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The carnival season is upon us and Cricket West Indies (CWI) now seems to have jumped feet first into the celebrations with its own versions of bacchanal which have been invariably unfurling with each passing day.
A President not seeking re-election, his Vice President intending to run as his replacement, circulating insider-source rumours of the CEO’s soon-to-be-expiring contract having been secretly extended for a further two years being officially denied just as quickly as they had surfaced.
These were foremost among the unfolding events of the past seven days which have marked what has only been the second week of the 2023 New Year!
Ricky Skerritt’s reported announcement of his intentions to not seek re-election as CWI President when the governing body holds its 2023 Annual General Meeting this coming March, has been widely anticipated.
Skerritt’s announcement was expected to follow Phil Simmons’ resignation from his position as West Indies Men’s cricket Head Coach, which had come as a direct result of the West Indies 2022 T20 World Cup participation disaster.
The West Indies T20 World Cup fiasco was merely the final sad saga of Skerritt’s four-year CWI Presidential tenure, which having promised so much had proven itself to be a monumental disappointment. As President, Skerritt simply failed to deliver meaningfully on most of his numerous promised initiatives which were supposedly geared towards halting West Indies cricket’s continuing decline.
Instead, as the T20 World Cup embarrassment demonstrated, the West Indies’ stature in that its supposedly strongest format has declined even further. The West Indies October 2022 T20 World Cup fiasco was also very quickly followed mere weeks later by the embarrassment of successive massive Test defeats to their Aussie hosts in the two-match Series played Down Under. The second Test margin of defeat became the largest ever recorded by the West Indies team in its now ninety-five-year history of participation in cricket’s highest format.
Even further embarrassment now looms on the horizon. It is becoming increasingly likely that the West Indies will not qualify directly for this year’s forthcoming India-hosted ODI World Cup as one of ICC’s eight-top ranked teams. The West Indies’ likely ranking outside of that automatic qualifiers bracket will result in the team having to participate in the Zimbabwe-hosted qualification tournament this coming July.
The Zimbabwe Qualifier will determine the final four participants for the India-hosted 2023 World Cup. Having faltered at the same stage during last year’s T20 World Cup, however, who is to say that history won’t be repeating itself in the form of an identical West Indies disaster?
The bacchanal of potential duplication of the Skerritt CWI Presidential administration’s inadequacies also made its presence known during the past week. Several reports were being circulated of Dr Kishore Shallow, who as Skerritt’s Vice President was very much part a major player in all of the administration’s demonstrated shortcomings often to the point of acting as its public spokesperson, having incredibly signalled his intentions to be a presidential candidate at this year’s March CWI elections.
Dr Shallow has since publicly stated that he is now still “reviewing his options.” The mere suggestion of his intended CWI Presidential candidacy is, however, already being viewed within Caribbean cricket circles as nothing less than expressed contempt for West Indies cricket and its fans. Reportedly coming as it is from an individual who now still holds the Vice-President, second-in-command, position in arguably its worst-ever presidential administration.
It was the very same Dr Shallow who in publicly acknowledging the global television portrayed embarrassment that had been caused by the “Tapegate” fiasco, had pledged to personally address the issue and to have it rectified in a most timely manner. Tapegate had featured West Indies players appearing in globally televised international matches in team shirts with a former sponsor’s logo covered by masking tape.
The Sandals’ title sponsorship of West Indies cricket expired officially in July 2020. Standard corporate operational procedures and practices dictate at least three months’ notice of intentions to not renew or extend a contractual Agreement. CWI would, therefore, have known from as early as March 2020 that its Sandals-logoed team shirts would have to be replaced. Yet incredibly, Tapegate’s embarrassing saga lasted from September 2021 through to the following February 2022!
Dr Shallow’s publicly provided execrable excuse for Tapegate’s occurrence was that it had been caused by COVID-stimulated shipping delays. And despite his demonstrated failure in having the issue rectified promptly, as promised, the very same Dr Shallow now somehow reportedly still feels justified in presenting himself as the person most suitable to be CWI’s next President! Seriously?
If that isn’t enough of a masquerade, CWI’s bacchanal became even more frenzied by circulated insider-sourced reports of the organization’s CEO Johnny Grave’s soon-to-be-expiring contract having been secretly extended for an additional two years. Such rumours were, however, just as quickly and effectively publicly squashed by Dr Shallow himself.
Unfortunately for Johnny Grave, however, the circulated rumours will now likely serve to bring even greater public scrutiny upon the merits, or lack thereof, of his continued tenure as CWI’s CEO. In addition to Simmons, Skerritt, and by association Shallow, Grave’s name has also been high on the list of those whose heads should be made to roll as a direct consequence of the West Indies 2022 T20 World Cup debacle.
Questioned directly as to whether he would indeed be among those submitting their resignations because of the T20 World Cup fiasco, Grave had publicly stated emphatically that he had absolutely no intentions of doing so. This mere minutes after he had also acknowledged that everyone within CWI should accept responsibility for the World Cup debacle.
Grave had also indicated that his CWI contract would be expiring this year and as such, it would be up to the next administration to determine whether he should or not continue in his current role. Noticeably, however, ever since the outcry began for CWI heads to roll because of the T20 World Cup fiasco there has been a flurry of public announcements from Grave. Those have included the indication of his intentions to personally implement the recommendations of the Brian Lara-Mickey Arthur-Justice Patrick Thompson three-member Committee that was commissioned by the President Skerritt-led CWI to undertake a complete and thorough review of the West Indies team’s 2022 T20 World Cup performance.
Such recommendations when they are eventually made will, of course, take several months to be implemented if they are at all. Grave’s public suggestion that he would still be around as CEO to oversee their implementation, was, therefore, if not borderline contemptuous at the very least wholly inconsistent with the actions of an individual who was even the slightest bit concerned about the continuation of his employment contract!
Most recently Grave has gone even further. His announcement last month of a new and exciting 2023 Regional Four Day Tournament was followed just this past week by a Trinidad & Tobago Daily Express article which featured him boldly outlining his 2023 To Do List. The highlight of which was his declaration of CWI’s plans to have its Academies featured as the main component of a “robust program” that will supposedly now miraculously cure West Indies cricket of all of its ills, while restoring its fortunes to its former long-lost glory.
As the former West Indies Test batsman, now turned respected cricket journalist, Bryan Davis has noted most recently in his widely-read Trinidad and Tobago Newsday column “players are the end product of a cricket organization, be it club or country and their performance on the field of play, whether good, bad or indifferent is very much representative of the strength, mediocrity or weakness of that organization!”
If that is indeed so, the inescapable associated reality is that as CEO Johnny Grave has been at the helm of CWI’s administrative reins of responsibility for the past five to six years since his 2017 appointment to the position. During that time, as previously mentioned, West Indies cricket fortunes have declined even further!
The most fundamentally important question that must now also be asked concerning the administration of West Indies cricket, however, is why the responsibility for its most powerful and influential duties has been placed in the hands of a foreigner. How many of the twelve other ICC’s Test playing Members have likewise given their CEO responsibilities to a non-national? Even more importantly, surely among the seven million plus national inhabitants of our Caribbean region and almost that many of identical heritage who reside overseas in the Diaspora, there must be a single individual, male or female, capable of performing the CEO role for our cricket with greater efficiency and appreciation of its significance to our society?
Out with the old, in with the new!
About The Writer: Guyana-born, Toronto-based, Tony McWatt is the Publisher of both the WI Wickets and Wickets/monthly online cricket magazines that are respectively targeted toward Caribbean and Canadian readers. He is also the only son of the former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.