Thursday, April 18, 2024

WICB saga continues


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HAD it not involved the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), it could be simply dismissed as far-fetched fiction.
It is the confusion, the intrigue and the infighting that surrounds the forthcoming election of its president and vice-president that make the storyline so real. All are established characteristics of an organization that has long since lost the trust of almost all of its greatest players as well as a public disenchanted with its repeated ineffectiveness.
The buildup to the March 27 ballot hardly changes the widespread perception.
The candidates for the presidency are the incumbent, Julian Hunte, the 73-year-old St Lucian businessman who has been persuaded to reverse his position on retirement after more than three decades in various positions on the board, the last over three successive terms and six years at the helm, and Jamaican Whycliffe Cameron, aka Dave, 42, vice-president throughout those six years and who had naturally assumed that he would be automatically next in line on Hunte’s expected departure.
Both have lined up their choices as vice-president, submitted their manifestoes to the territorial boards whose votes will settle the outcome and done their canvassing. Behind the scenes, there have been the wheeling and dealing common to an election of any sort, not least in this corner of the planet.
Another potential aspirant was Clive Lloyd, the celebrated captain during the great era of West Indies cricket three decades earlier; for the second time, his nomination failed, this time for lack of a seconder among the six territorial boards that are WICB shareholders.
Lloyd’s case typifies the intrigue surrounding this ballot. There are others no less mystifying.
Formerly an ex officio WICB director, appointed by Hunte, Lloyd quit after the Guyana government chose him to head an Interim Management Committee, supplanting the fractured Guyana Cricket Board (GCB).
The WICB refused to recognize Lloyd’s committee, stating that, from the time it became a founding member in 1927 and a shareholder, it recognized only the GCB. In response to the government’s intervention, it moved all regional and international cricket from Guyana.
An acrimonious standoff developed. Lloyd directed some harsh criticism at the WICB. The issue has still not been resolved.
Yet the GCB put forward Lloyd, its arch critic, as its nominee for the presidency. The quid pro quo was clear. One favour deserved another and, in this case, it was for government’s recognition of the GCB.
In light of the failure to have Lloyd accepted, that has not happened but the WICB’s relocation of two regional four-day matches and probably a Test against Pakistan in July might, just might be a sign that tensions are easing. Even so, government cannot be satisfied that their eminently suited man could find no support from even one other territorial board.
With Lloyd no longer a contender, the election was down to a straight race between Hunte and Cameron.
The plot thickened as Hunte, in an interview in the WEEKEND NATION, refuted claims that he had informed his directors he would not be running, only to make mystery doubly mystifying with his explanations.
“I never ever informed the board that I was not going to seek re-election,” he contended. “To the contrary, I said to the board that some of my actions and utterances may have led them to believe I was not seeking re-election. I did say to the board in January, I was going to seek re-election.”
Then, acknowledging Cameron’s “right to compete”, he said that it was in order for him as well “if I may have had second thoughts of running to change my mind”.
The reason, he explained, was that “several persons” approached him to run again as they felt there were “some things that were still required to be done and that it would be better for me to handle them rather than pass them on”.
It is not that Hunte’s three terms – and, by extension, Cameron’s as his deputy – have been crowned with rousing successes.
The few, such as they have been, have been vastly outnumbered by the setbacks, the latest the board’s rejection of Hunte’s personally commissioned Wilkin Report on governance that proposed restructuring that included a reduction in the number of directors.
It is not hard to imagine what Cameron made     of Hunte’s U-turn, especially as it was obvious that among those “several people” who prompted it were board directors throughout his time as Hunte’s deputy.
What is more difficult to fathom is what suddenly made them so doubtful of Cameron’s capacity to handle the job that they would plead with Hunte to stand again and their lack of confidence to put themselves forward instead.  
They would have been fully aware of Cameron’s “conflict of interest”, noted in Justice Anthony Lucky’s report to the WICB during the sponsorship battle between Cable & Wireless and Digicel, specifically Digicel’s grant for upgrading his club, Kensington. But that is ancient history and didn’t deter them from three times returning him as V-P.
Were they swayed by new doubts about his competence to lead a board responsible for the administration of the one sport that encompasses the entire region? Was there some dark secret from his past that they didn’t previously know about?
Whatever the reasons, Cameron did not back away from his position. If anything, he pursued his goal even more fervently.
He predictably secured the support of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) of which he had once been an official. More recently and remarkably, he has been endorsed by the prime minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, who affirmed that her government is “confident that a renewal of West Indies cricket will result under his leadership”.
An even more notable coup was in securing Emmanuel Nanthan, president of the Windward Islands board, once a position held by Hunte, as his choice as vice-president.
How Nanthan reconciles that with the Windwards’ reported backing for Hunte (and his running mate, Joel Garner, Barbados Cricket Association president and giant fast bowler of the Lloyd era) is not clear.
Of the other territorial boards, Barbados and the Leewards have shown their hand to be in the Hunte-Garner corner, although there are known to be those within each board dissatisfied with the way the issue has been handled and moving to have the decisions reviewed.
The GCB president, Drubahadur, had written to Hunte, copied to directors, recommending that the “status quo remain for at least another two years”. That was before it was known that Cameron would be an option; he was in Georgetown during the week pressing his case.  
The one other territorial member is the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB). It prefers to keep its cards close to its chest and has said nothing.
Perhaps it agrees with the expressed sentiments of Andy Roberts and Michael Holding, two outstanding cricketers who are still moved to comment passionately on the decline of West Indies cricket caused principally by incompetent administration.
“I am not supporting any of the two because my view is that none of the two will make a difference to our cricket,” Roberts said in a newspaper interview. Holding’s view was identical.
The distressing reality is that they are not wrong.
• Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the Caribbean.


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