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TONY COZIER: Cameron, Caricom set for hard ball


TONY COZIER: Cameron, Caricom set for hard ball

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IT WAS INEVITABLE that the high expectations for the latest review committee on the management of West Indies cricket would quickly turn into the turmoil that has typified its sharp decline of the past two decades.

The conviction of Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, head of Caricom’s subcommittee on cricket, that there would be no objections from West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron to the conclusions of the independent panel, chaired by principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus, Professor Eudene Barriteau, appeared reasonable enough in the circumstances. It was, after all, jointly established by the two; the WICB appointed three of its five members.

In reality, such confidence was misplaced.

The Barriteau committee was the third over the past eight years with a similar mandate as the team plunged from No. 1 to near the bottom of the international rankings.

The other two, the first headed by the former Jamaica prime minister P.J. Patterson, the other by St Kitts-Nevis Queen’s Counsel Charles Wilkin, were established by the WICB itself. Both recommended sweeping changes to its make-up, not dissimilar to Barriteau’s group; the directors ignored their main recommendations.

The upshot was that the organisation remained basically the same as it was when formed in 1927, with a directorate of two members each from the six territorial shareholders under a president and vice-president.

The Barriteau report was uncompromising in its criticism of the WICB’s governance. It proposed that the board “should be immediately dissolved and all current members resign” while an interim committee named a new board “to install a new governance framework”.

As appropriate as they were, they were not what the WICB wanted to hear, whether or not it was party to the committee’s formation. For Cameron, it was a crushing blow to his determined fight to attain the highest position on the English-speaking Caribbean’s most prominent sporting body.

His tactics in getting there and his autocratic way of running the WICB have made him widely unpopular with the cricket public.

It is clear that he will confront even the regional governments to ensure he won’t be stopped by his latest challenge. It will soon be apparent whether he is carrying it too far this time.

He has become embroiled in an increasingly intense, personal clash with Mitchell over the timing for a call for the urgency of replying to the Barriteau report.

Cameron’s position was that the WICB directors would meet to discuss the document on December 5 and 6 before setting out a reply at its scheduled quarterly meeting on December 12.

Mitchell countered that the matter was so urgent it required a far earlier meeting. Cameron did not heed the request.

Mitchell seethed at what he called Cameron’s “amazing level of disrespect” in a letter to Caricom Secretary-General Irwin LaRoque that reiterated the WICB’s reasons for continuing to decline his demand for an earlier meeting.

“The level of lack of understanding of the importance of this is quite frightening and I don’t think I should hold back any words,” Mitchell said at the Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS) summit in Dominica.

As the row escalated during the week, it was apparent neither side would budge from its position. The subsequent effects are potentially dire. 

The governments own eight of the 12 international stadiums. The exceptions are Sabina Park in Jamaica, the property of the Kingston Cricket Club, and the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad that belongs to the club of the same name.

Should the stalemate reach such a drastic stage, the governments could withhold the use of the facilities by the WICB, jeopardising future international series. It is a scenario that would present a conundrum for the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Cameron defiantly stated the WICB’s misgivings in an address to the Cayman Islands Cricket Association last Monday. He stressed that the WICB is a sporting organisation.

“We’re not saying we don’t want the governments to participate,” he explained. “We’re saying that the organisation and its leadership must be selected free of interference from governments.”

Provided he has the support of the directors from the six territorial boards that are shareholders in the WICB, it was a clear hint that a court suit would follow any action by the governments against it.

The argument is surely not over. It is likely to be expanded with the full participation of those on the Caricom prime ministerial committee on cricket on one side, the strengthening of the WICB’s resolve on the others.

In the meantime, the actual cricket will continue to struggle for improvement. The team is bound for three foreboding Tests in Australia, a few weeks after defeat in both Tests and all three One-Day Internationals in Sri Lanka. That is what should be occupying the minds of both parties.

Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the Caribbean.