A vision for West Indian cricket
The news that the current president of the West Indies Cricket Board would not make himself available for re-election appeared to have caught the regional boards (which constitute the directorship of the WICB) by surprise. That much was evident in the mad scramble to find candidates for the position. Fortunately, someone was able to persuade the directors to take the simple step of rescheduling the Annual General meeting to allow more time to nominate a candidate.
As alarming as it is that the most powerful cricket community in the West Indies does not have some sort of succession plan that identifies the best human resources for the game's development, it is not unexpected. Given the names initially under consideration and the ones denied an airing, it is obvious that political unions rather than meritocracy still carry the greater weight. Extraordinarily and even more revealing of the mindset, was the fact that of the possibilities being contemplated, former West Indian cricketers were noticeably absent. It is a window that provides a glimpse at the inside of a body that has traditionally been at odds with players and the concept of power residing within the ranks.
When the news first broke, I seriously contemplated offering myself for nomination for the presidency. Not with any notion that I would succeed, but hoping to use the opportunity to encourage a new process and to instill the idea that change is possible and urgent at this critical juncture. Assuming that it was plainly evident that the safety of West Indies cricket is at stake in this ongoing crisis, I thought the presidential election would provide an ideal platform to discuss issues. I broached the matter quietly, outlining my desire to present a policy for West Indies cricket administration and development that would include:
1 Constitutional reform of the board to restructure membership to include expertise from relevant disciplines, to place within its framework mandates for cricket development.
2 A new organisational structure
3 A marketing plan that would partner with regional creativity to produce a cricket industry that would be sustainable and profitable.
4 A cricket development plan that would operate on two tiers in terms of time, and many platforms in terms of the age groups it targeted.
5 An industrial relations framework that enables deeper confidence in the integrity of negotiations.
6 Measures to ensure transparency and accountability.
These are just a few elements of the policy plan, and the intention was to initiate discourse on issues as territorial boards campaigned for their candidates, so that instead of backroom wheeling and dealing, candidates would need to articulate their visions before being nominated. Of course, the idea of my candidacy didn't even get past go, and I disclose it here primarily because I believe it is necessary to do so before I comment on the presidential elections.
Whoever becomes the next head of the West Indies Cricket Board will be the one taking it forward to the World Cup in 2007; what happens in the build-up to that date will profoundly affect the survival of cricket in this region. While the WICB's subsidiary is managing those preparations, there are several initiatives that should be undertaken by the board for cricket development, as this is an ideal time to maximise investment possibilities.
The WICB's declaration that it is financially weak has provoked a knee-jerk reaction to seek businessmen as leaders. The name of the former president, Pat Rousseau, has been raised as an ideal. For Rousseau, who has been a major figure in the dealings for the hosting of the World Cup in 2007, it would be the best return on his investment to be visibly at the helm in this period. Why the WICB would want such a reconveyance is a mystery, given the circumstances of his removal.
Ken Gordon, the Trinidadian media man, is the local board's choice, but while strategic campaigning has sanctified his business acumen, it has not convinced that his sporting knowledge is sufficient to enable him to hit the ground running as he would need to in this complex and competitive environment.
I will not run through the list, but will say that when the names of Deryck Murray and Clive Lloyd emerged as potentials, I was quite happy to jump off my high horse and support them. It is comforting to imagine these two partnering at the helm, and I believe that careful scrutiny of issues and requirements rather than control of power will convince all of their suitability.
The substandard arguments against them require little rebuttal. In the case of Deryck Murray, his sin was his challenge for the leadership of the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board of Control that left him persona non grata locally, and by extension within the regional cabal. None of the other boards dares to nominate him if his local board would not. Murray has ample experience, knowledge, and business background, and his commitment to cricket development is sound. Why should he be excluded?
As for Lloyd's eligibility, questioned by the TTCBC in relation to his residential status, can we have confidence in a body that would resort to such pedantry to block the former captain's contribution? In the first place, the Articles of the WICB Inc. need to be rewritten as they are tragically out of touch with modernity. The notion of local residency was forged long before globalisation changed the living conditions of the world. Men who took two weeks travelling by boat to get from the West Indies to the 'mother country' wrote those words by hand, never imagining the world of global commuting, telecommunication, computers and e-mails. Has anyone asked Lloyd where he would locate himself if he were to be elected? Surely, his residential status then would be of more relevance than it is now.
I do not wish to speculate as to the reasons Lloyd would not have been encouraged to return to West Indies cricket, his difficulties, first as captain and then as manager a few years ago have been documented, but it is sad that he had to declare himself with a public statement, rather than by a board endorsement. With regard to the condescending and offensive suggestion that Lloyd be second in command to Ken Gordon, one has to ask if the position were at a media company, wouldn't it seem ridiculous to offer Lloyd the leadership over Gordon?
It was prudent to allow more time to consider who would be the next leader of the WICB. Board members should bear in mind that although their constitution as it exists has rendered them practically untouchable when it comes to accountability and transparency, the cricket world is watching. The cricket public has become more educated on global conditions, and thus more vociferous and activist. The entire dynamic of relations between boards and players, sponsors, spectators, etc. has dramatically changed. What might have survived for eighty years as a result of negligence and self-preservation will not hold for much longer in this new world.
Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad