A Willow in the WIndies Xtra – Debating the WICB-Caricom Dispute with Colin Benjamin

16th March 2016

The Caribbean cricket podcast

Midweek Edition: The WICB/Caricom Dispute

Welcome to this extra edition of The Willow in the WIndies.

West Indies cricket is in turmoil. ‘Twas always thus?

Disputes over contracts and conditions with the players have been ongoing for years. But the greatly reduced terms for the current international players triggered a walk-out by the Dwayne Bravo-led ODI side touring India in 2014; and briefly threatened similar action on the eve of the T20 World Cup.

The discord between the players, the West Indies Cricket Board (and also the players’ union, WIPA) led some Caribbean political figures to get personally involved in an attempt to broker a compromise in early 2015. The collapse of this initiative then put those Caricom heads of state into subsequent conflict with the Board.

Later in the year, a joint-commissioned report by the WICB and Caricom into the region’s cricket governance called for the ‘immediate dissolution’ of the WICB. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Board rejected that recommendation; but has since given an indication that it is prepared to initiate some reforms.

This response has not been satisfactory to Caricom; and following the recent Heads of Government conference in Belize, several Caribbean Prime Ministers made statements voicing the collective, and their own personal, dissatisfaction.

Most vocal were the Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell and Trinidad & Tobago’s Dr Keith Rowley. In an address to the Grenada Cricket Association, Dr Mitchell suggested that Grenadan cricket could form a breakaway from the other territories, and host its own T20 tournament. Dr Rowley aired his frustrations this week in a Trinidad morning TV interview with Fazeer Mohammed.

West Indies cricket administration is heading towards its latest impasse. In a recent article, the respected analyst, Dr Rudi Webster, a noted critic of the Dave Cameron-led WICB, pointed out that it is in the power of the regional governments to withhold use of their national stadiums from the West Indies international side if the WICB does not meet their demands.

President Dave Cameron has been a driving, but divisive figure in Caribbean cricket during his tenure. He has been angered by perceived negativity and criticism of the Board from writers and broadcasters – and has in turn alienated such notable and esteemed correspondents as Michael Holding and Tony Cozier.

It may be an alarmist over-reaction by this observer, but there seems to me to be a real possibility of Caricom and the WICB heading towards an administrative, cricketing, Caribbean civil war if the two sides cannot reach a compromise.

Certainly, the issues (and there are many) have polarised opinion in the region and the extent of views is broad – ranging from a support of the international players and the angry Caricom leaders; to those with some sympathy for the substance of what Dave Cameron’s WICB has been attempting to achieve, if not apologising for the style.

I was joined in this podcast by Caribbean sports journalist Colin Benjamin to debate some of those issues.

Colin hails from Trinidad, and until recently was a regular writer for the T&T Newsday newspaper. Since his move to Toronto he has kept in close contact with many of the players, and continues to write for ESPN Cricinfo, Cricbuzz and other cricket websites.

You can listen to our discussion here.

David Oram

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