TONY COZIER: Sign WICB digging in
THE West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) decided at its annual general meeting in Jamaica last weekend to change its name to Cricket West Indies, a retitling already initiated by their Australian, New Zealand and South African counterparts.
The announcement was followed by two statements that blur the issue over whether or not it intends to follow the lead of the others in meaningfully restructuring its operation.
History indicates that it will once more dig its heels in, rejecting recommendations for change previous reports on its governance and, in the process, so frustrating Caribbean (CARICOM) governments’ insistence on change that the two are no longer on speaking terms.
One announcement after the AGM came from the full member boards. The six – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and Windward Islands – strongly supported the WICB’s earlier rejection of last November’s CARICOM review committee’s findings on its governance.
The latest of four such reports, it was established jointly by CARICOM and the WICB under principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Barbados campus, Professor Eudine Barriteau. Presidents of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Dennis Byron, and the Caribbean Development Bank, Warren Smith, and former West Indies vice-captain Deryck Murray were among its eight members.
Its main proposal was that the board should be immediately dissolved and its current members resign while a newly constituted alternative was assembled. It was a pill too bitter to swallow and WICB president Dave Cameron used forthright language to accuse it of making “findings and recommendations . . . not supported by the facts”.
It was, he said, “wrong to blame governance of the WICB for the team’s performances on the field”.
At the same time as the member boards confirmed their opposition to the Barriteau report, Cameron announced the formation of a panel of “experts” to assess the proposals not implemented from the three earlier reports on governance.
It is to be led by Don Wehby, a Jamaican business executive and government senator and former cabinet minister. He and two others, Clifford Reis of Guyana and Ricky Skerritt, an earlier West Indies team manager, are independent non-voting WICB directors; three non-aligned members are to be added.
Cameron said it would focus primarily on the recommendations of committees under Trinidad and Tobago high court judge Anthony Lucky in 2004, former Jamaica prime minister P.J. Patterson in 2007 and St Kitts-Nevis Queen’s Counsel Charles Wilkin in 2012 that were shelved.
Its remit was to examine “if there is an opportunity to bring anything back to the territorial boards and the WICB for adoption by the shareholders”.
“Once that process is complete, a change management expert will be brought in to complete the process for a smooth transition,” Cameron added.
It sounded very much like a fait accompli that Wehby’s group would find the dormant proposals and present them to be stamped by the member boards and the WICB itself. If so, they would find it a very hard sell.
The Patterson and Wilkin reports echoed each other’s almost word for word and Barriteau’s all to the stipulation that the WICB should disband itself and all its members resign.
Patterson’s plan, at the time based mainly on input from then UWI pro-vice chancellor Hilary Beckles, was for two-tier system – a general council of between 15 and comprising stakeholders of the game such as governments, former players, tourism, the media and the private sector under a chairman, along with a numerically reduced executive board under a president selected by the council.
Wilkin’s group projected a board reduced to 15, comprising president, vice-president, six appointed by the territorial boards, six elected directors and the chief executive officer as an ex-officio director.
Four years after handing his report to the WICB, Patterson charged that its main point for restructuring was ignored was “because it would have resulted in some degree of openness which do not exist in the present situation”.
Both he and Wilkin concluded that the directors were hostile to their suggested changes centred on their intention to protect their positions on the board.
In the circumstances, it is unrealistic to believe that WICB directors would suddenly do a complete U-turn and agree to restructuring of the organisation, whatever Wehby’s committee finds pertinent in reports that have gathered dust for years, while West Indies cricket has increasingly staggered in the international game that it once dominated throughout the 1980s.
The reality is if it does not accept the need to reform itself, the revival that has been elusive for two decades will remain that way.
Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the Caribbean.