Patterson-led team on the 'ball' By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
April 29, 2007

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A CRUCIAL meeting of the regional directors of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) will take place today in Barbados.

It would take place amid widespread deep concerns over the future of West Indies cricket; the crescendo of criticis`ms about the WICB's management of our most popular sport; and the home team's humiliating performances in the World Cup tournament that climaxed yesterday at Kensington Oval.

At stake for today's meeting is much more than determining whether or not incumbent WICB President Ken Gordon should remain in office until his two-year term expires in June.

Or, in the choosing of a new captain to replace Brian Lara and a coach to succeed Bennet King. Both announced their resignations even before the CWC semi-finals.

The controversies surrounding the WICB's negotiating role with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to host CWC 07, as well as future functioning of the Board's management, pending consideration of a far-reaching report expected from a high-level three-member review committee, are among other pressing matters also to be addressed.

Today's meeting was expected to be preceded by one last Friday by the high-level team, also in Barbados, under the chairmanship of Jamaica's former Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson.

The other members are Sir Alister McIntyre, a former CARICOM Secretary General and Vice-Chancellor of the UWI (currently a non-executive director of the WICB); and Dr Ian McDonald, leading business executive and well known West Indian author and social commentator.

The Patterson team's mandate, as discussed with the WICB executive, involves a thorough review of the performances of past and current management by the regional Board; past captains, past and present players and coaches.

Wide Consultations
They will also engage in wide consultations with leading regional institutions, private sector representatives and CARICOM Heads of Government and international agencies, including the ICC, before settling down to shaping the report on their findings with a range of major recommendations for action within a proposed time-frame.

As Patterson said, "cricket for us in the West Indies is much more than a game. It's almost a way of life...It is a matter of political interest, our regional unity, and, of course, a source of great pride to citizens...

We (the committee), therefore, intend to treat our mandate with utmost seriousness and priority and expect appropriate responses to the recommendations to result from our findings..."

In a telephone conversation I had with him before he departed Jamaica for Barbados, Patterson said that in addition to reflecting the positions with respect to WICB management and functioning of the regional and territorial Boards, as well as the role of the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), the commitee's report would seek to share the thinking of regional organisations, such as:

The Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce; Caribbean Tourism Organisation; Caribbean Hotel Association; CARICOM leaders, guided by the Community's Prime Ministerial Sub-committee on Cricket; media organisations, sports commentators as well as members of the public---"the real stakeholders of our cricket"--with a view to the "rebranding of West Indies cricket for the 21st century..."

Asked what happens once the committee's report is submitted, Patterson said it would be for the WICB to take the necessary action, adding: "We intend to indicate what should be done in specific areas and, yes, there be a time-frame for implementation..."

The Players
It could not be confirmed whether the Patterson-led review team will have a working session with the WICB directors--either at the beginning or end of today's meeting, the agenda for which includes the scheduled West Indies tour of England next month.

A new players contract for the forthcoming Enland tour is currently the issue of arbitration by a panel headed by Barbados' Chief Justice, Sir David Simmons.

Earlier in the week, and preceding the excitement for yesterday's World Cup final duel between Australia and Sri Lanka, there was an open battle of words involving the WICB's Ken Godon and the inaugural chairman of CWC West Indies Inc's Board, Barbadian business executive and former WI test player, Rawle Brancker.'

It had to do with Brancker's call for the speedy dismissal or phasing out of the current WICB directors and management team while delivering the 13th Frank Worrell Memorial Lecture on Tuesday night at the "Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination" of the UWI (Cave Hill Campus).

Known for his public candour on matters pertaining to our hosting of CWC 07 and the role played by the WICB/CWC West Indies Inc, Brancker told the audience of a perception of the WICB as suffering from an "unusually mountainous level of arrogance..."; and that it had become "irrelevant to the future development of West Indies cricket" and should be disbanded.

WICB President Gordon, lost no time in knocking down Brancker's scathing criticism of the Board and fiscal management, and accused him of "not being serious" and "out of touch".

'New Footing'?
Gordon has claimed that efforts were underway to have the operations of the WICB on a "brand new footing" and that "this will be reflected in the team we take to England in terms of rebuilding (confidence)..."

Given the doubts, cynicism, disenchantment and fears abroad in the region about the role of the WICB and the future development of West Indies cricket, the Patterson review committee should secure a copy of Brancker's address, and so too should the directors of the WICB.

It includes some specific and quite relevant recommendations made by the legendary Wes Hall while serving as Manager of the WI team to England and who subsequently became a President of the WICB without being successful in getting his proposals implemented.

This itself requires an explanation that the Patterson team should seek.

Hall's recommendations, as disclosed by Brancker in his address, points to, among other matters, critical issues like required discipline and professionalism in the functioning of the West Indies cricket team.

Whatever the outcome of today's meeting of WICB directors, the Patterson review team would be expected to be quite clinical in pursuing its mandate to help chart a new way forward for West Indies cricket, the sport that is so integrally linked with our political history and the region's post-independence social, cultural and economic development.