The ugly impasse that has dogged West Indies cricket over the past several months could sooner claim a very prized and passionate scalp.
Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Cricket Governance Sub-committee, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, is threatening to hang up his boots as a protracted dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) that spilled over into the recent Twenty20 championships in Kolkata, India, shows no sign of abating.
Delivering the 18th Sir Frank Worrell Memorial Lecture at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, last night, Mitchell declared that it may be time for him to
A panel of academics and leading Caribbean personalities, led by UWI Principal Dr Eudine Barriteau, set up by the regional prime ministers, had recommended dissolution of the governing body for West Indies cricket and the setting up of an interim management group while the organization was restructured.
However, directors of the WICB, which is a privately-run organization, outrightly rejected the recommendation at their December meeting, with the Dave Cameron-led WICB showing no signs of giving in to the leaders’ requests.
The obvious friction in West Indies cricket has also affected the region’s game and it nearly ruined the Caribbean’s celebrations of its double T20 win in both the women’s and men’s championships back in April as men’s captain Darren Sammy and Cameron publicly traded brickbats in the full glare of the international cameras.
It followed the embarrassing players’ pull out of India at the height of a dispute with the board over pay that led to threats by India of $43 million in sanctions.
Cognizant of much of what has been said and done, Mitchell, who has been in the forefront of the region’s administration for decades and is an avid cricket fan, told the large gathering at the Roy Marshall Lecture Theatre last night it may be time for some of the people who are currently involved in the process to leave, and make way for others, as West Indies cricket was more than a game for the Caribbean.
“Whenever cricket succeeds in the region, you could feel the upbeat mood of the people,” Mitchell pointed out, adding, “anytime you become the issue and not the solution, then there is a problem.
“It appears we did a poor job in communicating what has occurred, so in my view we need to step back,” he said, as he went on to cast doubt over his future at the helm of the Prime Ministerial Cricket Committee.
“I don’t know how long I will continue to chair the subcommittee. Because I feel so strongly about what is taking place, . . . you may not hear about Keith Mitchell in charge of governance of West Indies Cricket for too long.”
However, his frustration is not only with the unyielding WICB directors, but also with fellow CARICOM leaders, who are also not united on the way forward.
“I have one interest, and the regional leaders, mostly so, have one interest – the success of West Indies cricket. As leaders we must have the fortitude to do what is right,” said Mitchell, who has been criticized in some quarters for his position on the WICB.
In answering a question from the floor on what strategy was needed to unseat the Board, Mitchell said, “All the stakeholders must let their voices be heard. I think first of all CARICOM must be united in one common position.
“We cannot have the majority of leaders saying one thing and a couple of us expressing different opinions publicly, when we took a common position at the Heads of Government [annual meeting].”
He said it was his belief that the WICB directors could be ousted if CARICOM leaders acted jointly.
“There are some actions, I believe if we are unified that can be taken,” he said, adding, “the only way to force it is that the powers outside of the board must be unified in that approach”.
Additionally he said, “We can’t play games with the future of our children and grandchildren. This is too much.
“Whether I continue to chair this subcommittee or not – and I’m likely not to – you will never not hear the voice of Keith Mitchell for West Indies cricket.
“While some of us might be playing games, this is too much for our people.”
His comments come on the heels of recent statements by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who has publicly stated that the problems plaguing West Indies cricket cannot be attributed exclusively to governance and has argued that the CARICOM-commissioned governance panel’s recommendation calling for the “immediate dissolution” of the West Indies Cricket Board, would lead to “further chaos and confusion”.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY last month, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur had also rejected the leaders’ recommendation that the WICB should be dissolved, saying:
“The leaders have to let cricketing decisions be made by those responsible for cricketing decisions.”
While calling on leaders to support the game’s development, Arthur 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 said, while warning that “the decision on whether Cameron stays or goes was not theirs to make.”