Ernest Hilaire wants to break the ice with WIPA
Ernest Hilaire makes no attempt to sugar-coat the situation. Speaking before West Indies' abject top-order batting performance against Pakistan at the Wanderers, the incoming West Indies Cricket Board chief executive spoke chasteningly of the manner in which the board and West Indies Players' Association allowed an industrial dispute to descend into an international embarrassment.
Hilaire will assume the reins from Steve Camacho, the WICB's acting CEO, on October 1 and his first order of business will be to end the damaging dispute with the West Indies' Players Association that prompted leading players including Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, to undertake strike action. The recent moves of WIPA and WICB to accept the recommendations proposed by the region's CARICOM leaders appears a step in the right direction. However with the ICC's pledge of a best-versus-best Champions Trophy already in tatters on account of West Indies' second-string touring party - on Wednesday only a defiant rearguard and some inspired bowling staved off a complete rout against Pakistan - much damage has already been done.
Hilaire recognises as much, and is determined to usher in a new era of cooperation with an increasingly militant WIPA. The veteran St Lucian administrator is hopeful that West Indies' next international assignment - the Test and one-day tour of Australia - will witness a return to normality.
"We need to work with WIPA in the future and make sure we do so constructively," Hilaire told Cricinfo. "We need to be more mature about our relationship. The threat of strike action should not be a weapon of choice in negotiations. We need to have respect for each other and build trust in each other and identify that we are partners in this. We have the same ultimate goal, and that is to restore West Indies cricket to its pinnacle.
"We must all ensure that we never go through this again. Even if we don't agree with WIPA, we have to be mature and professional enough to resolve it without resorting to the measures we have in the recent past. Not for one minute could we dream that there will never again be differences between the board and the players. We just need to handle those in a mature and professional way. Nobody is looking to destroy WIPA."
Hilaire concedes the board's governance has suffered from "inefficiencies" and "failures to communicate" in the past. He intends to submit a plan that will allow the WICB to streamline its operations and "build a professional and modern high-performance structure" that will assist the senior team in recouping the ground lost during this year's damaging labour dispute, while also addressing the oft-neglected domestic system.
They are lofty ambitions - particularly for a board with a lamentable recent performance record and a reputation for conflict among its various regional members - but Hilaire believes all will be attainable during his term as chief executive. To do so, he will need the board and the players' union to lay down their arms and commit to a long-term partnership; a truce he hopes to broker in the short-term.
"It would be very difficult for anyone to make the case that the board has been at its most efficient and effective," he said. "That can be said of a lot of organisations and corporations, too. You just have to look at the size of the staff and the general ability to cope with the demands of international cricket. We have to have the capacity to implement changes, or we risk going down the same old road.
"There are some long-lasting issues. There needs to be better efficiency and better lines of communication between the two parties. The issue of rights and contracts I suspect might take a little longer to resolve than some of the other issues. But we must make sure that the core issue of getting the players back on the field is not contingent on just one area of negotiations.
"We have a very proud cricketing heritage. We dominated world cricket in the 1980s and for a period of the 1990s. The true dream of West Indies cricket is to return to that dominance, but we of course realise that there is a long, long road ahead for us to realise that. What we have is a very distinct brand of cricket - the way we bat, bowl and carry ourselves. That has to be rediscovered, but we must ensure that we do not become stuck in the past."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo