West Indies Cricket: How low can you go?
Our search for a reasonable explanation for the West Indies Cricket Board's strange behaviour last week, when the WICB unceremoniously booted out Coach Phillip Simmons, ended when we read the reaction of Grenada's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, in Guyana's Stabroek News, in an article entitled: "Angry PM Mitchell blasts Simmons sacking as bizarre and motivated by "spite and vendetta."
"The Board has now become an extremely inflexible and autocratic unit in which power and control dominate. Cricket development and cricket performance appear to be low on the Board's list of most important priorities," said Dr. Mitchell in the article.
As the former prime minister, responsible for the development of cricket at the CARICOM level, Dr Mitchell should know because he has had a front seat in that reality-defying environment where there have been too many showings of the WICB as a strange beast that ostensibly promotes Caribbean cricket but inexplicably seem to destroy it at the same time. So, according to Mitchell, it's all about power and revenge.
We submit that the WICB has been one of the strangest organisations. How else can you describe an institution that fires the West Indies T20 cricket captain, Darren Sammy (of all people) during a 30-second phone call? What type of organisation fires a man who six months ago led your team to a sensational win of the prestigious T20 World Cup with just a half-a-minute phone call? Another prime minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who replaced Dr. Mitchell as the prime minister responsible for cricket in CARICOM, described the WICB's decision to fire Sammy as "shabby" and "unacceptable".
"Your sacking of Mr. Sammy and the manner of his termination, on the eve of a Test match in Mr. Sammy's country, St. Lucia, to be played at the stadium which bears his name, display breath-taking insensitivity," Dr. Gonsalves wrote to Courtney Brown the WICB chief of selectors.
But Dr. Gonsalves may have overlooked the fact that Sammy had it coming to him because he thoroughly embarrassed the WICB during the awards ceremony after the World Cup final in India. If Dr. Mitchel's analysis of the WICB is correct, that this group is motivated by vindictiveness and spite, then Sammy's firing was a foregone conclusion after his outburst in India. By the same token, Dwayne Bravo, after the extreme embarrassment of abandoning the tour of India should have expected the WICB to strike back sometime despite CARICOM's ineffective intervention. The WICB obviously does not forget or forgive such transgressions easily.
In an attempt at explaining Simmons departure the WICB said Simmons' vision for the development of West Indies Cricket and that of the WICB did not align. So what happened when Simmons was interviewed for the post 18 months ago, did someone ask him about his vision for the West Indies team and did it align? Even if that assessment by the WICB is correct, we believe that Simmons ultimately paid for his statements to the press about the perceived interference, by persons un-named, in the selection of the West Indies cricket team.
Don't forget that over the past few months the WICB also fired the legendary Curtly Ambrose ostensibly over the quality of his couching of the bowlers on the West Indies team. Ambrose, it appears, heard that he was fired in the press.
But while the WICB and its staff squabble, the rest of the cricket world are having a field day belittling the once-mighty West Indies, a team that has now languishes near the bottom of the ranking of Test playing nations.
The website F. Sports, for instance, described the West Indies team's batting performance against India in the recent series as "feckless. It was also at times reckless, thoughtless, spineless and gutless" and "some of their cricket was acutely brainless as well". And many Caribbean cricket fans are blaming not only the cricketers but the WICB for most of that brainless cricket that takes place on and off the field. Calling the governance structure of the WICB "antiquated", "obsolete" and "anachronistic", the CARICOM cricket review panel, made up of V. Eudine Barriteau, Sir Dennis Byron, Dwain Gill, Deryck Murray and Warren Smith has recommended the WICB be dissolved and all current members resign. The panel also recommended that the WICB be replaced by an interim board. But as the WICB continues resisting the proposed change many cricket fans have concluded that always-divided-CARICOM has failed on that issue as well.
Undoubtedly, cricket observers place the blame for the current cricket mess on the shoulders of the current and past presidents of the West Indies Cricket Board as well as on the head of ill-disciplined and arrogant cricketers.
But someone should advise the WICB and its employees in the current and inevitable future conflicts that they are tampering with much more than the sport of cricket. We should remind them that C.L.R James, the West Indian philosopher, has eloquently argued that cricketers and administrators of cricket are ignorant of the history of the region if they believe cricket is merely the hitting of a hard red or white ball with a piece of wood. "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" James asked in Beyond a Boundary, one of the most important books written by a West Indian on the social history of the region.
But if CARICOM prime ministers cannot fire Dave Cameron and his group ultimately the task will have to be performed by cricket fans around the Caribbean. How will they perform that duty is the million dollar question. In the meantime we, the West Indian public, hide our faces in shame at the appalling incompetence of our leaders throughout the region.