The breaking news that a truce has been reached between the Cricket West Indies and the Players’ Union (WIPA) renders hope for the regional development of the game. The rigid policy of selecting players on the condition that they compete in domestic tournaments, seems set to recede.
Notably, batting-icon Chris Gayle has stirred excitement by publicising his intention to return to maroon colours alongside his globe-trotting cohorts: Sunil Narine, Keiron Pollard, Marlon Sammuels and Dwayne Bravo. Even the spat between test-batsman Darren Bravo and Administrator Dave Cameroon appears to be buried in the past, with both men regretting their inappropriate comments.
I laud the players and administrators for putting aside partisan views to end the impasse. But the damage to the regional game has been substantial. The Team’s International ranking plummets, and so too does its fan-base. Successful companies like Sandals and Cable and Wireless shun sponsorship of the Senior Cricket Team. Caribbean media houses often evade broadcasting matches involving West Indies. Due to these challenges, I would be naïve to assume that an amnesty between the players and Board is enough to catapult West Indies into the higher echelons of global cricket. Moreover, I fervently believe that CARICOM should be more assertive in monitoring the management of West Indies cricket.
Firstly, I endorse Dr Keith Rowley’s censuring of CARICOM leaders who have shirked from their responsibility to bring the cricket impasse to a closure. After the 2016 CARICOM Review Committee made suggestions about changing the archaic structure of management of the Cricket Board, very little was done. The last CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Grenada did not include discussions about cricket, because certain member-states like Antigua and Barbuda chose to have a non-interference stance. Antigua’s Prime Minister, Dr Gaston Browne argued that fixing the cricket problem would amount to ‘evocative romanticism.’ Contrastingly, Dr Rowley, Dr Gonsalves and Dr Mitchell appear keen to inspire change in regional cricket management, on behalf of their respective populations in Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and Grenada.
Secondly, CARICOM must be proactive in assessing if Cricket West Indies Inc. really has the legal right to ownership of cricket in the region. Dave Cameron, head of Cricket West Indies Inc. insists that his organisation is a private entity, and should not be influenced by sovereign governments. However, can West Indies Cricket truly be commodified? After all, free movement of cricket professionals throughout the region is facilitated by The CARICOM Treaty of Chaguaramas. Even the development of the cricketers, is due to governmental expenditures in their education, health and security. In this regard, cricket in the Caribbean is a ‘public good.’
Thus far, Dr Rowley has acknowledged that legal counsel was sought from a Trinidadian lawyer who has confirmed that the case of cricket could be interpreted as a ‘public good.’ Once this legal view could be corroborated by other luminaries, CARICOM must move swiftly to protect regional cricket, from any entity seeking to nefariously profit from its commercial value.
Thirdly, CARICOM governments are clearly financial stakeholders of cricket, who must socially protect their investments. This is best exemplified in Dr Browne bragging in a 2014 interview, that the Antiguan Government happily spruced up its cricket stadium to host England versus West Indies in a test-match. Dr Browne notes that Antigua’s Government paid the Cricket Board for the rights to host the match. Surely, these actions were not done out of ‘evocative romanticism.’ Rather, they reflect a government’s understanding that cricket is a major factor in tourism-growth. In another situation, Trinidad and Tobago has recently opened the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium. This costly facility can only bring economic value to the nation, if West Indian cricketers use it as an academy for training and for the hosting of competitions. Trinidad and Tobago’s government is therefore obligated to protect its investment in West indies cricket, by negotiating alongside CARICOM governments to decide who ‘owns’ West Indies cricket.
David Rudder’s iconic calypso, Rally Round The West Indies subtly warns the region’s leaders that cricket chaos could rapidly convert these islands into ‘tiny theatres of conflict and confusion.’ He alludes to the unfair effects of globalisation, when he mentions that “they making laws and restrictions to spoil our beauty.” While it is contentious to pinpoint who exactly is controlling the global game of cricket, what is more certain is that CARICOM ‘must make sure that they fail.’ If this is successfully done, Caribbean opportunities of ‘soft power’, considered crucial for tourism and global diplomacy will emerge.
Chandradath Madho, George Village, Tableland, Trinidad