Caricom Leaders and the Poor State of West Indies Cricket
By Tony Best
The West Indies Cricket Board is getting it from all sides – the lovers of the game, the players who represent the region on the field of play and now the heads of government. There is considerable justification for much of the criticisms.
At their summit in Suriname last week, the Prime Ministers and Presidents used very strong words to castigate the board for its crude and undiplomatic response to recent charges made by Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica’s new leader, complaining that the WICB’s choice of language was “insensitive, out of order and disappointing.”
The dispute between leaders and the Board started long before Simpson-Miller articulated her grievances about the non-selection of Chris Gayle, a former West Indies captain, for the side and the WICB’s inexplicable failure to include Jamaica in the itinerary for Australia’s tour of the Caribbean. Baldwin Spencer, Antigua’s Prime Minister and Chairman of the Caricom prime ministerial cricket sub-committee had complained to this newspaper last year about the way cricket was being managed. He was particularly upset with the Board for shelving the P.J. Patterson report on the development of the game, saying that it was wrong to allow the insightful set of recommendations of the former Jamaica Prime Minister and his panel, simply to gather dust in the WICB offices.
Now, the region’s heads of government are demanding a meeting later this month with their panel and the Board to resolve the outstanding issues that are dividing the West Indies. The sport’s administrators committed a major blunder by excluding Jamaica from the Australian tour citing a flimsy excuse: the weather. Come on now. As the country with the region’s largest fan base, Jamaica should have been given a test match and at least one limited overs game, no questions asked. Instead, the Board defied logic and placed several matches in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Dominica, venues whose collective populations aren’t a quarter of the size of Jamaica’s.
What the WICB stands accused of doing is squandering its resources in a vain attempt to get even with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados for slighting players from the Windward & Leeward Islands more than 40 years ago. Time was when players from the “small islands” were routinely ignored by selectors. Not so anymore. Since the 1960s, players from the “combined islands” and later the Windwards and Leewards have represented the region in droves without regard to the size of the respective birthplaces. At least three captains have come from that sub-region.
As for the Gayle controversy, it’s about time that it is resolved. And that would require a compromise by both sides, Gayle and the Board.
However, we couldn’t agree more with the leaders when they insisted that the cricket development report prepared by some of the region’s best brains led by P.J. Patterson, a former Jamaica Prime Minister and strong cricket fan, be part of any talks with the prime ministerial sub-committee. Certainly, there are worthy recommendations in that report which should have been implemented long ago. Instead, the WICB has unwisely allowed it to collect dusts on its shelves.
In the end, Simpson-Miller’s loud criticism may turn out to have been the best for all concerned. If nothing else it would have stirred the Board from its slumber and get on with the basis of improving West Indies cricket.