5th November 2014
The Mason & Guests Show
Batting for the other side
It’s been an incredible day or so.
Last night I was asked for my signature for the first time in my life, outside the Voice of Barbados studios. Unbelievable! I hugged the lady autograph-hunter, and told her I loved her. I meant it.
After Andrew Mason’s jaw-dropping revelations, I had a late night, blogging and tweeting the ‘Breaking News’ to the wider world beyond the boundary into the small hours.
Then I was up before 6am to do this podcast with Dennis.
And then, even more amazingly, at 7.30am I did an interview with the BBC. They, understandably, are waiting to see if the event comes to pass.
The morning was spent at the British High Commission in Bridgetown, playing the part of a distressed Brit in a role-play for volunteer consular assistants. It didn’t need much acting – I just thought of the broken state of West Indies cricket.
This evening I’ve learnt from, among others, the lovely Alexis Nunes and the beloved Reds Perreira, that many people had seen the news and read about Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ reaction on last night’s broadcast, but had missed the show.
My wife Christine usually records it for me via an old-fashioned tape-recorder – fingers poised to flip the cassette over at 7pm and 7.45pm.
So with thanks to Christine for recording it, and to my two index fingers for typing it, here is the transcription of Dr Gonsalves appearance on the show:
At the top of the programme, Andrew dropped the Partidgesque ‘bombshell’ that, in a meeting that day, the WICB had proposed the sackings of Denesh Ramdin, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy as the three West Indies captains in the three different formats – to be replaced by Kraigg Brathwaite in Tests and Jason Holder in ODIs/T20s. In addition, Joel Garner is to be Manager of the WI touring team to South Africa.
This news Andrew had received from a ‘very reliable source’ within the WICB, and it would be ratified bat a further WICB meeting on Thursday.
Dr Gonsalves joined us on the line about a quarter of an hour after Andrew had made this announcement.
Andrew Mason: “We’re going to be going to Trinidad & Tobago now to talk to the Prime Minister of St Vincent, Dr Ralph Gonsalves. Good evening to you, Doctor.”
RG: “How are you my brother, Andrew?”
AM: “How are you? Well, you’ve got Ralph Thorne, you’re very good friend, QC – Ralph, you’re still with us on the line of course?”
RT: “Yes, I’m here. Good night, Prime Minister.”
RG: “You have this evening the two Ralphs!”
AM: “Yes, indeed! And in the studios we’ve got David Commissiong and Gregory Nicholls, so it’s an evening with the lawyers.”
RG: “Ah, very good. Very good. David, how are you my brother?”
DC: “Good evening, comrade. Good to hear you.”
AM: “Now, Mr Prime Minister, first of all the meeting that you attended on the weekend – were you happy with it?”
RG: “Yes, I was quite happy with it. During the course of the discussion, of course, of the issues, you had some robust interventions by one or more persons. But I think in each of those cases the volcano having erupted, the lava came down the sides of the mountain and cooled. And everybody ended quite well.”
AM: “Indeed. Well, in fact the West Indies Cricket Board – they had a teleconference today and I don’t know if you heard, but you know Ralph has been talking about victimisatio – but captain Denesh Ramdin has been replaced as the captain of Trinidad & Tobago by Rayad Emrit. Your reaction to that?”
RG: “Well, I got an early wind of that before the Board actually met, and I do not know if that is really a Trinidad phenomenon – that is to say it’s the Trinidad Board, and therefore the Trinidad Board is not bound by agreements at the WICB. I would consider that if the WICB were to take a decision to remove Ramdin as the captain of the West Indies Test team, I would view that as the first indicator, as a breach of what we agreed upon. We agreed upon no victimisation, no discrimination against any of the India tour team, and by any objective measure Denesh Ramdin has performed very well as captain and player. We have seem him in the series and he has grown into the job, and he’s quite good as captain. Now, you would have to have a compelling reason why you’re removing him. So I would speak out on that question. In fact, I’m speaking out in advance about it. If they were to do that – I’m not… I have nothing to do with the… I’m not involved in any facilitation or mediation or any resolution of any problem of the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board, so I don’t know what is the basis of their own determination. But I’m speaking as a facilitator, someone engaged in mediation between the contending parties. At the level of the WICB, and clearly I expect and, most reasonable persons would expect, that Ramdin would be kept as captain.”
AM: “Well, Mr Prime Minister…”
RG: “If you’re going to tell me to remove Ramdin as captain – you’re going to not have Darren Bravo play, or Benn, or Taylor, I mean, or Chris Gayle. I mean, you know, those would be absurd positions.”
AM: “Well, Mr…”
RG: “I just want to say in advance – this is a small region. I understand in the discussion today that that matter was raised about Ramdin’s captaincy, but that the discussion was inconclusive.”
AM: “Well, Mr…”
RG: “I would find it very difficult to believe that the President would be part of any plan at the WICB level to remove Ramdin. I just would not believe that.”
RG: “And I would be very disappointed, indeed I’d be surprised, if any Board went about to victimise Ramdin in that manner, and discriminate against him for having taken part in an action which it has not been determined as yet by the WICB, by their own internal processes they are establishing, that the players were at fault.”
AM: “Well, Mr Prime Min…”
RG: “And the BCCI has made it plain in their letter that it was the WICB which pulled the plug on the tour. Now, I don’t know if the BCCI is correct, but Dave Cameron, the President of WICB has said that they are setting up a mechanism to unearth some of the facts, or all of the facts. Well, that process has not yet been determined. And indeed Ralph Thorne would remember that that issue was alluded to in the discussion, and I made it very plain that there can’t be any of that, quote unquote, disciplining until there is some proper determination of what were the facts. And, in fact, Ralph you would remember that one member of the Board specifically asked that question: ‘what do I think about if they disciplined in any way?’ I said, ‘how can you discipline somebody when there has not been a determination as to how this matter’s done?’ Now, a man has a right to be heard, you know. It’s a basic principle. You have to set up an independent process and you have to lay whatever charges there are, and so on and so forth. You know, you just can’t act by executive fear in that manner. Those days are over.”
AM: “Mr Prime Minister, coming out of the meeting…”
RG: “I just wanted to… I don’t think… I’d be very surprised if Dave Cameron is party to any kind of thing like that. I would doubt it very much.”
AM: “Gentlemen… Ralph Thorne maybe this question is for you – are you surprised that there has been no statement coming from the Board?”
RT: “No I’m not, I’m not. I think the Board… I wonder if I should say this. Look, I think the Board has been divided on the issue. I suspect that the Board has been divided as to the treatment of this issue – and I’m not saying the treatment of the players – the treatment of this issue, and I suspect the Board has also been divided, and confused, as to the direction it should take. Now, as the honourable Prime Minister’s just indicated, the Board may well be boxing itself into a corner, as I said to Andy on Sunday. If you set up a Task Force to inquire into the events of India, you cannot then discipline anyone before the findings of that Task Force as the honourable Prime Minister correctly said. That is a breach of the fundamental principle known as natural justice. He also told the Board that the Board has really boxed itself in, and therefore there must be no victimisation. And I support honourable Prime Minister Gonsalves on this. That tonight we are entitled to assume that Ramdin is still captain of the West Indies team in spite of the Trinidad initiative. We are entitled to assume that Bravo is still captain of the West Indies one-day team, and we are entitled to assume that Sammy is still captain of the West Indies T20 team.”
AM: “Well, that Task Force – I can tell you that following today’s meeting that Task Force has been renamed, and I will tell you that Michael Gordon, who, I don’t know if you know the gentleman, but he’s from St Lucia, he’s a QC in St Lucia; Wes Hall, Dennis Lalor and Dowrich Miller. They will form the Task Force and I’ve also been informed that PJ Patterson, his name was overlooked because of some recent comments and criticisms that he made.”
RG: “But let me ask what are the terms of reference? If you’re going to have a Task Force, what are the terms of reference?”
AM: “Well, that’s a very good question. But you see we’re not hearing anything from the Board.”
RG: “You know, if a structure is set up it must have certain functions to perform, and the functions of any Task Force will have to be deeply laid in terms of reference, and the modalities set out and so on and so on and so forth, so that… I will say this: from the discussion which we had – and I made this point as facilitator – I am the Prime Minister of a Caricom country: even though you have endemic matters which were discussed, are at referendum of the Board, I would think that if the Board goes against what we agreed upon, Dave Cameron would have no option but to resign.”
AM: “Say that again, Mr Prime Minister?”
RG: “I am saying if the Board, I understand that the agreements which we had, are at referendum to the Board – the Board can disagree – but if the Board disagree on any of those three fundamental issues, in other words if the President can’t carry the Board, having met the players and a Prime Minister…”
RT: “Two Prime Ministers!”
RG: “Two Prime Ministers, sorry – who are speaking on behalf of Caricom, and are acting in that regard – now, he would be in a completely untenable position because if he comes to speak to me again I will go ‘what are you speaking to me about? You don’t have the confidence of your Board’.”
AM: “Now, Mr Prime Minister can I also say to you that the whole question of captaincy was discussed at the meeting, and I’m told that the name of Kraigg Brathwaite came up as possible captain of the Test side, and Jason Holder to captain the one-day and the 20-20 squad. Your reaction to that?”
RG: “Well… well… well… that would be absurd! Frankly, I mean, I hear all these rumours but I can’t believe them.”
AM: “Well, this is what…”
RG: “I can’t believe that. I was in a meeting and in that meeting issues of fairness and transparency were stressed. And in fact, in the disputed memorandum there is a clause dealing with fairness and transparency for in selection, and you don’t have to have that in that memorandum, that is accepted – you must have fairness and transparency. Look, the… I heard the members of the Board who were present and the President on those fundamental issues must be able to carry his Board, and if he does not carry his Board on issues of fairness, transparency and non-discrimination, non-victimisation, then he will have to seek a fresh mandate and get other persons to be there with him other than those who are obviously recalcitrant.”
RG: “But that would be the logic in any democratic society, or any democratic organisation.”
AM: “Ralph Thorne, do you agree with that?”
RT: “Yes, indeed. In fact, Andrew and Prime Minister I’ve been hearing this view that the Board must ratify and we cannot take any comfort from what transpired at the Hyatt. That is not necessarily correct. The players and the parties, the third-party discussions with the Board are entitled to presume regularity; they are entitled to presume that Cameron speaks on behalf of the Board. Yes, and we don’t have to enter into those deliberations, wondering if the Board is behind him. We are entitled to assume that he is the Board, that when he speaks, that when he gives that undertaking, that when he makes that agreement that is the voice not of Cameron, but of the voice of the Board. So that this view that is being advanced that we have to wait until the Board meets – now, that is utter nonsense. When he comes there he is the Board, for the purposes of the law.”
AM: “Yes, Mr Prime Minister, you were making a point.”
RG: “I’m sorry, to the extent that you are correct about the discussions which took place at the Board today about the captaincy, and I’m not privy to any of what transpired – but I would wager that in such a discussion, Dave Cameron, who I take to be a person of integrity, that seems to have batted for the agreement which he gave – he couldn’t do anything other than that. And if it transpires whether that was the decision at this meeting or whether because they’re deadlocked, that when they come finally to decide he does not prevail – that is, the said agreement of the Hyatt does not prevail, but clearly he would have lost the confidence of the Board. And remember this, you know – the elephant in the room is the USD$42m – you cannot settle that matter with the BCCI unless you settle satisfactorily the internal matter with the players.”
RG: “Settling the matter with the players is the precondition to having an amicable settlement, and for the BCCI to see that good sense is being prevailed upon within the cricketing circles in the Caribbean.”
AM: “Mr Prime Minister, I’m now getting some information here which is coming from a very reliable source, which is saying that there’s going to be another teleconference on Thursday morning to further discuss the change of captaincy, and Clive Lloyd is going to be invited to that meeting, and the person is saying to me that: ‘you are correct, Andrew – they discussed the removal of Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Denesh Ramdin. The name Kraigg Brathwaite as Test captain, Jason Holder as the ODI captain, and the T20 captain’ – and that is coming from a very reliable source. Your reaction, Mr Prime Minister?”
RG: “Well, what I have said – I will stand by that until somebody tells me that I can sit down, or two Prime Ministers can sit down and that with the President of the West Indies Cricket Board we’ve come to certain understandings and conclusion and then he doesn’t go and bat for those understandings and conclusions. I will find that very difficult to believe, and as I say, I would expect him to bat for those, and if the Board doesn’t agree with him, well then he’s a man of honour, and honourable people will act in particular ways.”
AM: “David Oram – you’ve got a question for the Prime Minister.”
DO: “Prime Minister, Dr Gonsalves – if these rumours that Andrew has shared with us from a very, very reliable source he tells us, are indeed true, it would seem to undermine the work that you have personally put into this project within the last few days and weeks. What would be your own personal position – would it be something you would withdraw from?”
RG: “Well, no I have told… and Ralph Thorne can say this: I made it plain that if indeed anything was done in relations to discriminating against the players, or treating them without fairness and transparency, I would move from mediator/facilitator to an outspoken critic of such conduct.”
DO: “And that’s quite a shift, sir.”
RG: “I cannot believe… look, Dave Cameron said at the press conference, the press briefing outside, as he said at the Hyatt, as he said inside that… and as he told me personally, he needs help, the West Indies Board needs help with the BCCI. And he needs help from Caricom. Now you can’t… you may have persons who are behaving in a particular manner on the Board, who may want to be muscular and say that we must discipline these guys and ignore due process of any kind. Now, if you have that kind of a muscular approach, those are people who want to commit suicide, metaphorically. Because the BCCI will then say ‘these are not serious people, and they’re even taking their two fingers and poking them in the eyes of two Caricom Prime Ministers who sought to mediate. And they will behave in a manner as though they are accountable to no-one’.”
DC: “PM, David Commissiong here. We are in a situation in which… I don’t know if you all remember this, but for some years now there have been voices in England and some of the other major cricketing countries making a call for this second division in cricket, that the West Indies cricket team should be broken up into smaller territorial units to play in a second division with Kenya and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. And I would hope that all parties concerned have a profound sense of the very serious crisis that faces West Indies cricket. And a profound sense of the tremendous importance of this institution to the Caribbean people, to the very concept of a Caribbean nation. You know, the West Indies cricket team is virtually the cornerstone of any sentiment that we have we will one day create that multi-territory Caribbean nation. So I hope a sense of profound responsibility filters into the minds and psyches of everybody concerned, because if the leadership of the West Indies cricket Board, in a sense kicks sand in the face of Prime Ministers like Prime Minister Gonsalves and the Prime Minister of Grenada, of Caricom, when they need… if there was a time that they needed the assistance and the support of the political representatives of the Caribbean region that time is now, because to fail this challenge…”
RG: “David – kick sand also in Dave Cameron’s eyes. Because Dave Cameron agreed with us.”
AM: “Well, Mr Prime Minister I’m also getting a note as well here which states that Joel Garner is supposed to be joining the team as part of Management, and there may be no more Richie Richardson. Do you want to respond to that?”
RG: “Well, I mean I don’t know what would lead to that, but I mean Richie Richardson and Joel Garner are two cricket personalities of exceptional quality, and I wouldn’t speak for one of them against the other, and they are the top drawer, no question about that. So I don’t know what is behind that. I can speak only in relation to those matters which I sat down upon, and where there was agreement. And I’m now hearing that the Board is divided and that they have to come back to a second meeting…”
AM: “Yes, it’s on Thursday.”
RG: “To conclude this matter. But I will say this: I have to go off to my other duties here in Trinidad because, you know, I have meetings going on here with my other colleagues, but this matter is of such importance that I thought that I would take your call on this programme, because, after all, you are the ‘heffy’ of talk show sports, particularly cricket.”
AM: “Mr Prime Minister, before you go though, we’re going to go to a commercial break – we also want to thank NBC Radio in St Vincent for joining the show, as they did last week, and of course we’re heard across the Caribbean. What is your suggestion in relation to this bill that we may have to pay USD$42m and more? What are you suggesting Mr Prime Minister? How can we solve this?”
RG: “Well, I will say this: I have reason to believe… because… look, when I got involved in this, and when other Prime Ministers got involved in this, we don’t just act in vain, we use our range of contacts across the globe to hold conversations, and I believe that we can assist in having that matter addressed efficaciously, in the interests of West Indies cricket. But I would think that a pre-condition for that settlement, for the matter, this claim to not to be in the care, as this onerous burden that we have to sort our problems first. And that means not having the kind of a.. the kind of a… a… of… of… the kind… the… Kenny Anthony’s passing here by me! And that’s what you… he interrupted me. So we have to solve this problem, and we have to solve them and show the BCCI, show the ICC, show international cricket, that we can take care of our affairs. If the Board continues this misrepresentation across the Caribbean, they will be surprised to see how the people’s patience will run thin with them. So they’d better come back with a decision that sells. These captains stay in place.”
AM: “Well, Mr Prime Minister we want to thank you very much indeed for joining us. I know you are very busy there in Trinidad & Tobago and we really appreciate your time and we hope to have you on the show sometime again. We want to thank you very much for coming on.”
RG: “All the best!”
AM: “All the best to you.”
David Oram is the co-host and sometime presenter of ‘Mason & Guests’ – Voice of Barbados’weekly cricket talk show, the leading cricket radio show in the West Indies – hosted by the Caribbean’s principal radio commentator, Andrew Mason. You can tweet me at DavidOram@colblimp1983.