The challenge facing Chetram Singh
By Donovan Matthews
Stabroek News
July 10, 2003

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He has done it for Guyana, now can he do it for the West Indies?

That’s the question on the lips of Caribbean cricket fans as Guyana’s cricket chief Chetram Singh prepares to take up the position of West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president.

With the withdrawal of his only opponent, Trinidad and Tobago’s Willie Rodrigues, the down-to-earth Singh is a shoo-in for the “hot seat” when the board meets in Dominica at the weekend. The horse racing bookmaker from Georgetown has overseen the re-emergence of Guyana as a cricketing power in the region, being at the helm as the Under-19s won six consecutive titles.

During his tenure the senior team has also finished in the top two positions of all regional competitions more than any other time in history, while the same could be said of the Under-15s.

This did not happen by chance however, as Singh — since taking over as head of the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) in 1991 — has worked hard to increase the local standard by (among other things) spreading the game throughout the length and breadth of Guyana. Such was his passion that, on occasions, he personally financed projects in outlying areas, one of these being the Goodwood Racing Service tournament for Under-19 teams on the Essequibo Coast.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. He was voted Male Sports Personality of the Year on at least three occasions and received a National Award, the Medal of Service, in 1998.

It was by no means smooth sailing for the man who once served as president of the famous Demerara Cricket Club (DCC), the Demerara Cricket Board (DCB) and the Guyana Softball Cricket Association (GSCA). His forthright approach at dealing with issues won him quite a few enemies and he had to stave off numerous attempts to unseat him, including a firm challenge by former West Indies and Guyana middle-order batsman Basil Butcher.

Yet, he has always survived and continues to control the game in Guyana. Can he make the transition to the WICB and turn the West Indies ship around?

The answer is yes, but there is a lot of work to be done.

One of the first tasks is to improve the WICB’s image by setting up a Public Relations Unit within the secretariat in Antigua. Too much bungling in the recent past has caused the cricketing public to view the board with nothing but suspicion.

The board would also need to establish a better relationship with the players. No matter how good the administration is it is ultimately the players’ performances that determine the altitude of West Indies cricket.

West Indies cricket needs happy players and this could come about by giving full recognition to the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), even if it means putting staff in place to deal solely with issues that arise.

Another concern that would need urgent addressing is the mending of fences with “old enemies”. Resolving the Desmond Haynes affair comes to mind. The board could utilize the knowledge and expertise of the former West Indies opener and others of his ilk as it strives to get back to the top of world cricket.

As Chetram Singh gets ready to take guard, we can only hope he has what it takes. We shall soon see. (Caribbean