West Indies cricket July 31, 2008

Foolishness beneath the foolishness

The West Indies board, headed by Julian Hunte, have several questions to answer © Getty Images

After devouring all the juicy details and speculation surrounding the latest series of convulsions in West Indies cricket, we now wait with an increasing sense of anxiety for Julian Hunte's (the board president) official pronouncements on the issues.

Has Chris Gayle reconsidered? Is Tony Deyal feeling any better (apparently he complained of being unwell and returned home shortly after arriving to work on Monday morning)? Is Donald Peters contemplating legal action?

Remember how as children we would buy those packs of starlights, light them up, wave them about and be fascinated by the bright sparks and short-lived trails they left behind against the backdrop of the night sky? Well, consider these developments related to the West Indies captaincy, the corporate services manager (Deyal) and the chief executive officer (Peters) of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) as nothing more than eye-catching sparkles distracting us from the absence of illumination that has for too long defined the administration of the regional game.

Amid the preoccupation with the events of the last 48 hours, how many of us really took notice of an interesting revelation included in the release from WICB media officer Philip Spooner last Friday following the two-day meeting of the board's directors in St Lucia?

That bit of information, which occupied most of the second paragraph of the release, went as follows: "The board also agreed to a Stakeholders Conference in October this year in which all the major interest groups that comprise and support West Indies cricket are expected to participate. The objective of the meeting is for stakeholders to review the board's Draft Strategic Plan for the period 2008 to 2012 and an organising committee, chaired by Dr Edward Greene, Assistant Secretary General, CARICOM, has been appointed to manage the event."

More than anything else, more than the subsequent unfolding of the Gayle/Deyal/Peters issue and the tributaries of controversy flowing from it, this decision by men who are supposed to have the best interests of West Indies cricket at heart confirms that the decision-makers of the WICB are really not interested in fundamental reform.

At least now former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson, former CARICOM Secretary General Sir Alister McIntyre and noted historian and writer Dr Ian MacDonald can stop living in hope that their exhaustive work and comprehensive research on the workings of the WICB will serve any purpose other than a paperweight or rather bulky door-stopper somewhere in that office on Factory Road in Antigua.

I mean, for cricket's sake, is there any piece of evidence that is more incriminating of the supposed guardians of the game in the Caribbean as a collection of individuals obsessed with their own status and importance and who will steadfastly resist any attempt, however sensible, to effect positive change in an organisation occupied by men who have overseen the humiliating decline of what was once a proud, international acclaimed, universally feared symbol of West Indian unity and pride?

What on earth will a "Stakeholders Conference" achieve that the Patterson Committee Report hasn't, other than to give another bunch of people obsessed with their own importance the forum to wax lyrical, to harness the emotion and the anger of our revered ancestors in a truly spiritual experience that will have all of the attendees joining in perfect harmony with a resounding "Amen, Brother!" when it is all over?

Can it be that those now at the helm of the WICB are so small-minded that they do not wish to give any credence to a comprehensive body of work generated under the watch of a previous administration? Or is it more to the point to suggest that the recommendations of the Patterson Committee threaten the rights and entitlements of too many in the inner workings of the board for it to be given any sort of credibility?

I really want to see who is going to attend this October charade, although I won't bother with the substance of the contributions other than for its dramatic and artistic value. If you consider new offices, more professional staff and a different corporate structure as meaningful, well, that is your business. When the assortment of stakeholders are finished sipping the expensive grog to loosen their tongues in preparation for a mellifluous performance, and when the media have reported on the emotive, chest-beating contributions of so-and-so expert, will we see any action to match the lyrics?

As quintessential West Indians, we are not in the business of implementation. Talk? Plan? Meet? Discuss? Yes man, we right there with the best of them anywhere in the world. But when it comes to getting things done, to making the tough decisions that will result in fundamental change, you can't find a man to hold up the side.

So let's amuse ourselves with what the principal actors in this long-running comedy-drama have to say over the next few days. At the end of the day, isn't that what we are anyway to the outside world, smiling, happy-go-lucky inhabitants of our little slices of paradise?

Like the starlights, we can really sizzle and put on a show, even if it all amounts to nothing and ends up discarded at the side of the road.

Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad