The Woefully Incompetent West Indies Cricket Board
Published: Sunday | June 3, 2007

Love is a wonderful thing, when it's going right. Your heart sings, you walk on air. But when it goes wrong, there's nothing more painful. Your inside hurt. A black cloud follows you around. You curse yourself for caring so much when you know you shouldn't.

And though it's only a damn game, this pretty much sums up West Indies cricket. At least to those of us who grew up on it with our mother's milk and to whom it's not so much a game as part of our very being.

Beaten by an innings and 285 runs, the worst defeat since we started playing cricket 79 years ago. It just doesn't get any worse than this. And, if England can do this, one shudders to think what will happen against Australia.

Yet, strangely, it doesn't hurt so bad. Because, having observed the West Indies Cricket Board's (WICB) recent behaviour, this thrashing is no more than our just deserve. Until there is a complete revamping at the top, West Indies cricket has nowhere to go but down.

It seems pretty obvious to me that the top-five boys and girls teams in the amateur Jamaican High School Track Championships are better managed, better coached and get better medical treatment than the supposedly professional West Indies cricket team.

Completely closed

Certainly, no top Jamaican high school team has gone three years without doing a complete medical examination of its members, as unimpeachable sources say is the case with the West Indies. There was a plan to have all squad members fully checked out by doctors before the recent Cricket World Cup. Yet, a few days before the scheduled tests, the WICB told the doctors they couldn't afford it. Apparently, the approximately (US$1,500) J$102,000 in total involved was beyond the financial reach of an organisation expected to earn anything from US$10-$100 million from WC2007. No doubt the entertainment budget for WICB members for the opening ceremony alone was many times US$1,500.

Of course, the WICB books are completely closed to the public and only they know how much WI cricket takes in and howit is spent. No wonder cricket-loving corporations are so reluctant to invest any money in WI cricket. Who wants to throw money down a black hole?

Now, the region overall invested about half a billion US in WC 2007, and the most important determinant of the tournament's success was always going to be how well the West Indies did. So, the WICB's unwillingness to invest US$1,500 in making sure its players were in peak physical form was nothing short of insanity. Even self-interest it seems is beyond the comprehension of the woeful incompetents in charge of our cricket.

Full recovery

I am also reliably informed that when the current WICB CEO came into office and was contacted about meeting with the medical panel, he expressed ignorance of its existence and has still not met with those supposed to be medically monitoring the West Indies players. Is it surprising then to hear comments from commentators like Michael Holding about how worn out and unfit our players look?

The WICB would put all the blame on the players and no doubt, as in any organisation, there are some on the WI team not training as hard as they could. But reliable sources also tell me that some WI members work as hard as any athletes anywhere, and at least one was found by private doctors to have below normal blood count indices before the Cricket World Cup started. Has there been full recovery? Well no one knows, since no proper medical monitoring has been ordered by the WICB.

While they may not be as good as the halcyon days of Sobers, Richards and Lara, our current bunch are the best we have. If West Indies cricket is to progress or even survive, surely they deserve to be treated as professional athletes. But the WICB seems to think of them as disposable assets to be exploited.

The West Indies Players' Association which is fighting for the players' rights has been continually vilified by the WICB as 'confrontational' and 'militant'. Yet, time and again the WICB has reneged on agreements with players and forced WIPA to take legal action.There is currently yet another arbitration case pending between the two over whether players should get additional pay for the current English tour. It should be noted that of four arbitration cases so far, WIPA has won every one.

The WICB seems still stuck in a pre-Independence colonial mindset where 'bakra massa' administrators set the rules and the peasant players were supposed to do as they were told, and be seen and not heard. It was the kind of attitude which caused C.L.R. James to write of Frank Worrell, "His relations with the West Indies Board of Control earned him the title of a 'cricket Bolshevik'."


Well as they say, 'Plus c'est la meme chose, plus a change' - the more things change, the more things stay the same. Because former West Indies captain, and now WIPA secretary, Jimmy Adams, recently gave an interview to Michelle McDonald which Frank Worrell would no doubt have endorsed 100 per cent.

(The quote and interview comes from the excellent internet site which gives the real low down on what is happening in West Indies cricket. One of the most informed posters is that doyen of West Indies cricket scholarship, Dr. Christine Cummings, whose knowledge of the game is only surpassed by her love for it.)

'Adams referred to the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) as "adversarial and short sighted". He feels that WIPA has had to stand on legal ground too often, all in an effort to bring the management of West Indies cricket into the modern era. "WIPA has existed long before [Dinanath] Ramnarine became involved in WIPA and yet, a lot of the situations facing players hadn't changed."

Best interest for players

Adams said that members of past WIPA executives did not serve the best interest of both senior and junior players. This is one of the areas he feels that Brian Lara has left a legacy. "He was one of the first really senior players, a global superstar, who many times stood up for the younger players. It was sort of a breakaway from what the traditional senior players had done, and what some of them had done in their roles with WIPA," Adams added. For many years, the WICB was happy to play the 'divide and conquer role'. "They would keep the senior players happy, and they wouldn't look after the junior players who were just happy to be involved," he said.

Adams believes that WIPA has been forced, out of necessity, to match the WICB's approach. "I'd be the first to say that I think that an adversarial approach is necessary now, because I strongly believe that too much of the abuse has gone on for too long, when you exploit players for as long as the board has, both Ramnarine and myself are dead set against it continuing for another generation."

It is my experience as a businessman that no company can prosper if management and staff waste energy fighting each other instead of putting their combined efforts into increasing productivity. There is no way West Indies cricket can rise from its current doldrums until the WICB begins to treat the players as partners in a common goal and not expendable assets to be exploited. And it won't get more sponsorship till it opens its books.

Does the WICB really care about West Indies cricket? And if they don't, why should we fans? I never thought anything could kill my love for West Indies cricket. But the WICB seems to be doing its very best to extinguish the English Caribbean's only unifying force.

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