I AM troubled and amazed, having read Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s recent post on West Indies cricket to see him asking questions on who owns WI cricket, and how this must be settled. His question today is now more than 25 years old.
Dr Rowley must be aware that these questions were first posed over two decades ago, in the mid-1990s, by Caribbean prime ministers of the day when West Indies cricket went on a slump following the successes under Clive Lloyd in the 1980s. They were spearheaded by two late regional leaders who were, themselves, former cricketers – Owen Arthur of Barbados and Sir Lester Bird of Antigua and Barbuda, who enlisted the assistance of their then Jamaican counterpart, Prime Minister PJ Patterson.
This led to the formation of the Committee on Governance of West Indies Cricket by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). This committee was chaired by former PM PJ Patterson, and included Ian McDonald and Sir Alister McIntyre. Their comprehensive final report was presented in October 2007 (https://sta.uwi.edu/ uwitoday/archive/march_2015/ article22.asp) The Patterson Report became the subject of intense discussions and negotiations for many years, and it still remains relevant and widely discussed today. Indeed, Mr Patterson himself has lamented in the publication CaribbeanCricket how the WICB missed a chance to help build a great future for cricket in the West Indies: ‘We were forewarned, in the light of previous reports which lay buried, that our efforts would bear no fruit. Little did we realise that decisions on the most vital aspects would be taken, kept secret for a considerable period and then eventually obscured under the guise that approximately 47 of our 65 recommendations had been approved.’ (https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/ patterson-report-remains-unimplemented- 615878) PM Rowley can easily review this ground-breaking report. He can also find answers in the Caricom archives of recent vintage, namely, the 2015 Final Report Of the Review Panel on the Governance of Cricket. (https:// caricom.org/documents/14441-revised_ cricket_review_panel_final_-_october_ 2015.pdf) This was spearheaded by former prime minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell. As then-chairman of the Caricom Governance Sub-Committee, he established an independent panel to review the governance of cricket following a meeting with the WICB.
It was chaired by UWI principal of the Cave Hill campus, Prof Eudine Barriteau, and included president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Sir Dennis Byron, former Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies cricketer Mr Deryck Murray, president of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr Warren Smith, and president of the Grenada Cricket Association, Mr Dwain Gill. Further, I am sure PM Rowley knew that the Caribbean PMs were represented in talks with WICB on numerous occasions in the past decade. I remember former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (2010-2015) had asked me to represent her at a meeting in Antigua, where there were two other regional prime ministers speaking with the WICB. A lot of significant resolutions came out of that meeting.
Yet, the competent management of West Indies cricket still remains something to be fulfilled, even after so many WICB chairmen. I am certain that PM Rowley’s cricket question today would have emanated from his recent discussions with the legendary Sir Vivian Richards, while they were playing golf.
I had the pleasure and privilege of playing cricket against Sir Viv in 1978 in a match between Trinidad and the Combined Islands, which he captained. I know that this cricketing legend would also still be asking these questions, because of the West Indies’ questionable and troubling inability to gain world dominance in cricket for the last two decades.
So, to PM Rowley-we had played cricket together in Irvine Hall, at our UWI, Mona student days in the 1970s – I advise him to search for the Patterson Report, the Caricom Review Panel on the Governance of Cricket report, and the many other findings of various regional committees and the WICB, to get some answers to what he is now seeking.
But, in this scenario, I ask-to what avail? Notably, PM Rowley headed Caricom for about six months in the past two years. I am sure that, if he is indeed serious about this matter, he can bring it to the forefront again at the next Caricom meeting.
As a former international cricketer, having played, in the 1970s, for T&T against Australia and the Combined Islands; for Jamaica against Tobago; and the UWI Combined team against Australia and New Zealand, I myself believe that there needs to be a major overhaul of West Indies Cricket management. Further, many new policies must be urgently implemented.
Undoubtedly, this will form the nucleus of many intense, hard, and perhaps controversial deliberations and ultimately, decisions, now and in the immediate future. But going beyond the boundary here is the price we must be prepared to pay, if we are to rescue this great game of cricket for the present and future generations of West Indians.
For cricket-glorious cricket- is indelibly part of our very Caribbean character, culture, heritage and history, such a beautiful, unifying regional sport. I say, therefore, without fear of contradiction, that it is the common desire of the Caribbean leaders and its people, to see the West Indies return to its glory days of the 1980s, truly one of the greatest times of our region’s modern history.
I hold memories of that amazing period dear, and my wish is that future generations to come, will also live in a time when their beloved West Indies cricket team is heralded and feared as the proud, undeniable, unbeaten, global champions of cricket.
Dr Tim Dhanraj Gopeesingh
former international cricketer