In congratulating Ricky Skerritt and Dr. Kishore Shallow as the new president and vice-president of Cricket West Indies (CWI), it is anticipated that relationships with the various stakeholders will significantly improve.
The 62-year-old Skerritt, a former West Indies team manager who hails from St. Kitts and Dr. Shallow, 35, the president of the St. Vincent & Grenadines Cricket Association Inc., both secured solid 8-4 wins over incumbents Wycliffe “Dave” Cameron and Emmanuel Nanthan at the 20th annual general meeting at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel last Sunday.
It was a result few would have been bold enough to predict based on what was constantly reported in relation to the backing for Jamaican Cameron and Nanthan, a Dominican. Both occupied their positions for the last six years.
There was a likelihood of a very close outcome, even a tie, with Cameron and Nanthan gaining support from Barbados, Guyana and the Windward Islands, and Skerritt and Dr. Shallow being backed by Trinidad & Tobago, Leeward Islands and Jamaica.
After an official announcement on February 21 that Skerritt and Dr. Shallow would be seeking to unseat Cameron and Nanthan, this column stated that the outcome could be “very interesting”.
“As it stands, there could be some intrigue. Apart from the Leeward Islands and Trinidad & Tobago, Skerritt is likely to gain support from Jamaica and hopefully the Windward Islands.
“It is widely expected that Barbados and Guyana will back Cameron,” I wrote.
Now speculation has heightened as to the two so-called “extra” votes. “Split” is the buzzword, even going as far as the calling of names.
But let’s get back to where we can regain global competitiveness and dominance.
If successful, Skerritt promised to immediately seek the reallocation of resources currently used for centralized activities to CWI, to where it matters most with local grassroots cricket, coaching development and the territorial governing bodies.
The 10-point “Cricket First” Plan includes a creation of a cricket-centric organizational culture, optimum use of technology for greater effectiveness, increased investment in grassroots cricket, enhancement of the franchise system, modernization of coaching education, increased exposure for Under-23 and Under-19 players, re-evaluation of system of team selection, repair of stakeholder relations, decentralization of High Performance system and utilization of regional technical expertise.
Skerritt also expressed strong opposition to recent moves to create an ‘executive status’ for the elected office of the CWI president.
“After six years as president, Dave Cameron’s intention to implement sweeping changes to the democratic process of decision-making within West Indies cricket is troubling. His desire to lead CWI as a full-time executive, is not reflective of the West Indies cricket ethos,” Skerritt said in a statement.
“By advancing his plans for an autocratic leadership structure, which marginalises the role of commercially recruited executives, the incumbent has placed his personal thinking diametrically opposed to the values of West Indies cricket”.
It was also revealed that Skerritt and Shallow will propose a six-year term limit on the presidency.
“I am convinced that a presidential term limit will remove much of the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the cricket politics and excesses that too often surround the office of president,” Shallow said.
In a radio interview the next day, Cameron described Skerritt’s challenge as “interesting”.
“It demonstrates that we do have a democratic process. If you want to help West Indies cricket then there is an opportunity for everyone to serve,” Cameron said.
In reaction to the success on Sunday, Skerritt said: “I am humbled and deeply honoured to be elected as president. We pledge to work for improvement on and off the field for West Indies Cricket.”
Dr. Shallow remarked: “I am grateful and humbled by the support of the members of the territorial board. This is a victory for West Indies Cricket.
In a joint statement, Cameron and Nanthan said: “We were glad to be able to serve and proud of our achievements. We are happy that we left 123 players under contract. West Indies cricket now has a home owned by the board at Coolidge Cricket Grounds. The world championships and bringing back the Wisden Trophy are also other achievements that we are proud of. More than anything else we have a fit, youthful team that is prepared to face the world.
“Under this team we made significant strides and you trusted us to safeguard the region’s most valuable asset. The tenure was rewarding and full of challenges and we feel proud we have managed to take the cricket to this level.
“We anticipate the sport will move towards its true potential and we ask the new team to build upon the progress and to continue to fight for equity in world cricket. We were always and will remain grateful for your support.”
Despite the achievements they have claimed, Cameron in particular must also be reminded of his attitude towards some players, two former West Indies team coaches in Ottis Gibson and Phil Simmons, who were both fired under his presidency and members of the media, especially when searching questions were asked.
One year ago in the month of February, Cameron’s pompous attitude was displayed after delivering the feature address on “A way forward for West Indies cricket” at the Barbados Cricket Association’s members’ luncheon at Kensington Oval.
He appeared ruffled by a couple statements and questions. One related to then relatively new appointment of Englishman Richard Pybus as director of high performance after he served for three years from October 2013 as Director of Cricket before “walking away”.
In admitting that the job was not advertised and “he was hand-picked to serve in that role”, Cameron sought to glorify Pybus as the architect of West Indies winning three global titles in 2016 – Under-19s in the 50-over, and women’s and men’s Twenty20.
It was unsatisfactory, however, that on the same day members of the West Indies squad were leaving for the ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe, Cameron took issue with a question pertaining to the management team, which had not been named.
“We are here to talk about the way forward, not to get into individual details about the management of West Indies cricket,” was his response.
Lo and behold, just a couple months ago Cameron played a big hand in getting the very same Pybus as the interim West Indies head coach after Stuart Law left the position last December.
The move angered the Leeward Islands Cricket Board (LICB), who wrote to CWI to protest that the process by which Pybus had been selected was “unacceptable”.
“It is unfortunate, unacceptable and unethical for the CWI President to single-handedly recruit a person of his choosing, and to proceed with salary negotiations without the prior knowledge of the Board,” the LICB said in an email, signed by its directors Enoch Lewis and Denrick Liburd.
CWI then stated that Pybus’ appointment had been reviewed and approved by the Corporate Governance, and Audit Risk and Compliance Committees, and that the LICB complaint has been referred to the governing body’s Ethics Committee for review.
And just for a bit of history. It is perhaps ironic that the last occasion on which Cameron and Nanthan were challenged in 2015, they won 8-4 over former West Indies fast bowler Joel Garner, then the president of the Barbados Cricket Association, and his running mate, Baldath Mahabir of Trinidad & Tobago. The venue was also the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
Leading up to the election last Sunday, Cameron seemingly felt his journey was so smooth that no heavy campaigning was required.
At the same time, however, Skerritt and Dr. Shallow were excellent with their campaign, boosted by endorsements from some former top West Indies players.
Best wishes to Mr. Skerritt and Dr. Shallow.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email:Keithfholder@gmail.com