Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur today called for a “moratorium on controversy” in West Indies cricket, while stating that he was not only bowled over by recent comments made by the President of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Dave Cameron and the region’s T20 skipper Darren Sammy, but also by the persistent demands by some of his former prime ministerial colleagues for the disbandment of the WICB.
“People are not focusing on cricket
per se and that is what the focus needs to be. They have to find a way to work together now in good faith,” said Arthur, while hailing Sunday’s World T20 cricket victory by both the Windies men’s and women’s teams as a “wonderful achievement” and a positive indication that “West Indies cricket is not dead”.
However, he said “like all Caribbean people, I was soaring on the realms of pride, [before] the moment was sullied when both the team leadership and the West Indies Cricket Board foisted upon the international community’s attention and imagination the extent of the conflicts among themselves, and I think that was tarnished a bit by that conflict”.
The bitter divisions in Caribbean cricket were laid bare Sunday as the WICB publicly reprimanded its St Lucian-born captain Sammy just hours after his team’s stunning victory in the World T20 final over England.
It should have been a day of complete joy for the West Indies, with the women’s team winning their Twenty20 final against Australia on the same Eden Gardens ground where the men later downed England by four wickets in a last-over thriller.
But in a post-match interview, Sammy gave vent to months — possibly years — of frustration with the WICB, alluding not only to problems with sourcing gear for their T20 bid, but the fact that words of support had come from several quarters – including CARICOM leaders – but not their own board.
To make matters worse, Cameron immediately shot back at what he deemed inappropriate comments made by the West Indies’ men’s captain.
In a show of disgust over the skipper’s remarks, the WICB president also tweeted: “When is the last time a critic paid one of your bills? Always remember that when you start to give them your energy.”
However, Arthur believes both sides are at fault.
“I thought that Cameron’s response, even if provoked, was also inappropriate,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“He [Cameron] has to understand that in leadership sometimes that you suffer in silence and then try to work out the matter behind the scenes,” he suggested, ahead of a visit to Jamaica on Friday, during which he is hoping to meet with the WICB head.
Arthur, who is an avid cricket supporter and a strong proponent of regionalism, also suggested that Sammy should have allowed the region to savour its moment of triumph last Sunday, and candidly state his objections to the board at a later date.
“It is not to say that the players may not have a cause, [but] if the West Indies Cricket Board didn’t live up to the responsibility of providing supplies, then that is a serious issue, but I didn’t need to know all of that when the players and the whole region were at the point of rejoicing.
“You have your report on the tour. Give that report with candour and if it has to come out, let it come out. But I thought it would have been better had he complimented the extraordinary exploits of young [Carlos] Brathwaite because a lot of Caribbean people had given up when we had to score those runs in the last over.”
Ahead of a planned address to the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) on Thursday night, Arthur called for greater focus on the creation of a development programme, below the level of the WICB, to make West Indies cricket viable.
In this regard, he said there was scope for “common ground” between the WICB and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments.
However, the former Prime Minister, who has been invited to chair a group for the creation of a trust fund for the development of the regional game, warned that such a programme could not be had in an environment where West Indies cricket continued to be affected, more than any other country’s cricket, by divisiveness, including between the WICB and regional prime ministers.
Asked whether he agreed with the recent recommendation made by the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee that the WICB should be disbanded, Arthur responded: “The leaders have to let cricketing decisions be made by those responsible for cricketing decisions.”
However, within the context of the game’s development, he said there needed to be some level of support by governments.
“There is that sense in which there still needs to be a relationship between the West Indies Cricket Board and governments because you can’t have a nursery for West Indies cricket unless you have development programmes at the level of the countries.”
Using Barbados as an example, he said it was not by chance that the island was currently providing most of the West Indian cricketers for both the Test and One Day teams, given that it has a development programme in place, for which he said there was access to sustained funding provided by his former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration.
However, he made it clear that “Prime Ministers should not be involved in saying who should be selected or whatever else and I am not sure that there is a legal basis from which the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee can tell the West Indies Cricket Board that it needs to be disbanded. It is a recommendation, but I don’t know it can go beyond that,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“They can call for it to change, but there is no way that they can legally require it to be done,” he emphasized, pointing out that the WICB was its own legal entity and could not be disbanded by the “fiat of regional prime ministers, it really can’t”.
“The decision on whether Cameron stays or goes was not theirs to make,” he said.
“The board was constituted by way of elections. We in the Caribbean are accustomed to regime changes by way of elections. I am familiar with it. I don’t know there is need now for us to superimpose a process that is not known on this situation.
“If Cameron is a disaster, he will be changed, but he shall not be changed by the fiat of Prime Ministers,” Arthur stressed.