Vaneisa: Questions of legality and integrity still haunt West Indies cricket

A few days ago at Lord’s, Sir Viv Richards and Sir Curtly Ambrose had a conversation with Machel Hewitt of talkSPORT radio in their capacity as ambassadors of the Antiguan Tourism Authority.

Naturally, the talk turned to the state of West Indies cricket, and what they thought could be done to revive it.

CWI president Dr Kishore Shallow (left) and vice-president Azim Bassarath.
(via CWI Media)

Sir Curtly’s response was: “If you get the right personnel to run the cricket, I believe the cricket can get better. We will always have talent; there’s no question about it, but if we can get the right people in the right positions to get the cricket moving forward… we can be on our way.

“Of course, one of the biggest factors hampering West Indies cricket is insularity.”

Sir Viv added that “we need the individuals who run the system to listen a bit more to the people who understand”.

They were identifying two recurring issues arising at the two-day Caricom regional cricket conference which just took place in Trinidad. For decades those have been the major plague of the game.

Many other afflictions were tabled, but if you dig deep, those two are the virus that has infected every aspect.

West Indies captain Clive Lloyd (centre) lifts the 1979 Cricket World Cup trophy while his teammates celebrate at Lord’s in London.

Michael Holding, in his forthright way, called out the spades—enabling the discussions to proceed with a measure of candour that the two attending prime ministers, Trinidad and Tobago’s Keith Rowley and Barbados’ Mia Mottley, obviously hoped for.

I don’t want to rehash the statements at the conference; the proceedings can be followed on YouTube through Cricket West Indies.

I want to focus more on that element floating above the subject of the right personnel: governance.

Former WICBC president Peter Short.

When Peter Short was president of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (1993-1996), I interviewed him and asked about transparency and accountability. He looked at me archly and asked: “Who are we accountable to?”

Smugly, he explained that the WICBC (they hadn’t dropped the control bit yet), was a private company (the Inc PM Rowley indignantly mentioned) and therefore had no obligation to ­disclose its affairs.

It has been a big chip on West Indian shoulders. Searching for ways to bypass it, people have been divided—because as much as they have wanted to wrest it away from that realm of secrecy, they were equally distrustful of placing it into the hands of politicians.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) poses with West Indies cricket legend Sir Viv Richards.
(via Dr Keith Rowley’s Facebook page)

On 1 March 2015, as editor of UWI TODAY, the news magazine of the St Augustine campus, I compiled a collection of articles examining the state of cricket, under the heading “Whither Windies?” (It’s available online.)

Still relevant was an article by Dr Kusha Haraksingh, the founding dean of law at the campus and attorney for the West Indies Players’ Association at the time.

Titled “Private Control, Public Good”, it examined a ruling by the Supreme Court of India (January 2015) in relation to the BCCI’s role in relation to discharging several important public functions, specifically regarding cricket.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley (left) embraces West Indies allrounder Jason Holder.
Photo: CWI Media

Dr Haraksingh outlined the implications for the West Indies Cricket Board (as it was then), and the legal parameters that could be challenged.

At the panel for WIPA at the conference, Dinanath Ramnarine, the most vocal president the Association ever had, proposed that the way to manage the situation where the six regional cricket boards have adopted the model of the CWI and its antecedents—cloaking themselves under the umbrella of constitutional privacy—was to amend the acts of parliament throughout the region, to open up the process of ­accountability and transparency.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Dr Kishore Shallow (left) and former West Indies legend Brian Lara (right) pass on some silverware to current Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite.

It was the route PM Mottley ­advocated.

Isn’t our cricket a public good?

The back rooms are where the dodgy deals are brokered, where negotiations are tailored to serve agendas that have little to do with the development of cricket, and where horse trading goes on to serve insular interests.

I feel that in the determination expressed by the current Caricom leaders, there is a genuine and forceful movement that will not rest until this is resolved.

West Indies fast bowler Shamar Joseph (second from right) is helped off the field after a yorker by Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc hit him on the toe.
Joseph returned to claim seven wickets in a shock win for the Windies.

I urge them to remember that the governance structure can be reconfigured, but it will not ensure meaningful change without the “right personnel” to support it.

In the face of what is required, I think it goes without saying that the legends should be closely involved. Dave Cameron can put his typical spin on everything (like saying it was Julian Hunte who signed the 50-year contract with CPL, when he was the vice-­president at the time), but he has done more to damage the development of our cricket than anyone I can imagine.

CWI president Kishore Shallow seems out of his depth. A couple names came to mind as people with the acuity and commitment to join the new forces: Dr Kusha Haraksingh, and Christopher Dehring.

CWI president Kishore Shallow.

There are others, of course, but for now I believe they should be invited to lend their expertise on the path ahead. With no disrespect to age, many of the faces at the conference are no longer in a position to lead this charge into the future, and too many have ­political agendas.

Last Tuesday, the Senate met to discuss the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup 2024 Bill. Amidst the puerile behaviour of the politicians, wasting time on insulting each other’s parties and personalities, Independent Senator ­Sunity Maharaj towered above them with her intelligent and informed contribution.

It emphasised the reason the public does not trust politicians, but it was a reminder that we need to include the right personnel.

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