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COZIER ON CRICKET – Biting the bullet

Tony Cozier

COZIER ON CRICKET – Biting the bullet

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THE PRESIDENT and directors of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) are, no doubt, closely following developments Down Under concerning their Australian counterpart, Cricket Australia.
If not, they should be. They would find them relevant to their own situation, involving, as they do, changes to the structure of the organisation that recently appointed chairman Wally Edwards (a former Test player) describes as “the most sweeping” in its 105-year history.
They follow the recommendations in a report on governance by David Crawford and Colin Carter, commissioned by Cricket Australia.
Crawford is the chairman of the board of Australia’s major brewery, Foster’s, whose similar report in 1992 led to the shake-up of the Australian (Rules) Football League; Carter heads one of Australia’s leading football clubs, Geelong.
Among their proposals, accepted by Cricket Australia’s six member state associations last week and simply awaiting the rubber stamp of the present board, is for the number of directors to be reduced from 14 to nine.
Each state would have no fewer than one director but they would not be allowed to hold any position on their own boards. Instead, Edwards noted, an appointee would be chosen on his “relevant skills . . . it could be a high-powered businessman who had never been to a Test match”.
He revealed that it is the fourth attempt since he was on the board that restructuring had been recommended, only to be knocked back.
After all, it meant members voting themselves out of a position and that has only now happened after Australia’s drop from No. 1 and No. 5 in the Test ranking [more especially their losses to England in successive Ashes series] and the worrying decline in cricket’s popularity in the country.
Four years earlier, then WICB president Ken Gordon, similarly concerned with the even more distressing state of West Indies cricket, set up the same type of high-powered committee as the Australians have now done to undertake a governance review.
It was headed by retired prime minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson.
Some of its recommendations coincided with those of the Australians, notably the composition of the board, and were submitted to Gordon’s successor, Julian Hunte.
A long-serving member who first came on to the WICB as a Windward Islands representative in 1971, Hunte is still the president. He maintains that “approximately 47 of the 65 recommendations” were implemented. 
An outraged Patterson is adamant that its most significant points, such as a reduction in the number of directors, have been ignored.
“I challenge anyone to point out a single iota or even the semblance of change which has been made to the composition and structure of the WICB as a result of our report,” he raged in a statement in August, 2009, headed The Status Quo Is Unacceptable.
Accepting that he was butting his head against a brick wall, he has gone about his other business and made no further comment on the continuing problems of West Indies cricket – on and off the field.
If implemented, his committee’s proposals would mean the mass resignations of the directors to accommodate the reform and, as initially in Australia, that was not going to happen.
The upshot is what Edwards said he found when he first came to Cricket Australia – “a very, very argumentative board based on state issues” on which bartering and conflicts of interest were rampant.
So, for instance, certain directors demand to know from selectors why their players have not been picked for the West Indies team and venues are known to be often allocated on the basis of vote-swapping.
It is no wonder that the public has long since lost confidence in the WICB. Like Patterson, it acknowledges that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
Finally pressed into action by a recent turn of events, Australia has pointed the way to necessary transformation.
We wait, without any real confidence, for the WICB to revisit the Patterson Report and follow suit.
Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the region.