Can the WI Decline Be Reversed?

Date Published: 
06-Nov-2014
Source: 
Contributed
Author: 
Claude H. Denbow S.C.

Can the Decline of West Indian Cricket be Reversed?

  1. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the withdrawal of the West Indian Cricket Team from the Tour of India, which should have been taking place now, is one of the most significant tragedies to have befallen cricket in its 86 year history.

    At the same time the opportunity has been presented to save West Indian cricket from its eventual demise by the removal of the present governance structure in the form of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and its replacement by the new structure as recommended by the Patterson Report since October 2007.

  2. It is not the purpose of this article to apportion blame by percentages since all of the major actors, i.e. the WICB, WIPA and the players must all share the blame. Instead the purpose of this article is to remind the West Indian cricketing public that this tragedy has been in the works for at least 2 decades or more.

    What has happened in the last few weeks is the culmination of multiple missteps by a dysfunctional WICB, which under its present structure is unlikely ever to be able to act in the best interests of West Indian cricket.

  3. The focus of this Article is on the WICB. The players are not to be exempted from adverse comment, but that is for another occasion.

Dare to Face the Truth

  1. We have to face the harsh reality that West Indian cricket as we know it is unlikely to be the same again, and has been undoubtedly in a mode of irreversible decline for almost 20 years. A reminder is necessary, because in these islands we have the infinite capacity to deny the truth and to live in a state of almost permanent denial of harsh reality.

    We always put on blinkers or seek to turn a blind eye to the unvarnished truth. When confronted by a fundamental crisis we delude ourselves into believing that a few meetings, where the main actors are pictured smiling and shaking hands followed with a news release saying that the problem has been solved, will actually be an end of the matter.

    Invariably that never is the case and certainly not in the context of West Indian cricket. Hence we should not fool ourselves into believing that the announced solution emanating from the meetings at the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain on 31st October, 2014 will solve the problem.

Brief History of the Decline

  1. I have been an avid follower of West Indian cricket for over 60 years. Having paid rapt attention to the glory days of 1976 to 1995 when I was in ecstasy watching, either in person or on television, the performances of the great West Indian players of that era, I was similarly angry at the decline which set in after 1995 and sought to write about it in a series of articles between 1995 and 2000 which were published in the local press.

  1. It is therefore instructive to highlight comments made both by myself and others over the past 20 years about the state of West Indian cricket at that time, and to relate them to the realities which now confront us at present.

  2. In April 1995 I wrote a letter to the local Press entitled “West Indian Cricket in Crisis” in which it was stated as follows:

“As an ardent supporter and follower of West Indian cricket ever since the age of 5, I write to express my grave concern about the immediate future of the West Indian Cricket team in the light of the appalling performance in the First Test at Kensington Oval.

The concern does not relate to the fact that we lost but to the manner of the loss. The lack of preparation, commitment, discipline and determination were clearly manifested by too many of the players of the team both on and off the field. Those were qualities which the Australians demonstrated in abundance and that is why they won.

It would neither be hysterical nor hyperbolic but indeed an understatement to state that unless serious and firm action is taken promptly both by the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) and the Selection Panel, then the immediate future for the West Indies team is not bright.”

  1. In May 1995 I wrote “West Indian Cricket in Crisis: Part 2” in which it was stated:

“In a previous letter at the beginning of April 1995, the writer had sought to analyze some of the reasons for the disastrous performance of the West Indies Cricket Team in the First Test against Australia in Barbados. At that time, the writer had expressed the view that unless firm and serious action was taken by the WICB and/or selectors in the areas of discipline and team management, then the proud record of West Indies cricket would be in jeopardy and would dissipate rapidly.

Unfortunately one’s worst fears have been confirmed with the emphatic defeat administered by the Australians in the Fourth Test in Jamaica. It is a state of affairs with respect to which the writer, among the thousands of ardent West Indian cricket supporters, inevitably mourns.

The reasons for the humiliating defeat have been eloquently set out in an Article headed “Dare to Face the Truth” by the eminent West Indian cricket writer and commentator, Tony Cozier in the Sunday Express of 7th May, 1995.

In his article Mr. Cozier asserts that there is enough evidence for the WICBC “to mount an enquiry into the ignominious end of a glorious era in International cricket”. The writer could not agree more!

Without such an enquiry it would mean that the Board is turning a blind eye to what may now be regarded as the most disastrous debacle in modern West Indian cricket history. Without such an enquiry it would mean that no one is to be held accountable for the pathetic performance over the past two months of the West Indies cricket team. That would be unacceptable.”

  1. In January 1999 after returning from the disastrous South African Tour I wrote another letter to the Press entitled “The Lost Generation in West Indian Cricket” in which it was stated:

“Over the Christmas holidays, the writer, along with over one hundred and fifty (150) other ardent West Indian cricket supporters from all the islands, had the opportunity to witness the 3rd and 4th Test in Durban and Cape Town during the West Indies cricket tour of South Africa.

Having stayed in the same hotels with the team in those 2 cities; spoken to and interacted with most of the players, officials and cricket journalists on the tour and being an eye witness to some of the events both on and off the field, the writer is in a position to provide informed comment on the present state of affairs in West Indies cricket.

It would neither be an exaggeration nor an unkind comment to describe the present West Indian cricket team as “The Lost Generation”. By this I mean, that as a consequence of the attitude and disposition of the present team, they are going to continue to be beaten in test cricket by most other teams and continue to denigrate the heard earned reputation of West Indian cricket should they be allowed to continue to play for the West Indies .

One takes no pleasure in being a prophet of doom and gloom but we must face up to the harsh reality of the present position. It should be pointed out that the writing has been on the wall for some years now. Yet nothing has been done to rectify the position.

It is the writer’s fear that unless a serious plan of corrective action is formulated and implemented over the next few years, there is a grave risk that West Indian cricket can go into “irreversible decline”.”

The Role of the WICB

  1. Throughout the last 20 years of the continuing decline in the fortunes of West Indian cricket the WICB, owner of West Indian cricket brand, has borne the primary responsibility for arresting and reversing the trend. The fact of the matter is that that trend has not been reversed and the decline continues.

    The communication of the plans by the Board has been intermittent and unclear. The Board has come across to the public as an absentee landlord owning prime property in a neighbourhood which has become dilapidated, rundown and uncared for over a number of years, but in respect of which the neighbours who have an interest in maintaining the neighbourhood are powerless to do anything about it.

  2. It is not difficult to understand why the WICB has been engaged in so many multiple missteps, and seems unable to chart a clearly communicated course to reverse the decline of West Indian cricket and seek to improve its lot.

    This explanation in my opinion clearly resides in the present governance structure of the WICB. The main elements of that structure which make the Board accountable to no one and devoid of any incentive to communicate and implement a plan are as follows:

    1. The WICB is a private limited liability company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands under the International Business Companies legislation.

    2. The legal owners of the company are the 6 Territorial Boards, i.e. Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. They are supposed to be the shareholders who own the company.

      The directors are primarily comprised of 2 representatives from each one of the Territorial Boards referred to above. In addition, the President and the Vice President of the WICB are elected by the directors appointed by the Territorial Boards.

    3. No person can become a member of the WICB unless the existing members (who are the Territorial Boards) approve of that person’s admission.

  3. In essence the WICB is an exclusive private club to which membership is restricted. Its controllers are accountable to no one but themselves. It is devoid of the governance structure of a modern corporation.

The Consequences of the Absence of Accountability

  1. In a situation where there is an absence of accountability there are certain consequences which are likely to follow having regard to human nature. It means that the Board can act or not act with impunity. It means that personal and business agendas can be advanced and pursued with your colleagues turning a blind eye because their time will come to do so.

    This is fertile ground for conflicts of interest to prosper and thrive. That is the reality of the corporate world.

Multiplicity of Stakeholders

  1. The foregoing situation would not attract public concern and dismay if the WICB was a family business, or owned by a closely knit group of private investors. However the reality is that the WICB as the owner of the West Indian cricket brand is in a broad sense of that term a trustee of that brand for a multiplicity of stakeholders, the most important being the cricket loving public including myself.

    It is therefore wholly unacceptable that this situation should be allowed to persist and prevail.

Personal Experience

  1. It is important to point out that the foregoing conclusions about the negative consequences of non-accountability by an institution such as WICB are not based upon speculation, but from personal observation.

    In that regard I was privileged to sit as a director of the West Indies World Cup 2007 for 3½ years from September 2003 to March 2007. During that time as a director of the World Cup Company (which was a subsidiary of the WICB) on multiple occasions I interfaced with a majority of the directors of the WICB. My conclusions from that experience are as follows:

    1. Too many of those directors were either lacking in knowledge of West Indian cricket history or development, or simply not too interested in same.

    2. Too many of the directors were more interested in pursuing their personal agendas or business interests which would have been facilitated by their directorships.

    3. Too many directors were merely “there for the beer”, i.e. more interested in the entertainment emanating from Board Meetings rather than advancing the cause of West Indian cricket development.

  2. There is no reason to believe that the situation which existed during that period has changed materially in any way. It is against the foregoing background that it is imperative if the decline of West Indian cricket is to be reversed, that we should have a new governance structure.

    This brings me to the recommendations of the Patterson Committee of October 2007 (known as the Committee on Governance of West Indies Cricket).

The Patterson Report

  1. The following excerpts of the Patterson Report are instructive in this regard:

16.1 Fundamental Change is Necessary

  • The way our cricket is governed does not reflect the wide range of stakeholders’ interest involved.
  • It fails to meet the requirements and obligations of what is in effect a modern corporation operating in the global arena.

Change must therefore be effected urgently. The status quo is not an option.

16.1.2

A fundamental change in exercising all the fiduciary and legal obligations, which attach to running a corporation beholden to shareholders must accompany a change in structure. Quite apart from efficient and effective administration, West Indies cricket demands foresight, accountability and consistency. The success of West Indies cricket must prevail over any competing consideration. It should always be the supreme interest.

16.2.3

The Territorial Boards are the legal shareholders. but they do not constitute the major stakeholders which are Governments, the Caribbean Private Sector, Regional Institutions, Past and Present Players and the media. The public provides the real customer base.

West Indies cricket is not the preserve of the WICB. The people of the West Indies own substantial rights.

16.2.4

The present composition of the Board is unwieldy, reflecting the dominance of Territorial Representatives who regard themselves as delegates rather than Directors of an Independent board, where their duty of care and loyalty is owed to the WICB and the WICB alone. This opens the door to the danger of insularity and possible conflicts of interest.

16.2.5

The present structure is cumbersome. It does not lend itself to effective decision-making or expeditious action and response where necessary.

16.3.1

The case is compelling for the governance of cricket in the West Indies to be restructured very differently from what currently exists.

There is little doubt that the present structure is too unwieldy; nor does it provide sufficient scope for involvement and participation by all the major stakeholders.

The West Indies Board should give way to a more representative body.

What has happened to the Patterson Report

  1. Notwithstanding the passage of 7 years, the fundamental change which the Patterson Report said was urgently required has not taken place.

    The fact of the matter is that the WICB, if it were to act in accordance with the new governance structure being advocated by the Patterson Report, would be engaging in its own extinction. It would cease to exist in its present structure and all its directors would no longer hold the positions which they currently enjoy.

  2. It is not realistic to expect that directors of a company which is accountable to no one would willingly relinquish their positions and give up their entitlements. The West Indian cricket public is likely to wait for a new century before this happens.

    In my opinion the only way for a new governance structure to come into place is if there is an external event which leads to the dissolution of the present structure. That is where the present claim of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) comes into play.

The Role of the BCCI Claim for US$42 Million

  1. However surgical or cynical it may sound, it may be that the new governance structure for West Indian cricket would emerge if the BCCI were to pursue and seek enforcement of its monetary claim for compensation in the sum of US$42 million for the WICB’s cancellation of the recent cricket tour to India.

    If such claim were to be pursued and upheld, then it would mean the end of the WICB under its present structure simply because all indications are that it would be unable to pay its debt and would have to go into insolvent liquidation. If that process does take place, a caretaker regime under the supervision of the ICC can be put in place to administer West Indian cricket before the new governance infrastructure advocated by the Patterson Report has been created and established.
  2. It is too early to say whether the foregoing will transpire. However in years to come it may be that we will acknowledge that the BCCI by pursuing its claim has done West Indian cricket a “favour” and saved it from its total demise. This would be the case if the pursuit of such a claim results in the emergence of a new governing structure with the prospect of reversing the decline of West Indian cricket.

    The BCCI claim may come to be regarded in time as a “blessing in disguise”. It would have done for the West Indian cricketing public what we are unable to do for ourselves!

Claude H. Denbow S.C.
Port of Spain
6th November, 2014
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