Cricket in the Caribbean has been "hijacked by a small clique" of people. That is the assertion of Dr Keith Rowley, the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, who is part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that has been highly critical of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). The CARICOM has blamed the WICB for West Indies' slump in the ICC's Test and ODI rankings for more than a decade.
The CARICOM's opposition to the WICB coincided with the rise of Dave Cameron, who was unanimously re-elected for a third successive term as board president. Last year Cameron rejected the CARICOM cricket review panel's recommendation to dissolve the WICB. According to Cameron the CARICOM panel had ignored the "sweeping" changes brought in by the WICB since 2002 in its governance structure and had also failed to consult territorial boards and WICB directors before listing its findings.
The defiant attitude of Cameron and the WICB, according to Rowley, had only distracted from the real question of who owns Caribbean cricket. The CARICOM, he said, believes cricket is a public product that belongs to the people and not to the WICB.
"Caribbean cricket has been hijacked by a small clique of people who are hell bent on destroying Caribbean cricket," Rowley told the Trinidad-based TV station CNC3 TV on Wednesday. "And this is my position that unless the question is answered as to who owns that asset we spinning top in mud."
The WICB, Rowley said, had told him the board was not accountable to the CARICOM any more, considering it was now a business entity and had become West Indies Inc.
In the media release it sent out following Cameron's re-election, the WICB had spoken of its efforts to rebrand itself.
"In moving forward, the President and the team will have the new strategic plan which will facilitate improved performances at the regional and international level and explore a more robust governance system," the WICB said. "The strategy revolves around the rebranding of Cricket West Indies; the development of our commercial arm - Windies Inc; and the creation of a development foundation to finance cricket development in the region".
Rowley has questioned the basis for the change.
"I was told to my face, me and my colleague the Prime Minister of Grenada, that you all have no say in this. This is West Indies Cricket Inc. West Indies Cricket Incorporated. And it is their shareholders that they have to please. I don't know who the shareholders are, but what I do know [is] unless there are drastic changes to the current arrangements West Indies cricket will never get back to where it is expected to be."
For Rowley, in addition to the decline in West Indies cricket, the most "painful" thing was the fans moving away from the game. He gave the example of driving past Queen's Park Oval in Port-of-Spain and being bewildered by the silence inside when a match was on.
"You know how painful it is for me. In this country lining up outside the [Queen's Park] Oval from 6'0 clock in the morning to get in. That's how cricket used to be. Barbados is playing Trinidad & Tobago and the Oval is full because you got to beat them Bajans, ha! And now, you are passing outside the Oval and you ask, "what's happening in there?" You know how painful that is."