“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24
The immediate international response from last week’s column from West Indians and non-West Indians alike, who receive the column electronically, was overwhelming. It is indicative of the importance of the West Indies cricket brand globally.
Here is a sequel to share some of these comments and to reflect on the activities that have taken place in the last week towards stabilising a very tenuous situation on the future status of West Indies cricket.
There was one response ostensibly supporting the players’ position which stated: “The withdrawal of their services by the players might look bad to the ‘gentlemen’ and ‘ladies’ but it reflects the business aspect of things. The professional leagues in North America have serious negotiations on revenue sharing, collective benefits, etc. on a business like framework which reflects all sides understanding that the relevant quote is ‘don’t take it personal, it is just business’, and we are talking about sports”.
I responded: “My position is that West Indian players are representing their country – they cannot walk off the job – they have to keep fighting for their rights in every other way possible. It is in this context that I say that it should never have happened. The fact that it did happen is the fault of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for not ‘life coaching’ their players well. Classically, the WICB is accountable for West Indies Cricket to the “owners” and the WICB is where the buck stops given the current structure. I have said and I continue to say that these conflicts will continue until we address the corporate structure of the business of West Indies Cricket, beginning with an understanding as to who are the real “owners” of this business. It all boils down to good corporate governance.”
I could therefore easily empathise with Dr. Rudi V. Webster, a contemporary of mine at Harrison College in Barbados, a noted sports psychologist and manager of the West Indies team in the Kerry Packer days who was quoted in the press as follows: “Opposing sides have been involved in bitter arguments about who is right and who is wrong not realising that adversarial thinking intensifies conflict. It does not defuse it. As one side attacks, the other side defends or counterattacks and tempers rise. Positions then become more rigid and the parties stop listening to each other.” A lesson for the WICB.
Other comments were:
(1) “The WICB has members with ‘massive egos’, who feel that they are above reproach and hence unless there is a complete change to ‘business as usual’, we will see the demise of West Indies cricket.”
(2) “Of course, the WICB is to blame. Pause to think how they get appointed – through six cliques of closed cricket associations which do not represent the majority of West Indian cricket supporters. The major stakeholders, “the owners” of West Indies cricket, are disenfranchised.”
(3) “The WICB knew something was brewing, but instead of being proactive in quieting concerns they defaulted into arrogant aloof positions of old. I believe the two Jamaicans in question conspired on an exclusive mutually beneficial deal without the full knowledge of many of the players on the Indian tour. That alone is scandalous. The West Indies captain is equally to blame for his immature approach to the situation. If he didn’t agree with the terms and conditions, he still should have completed the tour because apart from West Indian fans, potentially 1 billion Indian fans had an interest in the series.
“There are no winners, but right is right and wrong is wrong. Both administrators and players should be punished by the ICC (International Cricket Council) for their ill advised actions (or inaction depending on which side of the fence you sit). The BCCI (The Board of Control For Cricket In India) have rightly apportioned blame to the WICB because the buck stops there as they should have anticipated and prevented the latest fiasco and not hide behind a falsity that ‘they only negotiate with WIPA’ even though all the players weren’t represented by them. What a joke. I am an embarrassed West Indian.”
(4) “What remains to be done is major surgery of the WICB in toto, to be followed up with a committee made up of rational former test stars and a few cool entrepreneurs.”
As a result of my column, I was invited to be the guest on the live radio show SCOREBOARD at KLAS ESPN Sports FM 89 in Kingston last Monday hosted by Stratton Palmer, a veteran Jamaican sports broadcaster. I expounded on some of the points raised in my column particularly the corporate governance issue of the business of West Indies cricket.
In a stern four-page letter addressed to the WICB president, the BCCI secretary on Friday indicated that if the WICB failed to respond within 15 days about how it intended to compensate the losses of US$41.97m damages claim in “acceptable terms”, the BCCI would initiate legal proceedings. The letter also stated that “Pending resolutions of all disputes, the BCCI suspends all bilateral cricketing relations with the WICB”.
The players’ decision to abandon the tour of India is expected to dominate the agenda of an ICC meeting on November 10.
It has been reported that: “As has become routine through its several crises over the past decade, the WICB has again been urged to seek the help of the inter-governmental Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in resolving potentially its most destructive dilemma yet.” This again reveals the need to re-engineer the corporate governance of the business of West Indies cricket, not to mention the connectedness of our regional institutions.
I too am an embarrassed West Indian.
Now, let us be strong and let our hearts take courage as we attempt, with the help of the Almighty, to get things right in our region.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET – His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com)