Attempts at a major shakeup within Cricket West Indies (CWI) have landed the regional body on a possible collision course with the law courts, mere weeks after the appointment of new president Ricky Skerritt.
At the centre of the controversy is former assistant coach Vasbert Drakes, who is demanding urgent relief in the form of reinstatement and/or compensation from CWI in response to what he believes was the unlawful termination of his services yesterday.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Drakes’ attorney Ralph Thorne QC revealed that the coach and former fast bowler was “surprised and very disappointed with the sudden turn of events.”
“They contacted him yesterday by telephone to tell him that his services were no longer required,” Thorne revealed.
“I then sent a letter to them indicating that it was not the proper way to terminate my client’s services and that they ought to do it in a more formal manner. They responded by sending him a letter late yesterday evening confirming that his engagement was at an end.
“Having received it in writing, I have indicated that their actions are unlawful and indicated to them that we are prepared to file proceedings in the court of law and are also seeking compensation,” said Thorne.
He added: “Whether they reply or not, we intend to pursue this matter and I am willing to move this course to grant urgent relief in terms of reinstatement and or compensation.”
The developments coincide with sweeping changes announced by the newly appointed President, which include the sacking of head coach, Richard Pybus who has been replaced by former Barbados and West Indies captain and accredited coach Floyd Reifer.
Thorne told Barbados TODAY that Drakes, like Pybus, was actively preparing for the upcoming tour of Ireland, the ICC World Cup in England and a tour of India which immediately follows the World Cup.
“This entire situation is potentially injurious to personal relationships that exist between the coaches and between coaches and players and it is disruptive of the relative happy state of West Indies cricket after the success of the England tour,” argued Thorne.
The attorney, who also serves as a Member of Parliament sought to dispel the notion that Drakes should be associated with, or become a casualty of politically motivated factions within West Indies cricket.
“He is part of the administration of West Indies cricket. He is part of the coaching staff of West Indies cricket. He did not belong to an administration, he was a coach contracted by Cricket West Indies and I wouldn’t want to associate him with a political regime.
“He was actively engaged in preparation for those tours and when I say engaged I mean actively engaged.
“Vasbert has a very good name and reputation with the players and with people generally. You couldn’t meet a finer gentleman than Vasbert Drakes,” Thorne concluded.
Today, in a media conference in Antigua to announce the changes to the management of the regional side, Skerritt said the steps being taken were “in order to achieve a renewed sense of purpose and excellence.” He added that to achieve this, difficult and challenging choices had to be made and have been made. In addition to Drakes, the axe has also fallen on chief selector Courtney Browne who has been replaced by former Jamaican leg-spinner Robert Haynes.
“The changes that we have triggered this week are, therefore, more than a simple change in personnel or a shake-up among the ranks. This is a calculated, strategic move designed to reignite the passion for our culture – a West Indies cricket culture that is being put back where it belongs at the very centre.”
The moves come mere weeks after Skerritt and new vice president Dr. Kishore Shallow were swept to power, aiming to put “cricket first”, and, according to them, embarking on a new and less contentious path for the regional governing body than when it was under the stewardship of their predecessors, Dave Cameron and Emmanuel Nanthan.
In a seeming indictment on the previous selection panel headed by Browne, Skerritt said during the media briefing that: “We are pleased to confirm that we have terminated the old embedded selection policy which secretly and actively victimised some players and banished them from selection consideration.
“To ensure that our new all-inclusive selection policy be implemented immediately and effectively, we have also found it necessary to make some personnel adjustments.”
Efforts tonight to reach Browne for a response to those comments were unsuccessful.
Former West Indies fast bowling great Michael Holding this week warned the new Skerritt administration against making sweeping changes without the input of the players and with the ICC World Cup just weeks away.
“I wouldn’t say right now that we need to change everything. We need to analyse before we have knee-jerk reactions and kick out everybody and change everything . . . . You don’t go into a business and just change everything. You’ve got to go into the business, study how the business operates and deal with the people that are in there and find out how things need to be changed,” Holding advised.