Flying high with ‘Bird’
West Indies cricket is in for a very big test tomorrow. No longer should there be square pegs in round holes.
The setting is the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica as Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) president Joel “Big Bird” Garner seeks to york Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron, the incumbent West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president in one of the most eagerly awaited elections in recent times.
But for all of the public opinion and generally strong support for Garner, a world-renowned former West Indies fast bowler, to become the new president, the power is in the hands of 12 shareholders who will be representing the six territorial Boards – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Windward Islands and Trinidad & Tobago.
In a nutshell, each territory is represented by two shareholders (not the directors), who are expected to carry out the mandate of their Boards.
Word is that whatever shortcomings encountered during his two-year reign, Cameron has the support of Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands and Windward Islands, while Garner is assured of the votes from Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago.
Funny things, however, do happen as Garner can attest. Just rewind to the 2013 annual general meeting at Accra Beach Hotel in Barbados, held on March 27, when Cameron, a Jamaican businessman, defeated the then WICB president Dr. Julian Hunte 7-5 to end Hunte’s bid for a fourth successive two-year term, and Garner was beaten 8-4 by Emmanuel Nanthan, a Dominican, for the post of vice-president.
Nanthan, the president of the Windward Islands Cricket Board of Control, is again contesting the vice-presidency and is being challenged by Baldath Mahabir of Trinidad & Tobago.
Both Cameron and Garner, the BCA president since 2007, have produced manifestos which make for interesting reading.
Under the heading “Restoring Pride to West Indies Cricket”, Garner’s manifesto was first made available on February 21. Cameron’s, in association with Nanthan, was circulated on March 2 with the theme “Strengthening the governance of West Indies Cricket”.
Garner has been forthright with the emphasis on cricket. He points out that “during the last few years we have been focusing on many other things while neglecting the main business of the WICB which is “cricket” and this is the main product that we must concentrate on”.
Cameron’s reputation as being arrogant comes through in several of the points he has highlighted, not least his reference to “complete transparency and accuracy in disclosures regarding operations, performance, risk, and financial position”.
Complete transparency? The cricketing public will always maintain that Cameron’s handling of the aborted West Indies team’s tour of India last October 17 over a pay dispute, and the US$42 million debt which the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) badly wants settled as a result are enough to bring him down.
And today’s four-wicket loss to India in Perth at the ICC World Cup should be a haunting reminder for Cameron as West Indies now desperately try to reach the quarter-finals with one match remaining against United Arab Emirates.
In his manifesto, jointly with Nanthan, Cameron states that they will “resolve speedily the issue involving the BCCI and West Indies cricket, with a view of minimising the damages incurred in reputation, and rebuilding the relationship between the two organizations”.
This is clearly an attempt to counter Garner, who under Priority Actions, has listed at 1: “Have a face to face meeting with the BCCI to sort out the issue of the US$42 million, otherwise we would have to wind up the organization”.
It is a powerful statement by Garner, who would surely be warmly embraced by the BCCI. Not so, Cameron.
Cameron and Nanthan must know that hardly anyone wants to hear their utterances on the issue with the BCCI at this time. It is no secret that Cameron was in Dubai when the tour was called off and then dropped the ball badly by failing to visit India and dealing with the unforgettable debacle like a real man.
Furthermore, after the WICB held an emergency Board meeting in Barbados on October 21 to conduct “a thorough assessment of all the ramifications of the premature end to the tour” Cameron further went on the defensive by cancelling a media conference and blunting refusing to be interviewed on a call-in radio programme the same evening.
His boyish behaviour again came to the fore recently with a retweet on veteran West Indies batsman Chris Gayle while he was going through a bad patch at the World Cup.
Cameron retweeted “Gayle goes..can’t buy a run.. let’s give him a retirement package .. can’t fail repeatedly and still front up based on reputation” after it was posted by one Gibraun Brijmohan in relation to opener Gayle’s dismissal for four against Pakistan.
Though he apologised, the damage had already been done. Nanthan has even said publicly that he thought Cameron was out of order with his retweet and he contacted him on the matter soon after he saw it.
“Torrentially tasteless” was how former WICB president and ace fast bowler Sir Wesley Hall described Cameron’s retweet, while the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) said it was “extremely disturbed by the unacceptable re-tweeting” as they “denounced any such behaviour by any official of the WICB in any given circumstance”.
WIPA said it has written to the WICB requesting a full explanation but there has been no official response so far. Again, it speaks to the pompous behaviour of Cameron.
In the build-up to tomorrow’s election, the fact that the executive of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) had initially backed Garner, only to have it overturned by the members of the JCA, sends a clear message of insularity. This is most unfortunate and can create uneasiness among WICB directors.
Since then, Cameron has virtually gone underground in relation to making himself available for interviews with the Media. Nanthan has emerged as his spokesman, exuding confidence that both will retain their positions.
In outlining his vision for West Indies cricket, Garner has stated that the territorial boards are key resources.
“As such, we must work with these Boards and all our stakeholders, including WIPA and the players, corporate organizations and CARICOM, among others, to create effective partnerships in order to build a strong, unified, accountable and well-governed organization capable of bringing West Indies cricket, on and off the field, to a position where we are once again a respected force in world cricket,” Garner remarked.
Garner is deeply concerned that over the past ten years, West Indies have languished in the lower half of the Test and ODI rankings, emphasising that there have been too many below-par performances which have let down the fans.
He, therefore, wants to place more emphasis on cricket with a definitive plan for moving up steadily in the rankings.
Furthermore, he wants to establish standards of performance and conduct as agreed between the WICB and the players; conduct and implement a full review of cricket at the junior level starting in the territories and moving to international competitions; work closely with the territories in formulating policies for developing young cricketers in order to achieve a revolution of the structure of junior cricket; improve and increase communication between the WICB and territorial administrative heads (CEO’s, etc) to ensure that the WICB and the territories are in sync with each other and work with the territories to provide more coaching education and training in order to improve the preparation and development of players at the territorial level.
If the shareholders have thoroughly read and digested both manifestos and really have the interest of West Indies cricket at heart, then they should do the honourable thing by letting Cameron and Nanthan know this is the perfect time for change and restoring pride.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.