Let peace reign! That seems to be the new direction that top officials of the West Indies Players Association and the West Indies Cricket Board want to head following years of acrimony between the two agencies.
Interim chief executive officer of WIPA, Michael Hall, has expressed optimism of a fresh start in WIPA’s relationship with the region’s governing cricket body.
The WICB’s new CEO, Michael Muirhead, took up duties yesterday at the start of a three-year term, following confirmation of his appointment during a WICB meeting in Barbados last month. Muirhead replaced Dr. Ernest Hillaire, whose tenure has been marred by turbulence including public spats with former WIPA chief Dinanath Ramnarine and contentious handling of issues relating to senior players, most notably Chris Gayle.
“The incoming (WICB) CEO is also a Jamaican like myself. The fact that he happens to be a personal friend of mine outside of cricket, someone who I have known for more than 20 years, I don’t think will hurt. And as with any new appointment, we are optimistic that it will open the door for a more reasoned approach to discussions between the two parties,” Hall said.
Dr. Hillaire and WIPA have been at loggerheads throughout his three-year tenure, with several matters having to be settled in court. Muirhead is starting his new job as CEO amid reports that the WICB has lost its 15th arbitration matter to WIPA involving Guyanese middle-order batsman Narsingh Deonarine. The ruling in favour of Deonarine, to the tune of TT$500,000, followed a similar pattern to that of recent matters involving Ramnaresh Sarwan and Lendl Simmons.
Hall said Dr. Hillaire, who this week takes up a diplomatic posting with the new Kenny Anthony administration in St. Lucia, had been costly to West Indies cricket in awards and court fees. He said the high profile dispute between Dr. Hillaire and Chris Gayle that left the West Indies opener in exile for 14 months had ended, but no money was involved in its resolution.
“The matter of Chris’ exclusion and the reasons for him being excluded are no longer an issue with respect to his alleged comments,” Hall said.
“We know the history of that matter is concluded to our satisfaction. The terms of his return to the team did not contemplate any such payment.”
WIPA and the WICB are currently in a court battle over the Central Bargaining Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding, after the Board tried to terminate the agreement ten months ago. But while WIPA talks about a new direction in its relationship with the WICB, internal problems in the latter have led to the departure of one of its top officials.
Former Leeward Islands cricketer and administrator Charles Wilkin has resigned from the Governance Committee of the Board. Wilkin, a Queen’s Counsel, threw in the towel after individual territorial boards did not agree to the implementation of all the recommendations which the Governance Committee had submitted. The WICB’s territorial boards at a meeting in Barbados last month agreed to ten of the 17 recommendations of the Governance Committee Report. The Governance Committee was chaired by Wilkin and included Dr. Grenville Phillips and WICB Director Elson Crick. Under Wilkin’s chairmanship, the Governance Committee was mandated by the Board of Directors with reviewing the governance structure of the WICB. In addition to the ten recommendations which were agreed to, the Board of Directors deferred decisions on six other recommendations while not agreeing to one recommendation.
President of the WICB, Dr. Julian Hunte, while expressing regret at Wilkin’s resignation, accepted his decision.
“Mr. Wilkin and his committee spent a considerable amount of time and effort, and the recommendations provided as part of their report were thoroughly perused and studied by the WICB Board of Directors, then sent to the territorial boards for their review and consideration,” Dr Hunte said.
“The Board is pleased that the territorial boards were able to formally agree to and commit to adopting ten of the 17 recommendations while taking more time to deliberate on a further six recommendations, hopefully for implementation in due course,” Dr Hunte added.
However, Wilkin said his resignation was prompted by the fact that the WICB’s directors wanted to preserve at all costs their positions on the Board and that their blunt refusal to follow their own stated principles casts serious doubt on their commitment to the rest of the strategic plan and their capacity to implement it.
Hall pointed out that the WICB’s approach to governance was a serious problem and was at the core of most of the issues between WIPA and the WICB.
“It is not coincidental,” he said, “that almost every relationship that the Board has, whether with players, CEOs, sponsors, Heads of Government, arbitrators or independent volunteers has been dogged by controversy and acrimony. Clearly, since the same people are intent on doing the same things the same way, nothing will change,” Hall said.