REVEREND WES HALL announced last week that he would not be seeking re-election as president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) at the annual general meeting in Dominica next month.
Hall was unanimously elected to the post on July 21, 2001, in succession to Pat Rousseau, the Jamaican attorney who, along with vice- president Clarvis Joseph, resigned after the WICB directors reversed their dismissal of team manager Ricky Skerritt.
Hall said his decision was based on ďa pre-existing medical condition which is exacerbated by stressful situations and constant travel.
Last week, Hall answered questions from TONY COZIER about his two years in office. This is the first part of the interview.
Cozier: After a lifetime involved in West Indies cricket, it must have been a difficult decision, even given your medical condition, to resign as WICB president.
Hall: I originally had no intention at all of running for the post. As you will recall, I was not on the West Indies board at the time, not even on the Barbados board, so my ambitions could never have extended to the presidency. After a lot of soul searching, I acquiesced to people who had asked me to step up to the plate.
Cozier: How would you characterise your tenure? Are you satisfied with what the WICB has achieved in your time as president?
Hall: I thought from the beginning that the plans I had would take four years to come to fruition. Already some have, others havenít.
One of my first aims was to ensure that there was reconciliation and healing within the board. I am satisfied that Iíve succeeded in that. The board is now a cohesive force. The members are together. There have been stumbling blocks along the way, as they always are, but Iíve treated them as stepping stones for Godís purpose in my life.
I want to mention the co-operation I had from the board and especially from the staff at Factory Road (the WICB headquarters in Antigua). They have pulled their weight with an increased workload and have been a pleasure to work with.
Very often they have fingers pointed at them and questions are asked about exactly what they do, why they have to be at matches and that sort of thing. This is uninformed comment from those who do not appreciate the tremendous contribution they are making. When you compare what we have with other international boards you will appreciate that weíre actually understaffed but they simply get on with the job.
Cozier: The WICBís finances were in a precarious state when you took office. What is the position now?
Hall: Our revenue streams were depleted by the fixed, ten-year ICC tour programme that allocated two tours annually to the Caribbean and set out a new procedure by which we are paid when we play overseas. In my first year as president, we lost US$1.5 million.
We borrowed from a Trinidad and Tobago bank last year to keep our doors open-to pay our players, to keep our programmes running, that sort of thing-and we expect to recoup some of our losses this year.
In the past year, we have signed sponsorship contracts with Carib for five years, with Red Stripe for a further three, with Trinidad Cement Limit-ed for the under-19 tournament and we expect to finalise a deal for the under-15s shortly. Of course, we still have our valued sponsorship from Cable & Wireless for international series at home.
In addition, our much maligned and, I think, misunderstood deal with Sky Sports that kicks in next year and runs through to the 2007 World Cup will be a godsend.
Cozier: Insularity is a fact of life in West Indies cricket. Do you regard it as any better or any worse now than before?
Hall: Yes, that has always been an ugly aspect of our cricket. I know because I was a member of the team in 1968 and it nearly destroyed that team. But I am certain that it has appreciably diminished.
You will always get the occasional comment that reflects it but let us look at the situation this season. There were nine Jamaicans in the West Indies team, in either Tests or one-dayers, and there is no Jamaican on the boardís executive committee, no Jamaican on the selection panel and neither the captain nor coach is Jamaican. And the crowds were sell-outs almost everywhere, not least in Grenada and St Vincent where there were no local players in the match. That must say something positive.
Cozier: Are you not concerned that the team continues to founder near the bottom of the ratings in both forms of the game?
Hall: Naturally, Iíd want them to do better but we are in a transition period. Look at the ages of the players who have come into the team this year, almost as unknowns, and you can see that we have something to build on. With maturity, we will find consistency.
Already I can agree with Michael Holding that we have one of the strongest batting teams in the world and I believe we are only three, 90 miles an hour fast bowlers away from backing that up with a match-winning attack. We have the potential there in Jermaine Lawson, Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor. (Trinidad Express)