy's reproach "irrelevant, demeaning, insulting and unfortunate". A few days later, perhaps mindful of Sammy's widespread popularity, he claimed he wasn't really criticising him as they always had a father-and-son relationship. As manager of the Windward Islands youth team, he asserted that he had gone against the selectors and the president of the Windwards board to get Sammy, then a reserve, into the XI. It was a baffling non-sequitur.

As Cameron was making his unsolicited apology and dispatching his tweet, the St Lucia government was preparing for the return of their two nationals from the champion team, Sammy and opener Johnson Charles. The culmination was the renaming of the Beausejour Stadium, venue for international cricket, the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium. The size of celebrating crowds left no doubt over Sammy's status in his native island.

So it mostly was throughout the 11 territories, from Guyana in the south to Jamaica in the north, whose common passion for over 100 years has been the game that unites them and for which they have been universally recognised for excellence and the exciting brand of their play.

Some of the West Indies legends during the glorious period between 1976 and 1995, Sir Viv Richards and Sir Andy Roberts the most prominent, sided with Sammy. So did Ramnaresh Sarwan, a player of more recent vintage. They repeated the calls for an overhaul of the WICB's structure that go back to a report on its governance prepared by a panel headed by former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson in 2007. "Change must be effected urgently," Patterson's report, commissioned by the WICB, stated. "The status quo is not an option."

Nine years on, the status quo has remained basically the same under boards presided over by St Lucian diplomat Julian Hunte and Cameron, the 47-year-old Jamaican financier. The latest report, put together under the aegis of the WICB and the CARICOM (Caribbean governments) sub-committee of cricket, was prepared by a panel under the principal of the University of the West Indies Barbados campus, Dr Eudine Barriteau. It recommended the "immediate dissolution" and the resignation of its members, to be replaced by a differently constituted board.

Nanthan termed Sammy's reproach "irrelevant, demeaning, insulting and unfortunate". A few days later, perhaps mindful of Sammy's widespread popularity, he claimed he wasn't really criticising him as they always had a father-and-son relationship

It was, predictably, rejected, sparking an ongoing confrontation between Cameron and Grenada prime minister, Keith Mitchell, head of the CARICOM group. It remains a contentious issue.

The day after the Kolkata phenomenon, Mitchell reiterated his view, and that of other CARICOM leaders, that there is little hope of a turnaround in the overall decline of the game in the Caribbean unless the attitude at board level changes. "There must be serious changes in the way the board operates," he said. "The structure that breeds the mindset we are now seeing must change."

In a lengthy, two-part interview with ESPNcricinfo on the eve of the West Indies semi-final against India, Cameron spoke of the advances he claimed were made during his successive terms in office.

He provided background to the withdrawal of the team from the tour of India in October 2014, for which the BCCI held the WICB responsible, and the BCCI's recent agreement to send its team to the Caribbean for four Tests in July and August.

Cameron spoke of the financial benefits of the Caribbean Premier League, which started during his first term after being initially licenced for 50 years to the New York merchant bank Verus International during Hunte's closing tenure.

He told ESPNcricinfo that his relationship with the players "is fine, as between any president and his players". More realistically, he added: "Obviously I would have liked it to be a little bit different at this point in time."

He said he was deliberately staying in a hotel in Mumbai next door to the team's. "Sometimes players get a little nervous when the management is around them. They probably feel a little defensive. I don't want them to feel like I am spying on them.

"No, man, the relationship is good," he reiterated. "It is where it needs to be. I'm the president of the organisation. They are the stars and they know that the WICB is supporting them in winning these tournaments. We are happy with that."

There was much else besides. Not everything corresponded with the record.

"At no time did I aspire to be president," he declared, adding that after 14 years as a WICB director and vice-president, "they asked me to lead the sport". His own account at the time tells a different story. As he stood against the incumbent Hunte for the post in March 2013, he acknowledged that it was a "long process".

"I travelled the length and breadth of the Caribbean, from Kingston, Jamaica to Georgetown, Guyana to be able to address the concerns of our stakeholders," he said after his election. The balance was swung his way reportedly by the votes of three delegates who flouted the mandate of their member board directors to back Hunte.

When he ran for a second term in March 2015, this time against Joel Garner, the Jamaica Cricket Association directors chose to support the giant Barbadian, one of the famed band of fast bowlers of the '70s and '80s. A meeting of the general membership soon overturned the decision and reverted to Cameron, one of their own. It was enough for him to retain the presidency.

It all confirmed what he boasted of in a tweet during his first term, when he was coming under increasing pressure to quit. "They've criticised 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 wrote.

So far no one has been able to.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for over 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • joel on April 13, 2016, 17:56 GMT

    West Indies cricket needs to be run like any other business. Investors, dividends, employees, etc. If that is done, it will be obvious that you do not waste your assets (the players) by allowing their value to drop due to injuries/contracts/isolation, etc. Cameron should know better, given his background. Unfortunately, he has become addicted to the power, and, like Gollum, cannot see the monster he has become.

    I think it is high time the constitution of the WICB is rewritten to reflect the changed nature of the game. Playing for national pride is not going to encourage anyone away from a 9 to 5 job, because PRIDE DOESN'T PAY THE BILLS! Getting to be a doctor or lawyer (or any other profession) doesn't happen by accident. It takes planning from childhood, usually with a lot of help from parents, the school , the governments, etc. There are no such pathways for professional cricketers in the West Indies. Every WI cricketer you see has pretty much done it on his/her own.

  • knianr3126727 on April 12, 2016, 14:21 GMT

    [[[[[[[[[[[[ So far no one has been able to. ]]]]]]]] Give him a round of applause, tony.

  • ahadd on April 12, 2016, 3:49 GMT

    You did not write about Peter Short, then President of WICB, when he moved WICB's headqwuarters from bridgetown to Antigua. You did not write about the players being subjected to wages not in proportion to their successes. You did not write about Peter Short not starting an academy to keep producing test players when Australia and other countries started academies.

  • K on April 11, 2016, 17:08 GMT

    This said it all ""There must be serious changes in the way the board operates," he said. "The structure that breeds the mindset we are now seeing must change." Indeed, 20+ yrs of same. These guys won the WT20 because of skills they garnered overseas; CPL was planned before Cameron's days; all the WICB does is try to control its players, instead of developing and supporting them. WICB must go !!

  • Jason on April 11, 2016, 7:50 GMT

    The problem with the WICB and some of the players needs to be sorted out as soon as possible. And another problem is from the outside looking in is the lack of genuine fast bowlers coming through. The Windies need genuine fast bowlers to be successful in Test and ODI cricket and would also make the T20 team even stronger :-)

  • Dennis on April 11, 2016, 5:49 GMT

    For W.I. Cricket to improve, the wicb board has to change. Could any one say why Michael Holding is not allowed to Commentate in the W.I.????

  • hamoro7788956 on April 11, 2016, 4:28 GMT

    We are backing David Cameron. He has achieved despite the odds. Administrators run cricket. Players play it. There are different skills. It appears that players wish to negotiate with sponsors, provide proposals, budgets and accounts and still play. It is time that we tell players to go and play and leave the rest to the administrators

  • michael on April 11, 2016, 0:29 GMT

    As usual there are half truths and inaccuracies in the interview with Cameron that Cozier refers to. One being that the CPL was instituted under his reign. The fact is the CPL negotiations and the signing of the agreement was done before he came into office by Ernest Hilaire the previous CEO. It has nothing to do with Cameron and his stewardship and hence him claiming to be putting money in the pockets of the players through the CPL is rubbish. Take note, the CPL have a host of various sponsors while the WICB struggle to find sponsors for their domestic tournaments. I wonder why? I would guess that people and sponsors have faith in the organisation running the CPL and NONE whatsoever in the WICB. I may be wrong but I doubt it very much.

  • michael on April 10, 2016, 23:30 GMT

    In a regional newspaper today figures pertaining to remuneration were quoted attributed to Hinds. He said that marketing was cut from the daily rate and the retainer increased to cover it The figures do not add up and someone more in the know should do a proper analysis on such an important issue. As stated the daily rate was cut by 12,500 per playing day and retainers were increased by as low as 35,000 per year for A+ players and as high as 70,000 per year for a C player. That would mean that after playing just 5 days of cricket the increase in retainer would be wiped out and someone like Ramdin who plays all formats would have played around 40 days resulting in over 400,000 cut for the year. Similar cuts would apply to other players. Further when they sign retainer contracts WICB OWNS the player and can deny them opportunities that may arise (Holder blocked from playing PSL) for no good reason.

  • makran_BFBC70D8-7319-4762-BA52-8C2DD8D7BE95 on April 10, 2016, 21:08 GMT

    Its not like always WICB's error, Players may also wrong. they simply want to play money loving T20's. think if they are very good players, where their forms goes in TEST as well as ODI. If WICB was not their who would have known about them.

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