Browne responds to critics, Dr Gonsalves
Since taking over as chairman of the West Indies selection panel from Clive Lloyd in late June, Courtney Browne has come under the microscope for some of the decisions made including the dropping of veteran wicket-keeper/batsman Denesh Ramdin from the Test team for the current four-match series against India and the sacking of Darren Sammy as the Twenty20 captain and player for two matches against the Indians in Florida later this month.
Among the critics has been the Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who wrote a letter to Browne on the firing of Sammy, which he described as “unceremonious and summary”.
This column presents Dr. Gonsalves’ letter, as well as a reaction from Browne in a Question and Answer interview.
In his letter dated, August 10, 2016, addressed to Browne and copied to West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron, Presidents/Prime Ministers of CARICOM and Secretary-General of CARICOM, Gonsalves stated: “Mr. Darren Sammy, the distinguished West Indian cricketer, has advised me that, in your capacity as Chairman of the Selectors of the West Indies cricket team, you peremptorily informed him in a 30-second telephone conversation that he was being removed as the captain of the West Indies T20 team and that his recent performances did not merit him a place on the team for the upcoming T20 matches against the touring Indian team”.
“I find this shabby treatment of Mr. Sammy to be unacceptable; indeed, I am sure that all right-thinking persons are extremely dissatisfied at your unceremonious and summary dismissal of Mr. Sammy as captain and player. You simply cannot treat a former captain of the West Indies Test team and a successful captain of two World Cup T20 Championships with such disdain! Further, 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 breathtaking insensitivity.
“Elemental respect and common decency demand that once the selectors had decided to remove Mr. Sammy as captain and as player of the T20 team, he ought to have been accorded the courtesy of as dignified face-to-face meeting with you, and his support enlisted for the transitioning to the new captain. Does the leadership of the West Indies Cricket Board or chairman of selectors have no sense of professionalism or any inkling of what is right or wrong in professional/industrial relations?
“The issue at hand relates not so much to the decision to remove Mr. Sammy as captain and player – though as a cricket fan I question it – but to your “modus operandi” and that of the West Indies Cricket Board.
“I have followed your cricketing career with great interest and admiration. I have always considered you to be a splendid son of our Caribbean civilisation. In fact I was pleased at your elevation to the position of chairman of selectors. But you have disappointed me deeply. I hope that you are not being unduly influenced by those whose leadership is akin to the proverbial plantation supervisor, in a brown cork hat, perched on a horse – a high horse – seeking pitiable revenge against someone on account of some imagined transgression against “massa”.
“It is not too late to make amends. To begin with, you and/or the president of the West Indies Cricket Board ought to apologise to Mr. Sammy and the people of the Caribbean for your handling of this matter. Secondly, you and the president ought humbly to request that Mr. Sammy assist the T20team, in their preparation for the imminent matches against India in Florida. Thirdly, if Mr. Sammy consents that he is accorded a role in shaping and massaging the transition to the new leadership and in facilitating renewal. Noble deeds are now required by the leadership of the West Indies Cricket Board and selectors to make manifest the possession of a redemptive grace.
“All the best to you, your family and West Indies cricket. You are in my prayers. I am available to speak to you on this matter should you be inclined to do so.”
Dr. The Hon. Ralph Gonsalves
Following is the Q and A with Browne:
HOLDER: What was the thinking of the selectors in removing Darren Sammy as the West Indies T20 captain, as well as a player for the two matches against India in Florida later this month?
BROWNE: Sammy was under-performing as a player for over a year. However, in recognition of his contribution to West Indies cricket in all three formats, we tried to give him every opportunity to improve on the field of play.
With the World Cup now successfully completed, the selectors must take a strategic view of how to develop and transition to a team to successfully defend the Cup in the next few years. Importantly, this includes the selection of a captain who can participate and lead in the transition and rebuilding process.
Since we had such a strong candidate in Carlos Brathwaite and the ICC tour schedules permit few T20 matches per year, it is our view this was now the appropriate time to act. In addition, as stated earlier, Mr. Sammy did not merit selection on the team.
HOLDER: Were you surprised with the public statement from Sammy about his sacking before it was announced by the West Indies Cricket Board?
BROWNE: No. Sammy acted pre-emptively by choosing to go on social media to announce his removal as captain and not allowing the established decision-making process to be concluded.
The selectors make a recommendation on captaincy; the Board then deliberates on that recommendation and makes a decision. Mr. Sammy would have been better advised not to breach protocol.
HOLDER: There is a feeling in some quarters that Kieron Pollard should have been appointed captain instead of Carlos Brathwaite, especially based on his vast experience in the T20 format? What is your response and tell us about the make-up of the team?
BROWNE: Mr. Kieron Pollard is an established player of the T20 team and like other players can be considered for captaincy. However, we felt that Carlos Brathwaite, based on our selection criteria, had stronger credentials for the job.
Like Mr. Pollard, Carlos has emerged as a very competent player with a vital role in the team.
Secondly, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to West Indies cricket through his continued participation in regional cricket.
Thirdly, we found his behaviour on and off the field to be exemplary and it fits that vital role that all West Indies captains perform as role models and ambassadors of our game.
Finally, Carlos has impressed us as a good communicator through his various interactions with the Press and within team settings.
The team is experienced and well balanced and we wish them every success.
HOLDER: The Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, has written a letter to you expressing his disappointment at the sacking of Sammy. He has also called for an apology to Sammy and the people of the Caribbean on the handling of the matter. What would you say to Dr. Gonsalves?
BROWNE: I noted that the Prime Minister said that Mr. Sammy spoke to him about his removal as captain and this was done by a 30-second conversation by myself.
I would suggest that prior to writing the letter it might have been helpful if the Prime Minister simply got in touch with me to ascertain all the circumstances surrounding what was a cricket selection decision.
I believe this would have been fair to the selection panel. Rather, the Prime Minister decided to write a strong letter to the chairman of the selectors including the unprecedented step of providing specific recommendations on how to treat cricketing matters surrounding the transition of a captain.
While understanding the Prime Minister’s passion for the game, I find it unfortunate how he chose to go about acquiring information and expressing his views. Over the years, cricket selection decisions have provoked intense passions in the Caribbean at various times including boycotts and even the booing of a former great captain on the field of play.
Because I have great respect for the office of Prime Minister, I have chosen to respond to Prime Minister Gonsalves as honestly and frankly as I can.
The selection panel is making every effort to be as transparent as possible about our strategic direction and related decisions. However, it will not become our practice to respond to individual sensitivities each time they arise. Such an approach would be untenable.
HOLDER: After losing the first Test against India in Antigua, the West Indies showed some fighting qualities, helped by rain, to draw the second match in Jamaica. There have also been a few encouraging performances in the current third Test in St. Lucia. Are you happy with what has transpired so far?
BROWNE: I am extremely delighted as I am sure all West Indies cricket followers are by the fighting performance of our young Test team.
The talent and strong commitment of these young players is there for all to see. The introduction of the Professional Cricket League has allowed regional coaches and technical staff to nurture and develop our cricketers and these players are products of that system, representing early signs of progress.
We must now build steadily on this performance towards enhancing our reputation and standing in international cricket.
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 three-and-a-half 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. Email:Keithfholder@gmail.com