Guyana face Caribbean T20 scare
West Indies cricket is facing yet another crisis, this time involving the territory of Guyana. The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) has seen its authority taken away by the Guyana government and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is refusing to acknowledge the government-appointed interim management committee headed by former Guyana and West Indies captain Clive Lloyd.
One feared fallout of this was Guyana's exclusion from the Caribbean T20 tournament, which starts in Antigua next week, but latest indications are that the country will be represented.
Last Wednesday, the secretary of the embattled GCB, Anand Senasie, wrote to the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) informing it that the board could not provide a team for the tournament, which starts on January 9, because the Guyanese government, through the ministry of culture, youth and sport, had placed locks on the doors of the GCB's offices and storage bond since December 24. This means the board is not in a position to prepare and outfit a team, although a squad has already been selected for the tournament.
This standoff between the Guyanese government, in the form of sports minister Dr Frank Anthony, the GCB and by extension the WICB has its genesis in the disputed Guyana board elections of July last year. Those elections were boycotted by some of the board's constituent members. Ramsay Ali, however, became president.
Subsequently, the Berbice Cricket Board, through its secretary Angela Haniff, took the GCB to court, claiming that the new administration was not properly established. In ruling on the matter, acting Chief Justice Ian Chang noted that the GCB and its constituents - the Berbice, Demarara and Essequibo cricket boards - were really unincorporated associations and that "the judiciary is powerless to provide remedial action."
The Chief Justice, however, recommended that "there may be immediate need for the minister responsible for sports to impose his executive will in the national interest."
The result of this ruling was the setting up of the interim committee headed by Lloyd, by sports minister Anthony. Lloyd, ironically also an ex-officio member of the West Indies board, has a mandate to draft a new constitution for the GCB that would go to all constituent boards and other stakeholders "for their deliberations and adoption", to bring together into one board the factions of the Demerara Cricket Board (one source of the GCB's problems) and to review all the GCB's financial transactions through an independent auditor.
This government intervention via the establishment of the interim committee has met with strong resistance from the West Indies board.
Following a meeting in St Lucia last weekend, the WICB's directors gave full backing to the GCB and chief-executive officer of the WICB, Dr Ernest Hilaire, told the Trinidad Express newspaper on Wednesday: "We cannot recognise another body in Guyana; it's as simple as that. The issue of whether or not the court can dissolve a cricket board must be decided legally. Unless it can be determined that the minister [has the legal authority to] dissolve the GCB, then the WICB cannot recognise any other body."
The WICB has also informed the Guyanese sports minister by letter that the Guyana team can only be provided by the authorised body for the governance of cricket in Guyana - the GCB - and not by any other entity.
The WICB also requested the government of Guyana to allow the GCB to access its offices and resources to allow it to be able to complete the process of fielding the Guyana team for the Twenty20.
The implications for Guyana's cricketers and its cricket in general can be grave, therefore, as long as the interim committee - established to work over a six-month period - is kept in place by the government. Already, Guyana, the 2010 Caribbean T20 winners, may miss a chance to play in this year's edition, and could also be debarred from the regional four-day competition if things remain the same. Guyana's hosting of international cricket this year has also been cast in to doubt because of the impasse.
For the imminent T20 tournament, the WICB had proposed replacing the Guyana team with a West Indies B side, which, the board said, would include players selected in the Guyana squad who have represented West Indies or who are under consideration for future selection. The board said other players in the squad not selected for the B team would still be paid their match fees. However, this may not be necessary now as Guyana are likely to field a side in the tournament.
20:21 GMT, Jan 6: This story has been updated from an earlier version
Garth Wattley is a senior cricket writer for the Trinidad Express