May 3, 2007
They manoeuvre themselves onto cricket's governing councils and create cabals through which they perpetuate themselves in their privileged positions. Perhaps it is in the nature of the collective beast. After all, don't they come from clubs and corporate boardrooms where things have been that way for decades?
But the problem goes beyond the culture of being 'club-able', for the nabobs of cricket now run the sport without due regard to the glorious game's major stakeholders: the players and the cricket-loving public. And the worst thing is that there is no transparency, no accountability - these are men who do not walk when they know that they are out.
You would be forgiven for thinking that we are talking about the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). No, it is the International Cricket Council (ICC), to which we refer, in the first instance, though the WICB is equally culpable.
The ICC have introduced a new paradigm for the way in which competitions and tours are arranged: slavish devotion to the profit line and the high-life offered by sponsors and television. The result is that players are increasingly condemned to a treadmill of One-day Internationals and Test matches, many of them meaningless, to sate the hunger of television executives, who see millions, billions even, to be made in advertising, mainly in Asia. And so the soul of cricket is sacrificed, nay, prostituted, in pursuit of the filthy lucre of the corporate dollar.
The recent, bloated, mismanaged Cricket World Cup is perfect evidence of what is wrong with cricket nowadays. The greed on display in the ticketing and sale of concessions, resulting in the excessive pricing of everything, including a bottle of water and a pack of nuts, was breathtaking in its myopia and lack of value for money. But the organizers were not the only guilty ones, for there were the hotels and airlines jacking up prices, intent on killing the goose even before it laid the golden egg.
Then there was the heavy-handed officiousness and insensitivity with which the tournament was 'managed', which of course culminated in the farcical events at the end of a final that deserved to be played over two days. One hopes that, in time, not even the darkness and incompetence will be allowed to overshadow the magnificence of Adam Gilchrist, the superiority of the Australian juggernaut and the spirit of the Sri Lankans.
However, the decision by Percy Sonn, the ICC President, to make the World Cup presentation himself, while the greatest cricketer ever to have graced the game, Sir Garfield Sobers, stood by like an extra in a pantomime, was the supreme act of churlishness that will leave a bitter taste for a long time to come. But perhaps it was to be expected, given the way that the ICC had imposed its neo-colonial will on our region, before and during the World Cup.
The woes afflicting this World Cup have been catalogued in myriad ways. The achievements, of a cricketing nature and otherwise, have also been noted. But it is, overall, a shame that this particular World Cup had to be held in our part of the world and that those charged with delivering a successful and enjoyable World Cup to the West Indian people revealed themselves to be such a spineless and greedy lot. This was certainly not by any stretch of the imagination the "best World Cup ever".
But the ICC has declared victory and moved on, appropriately enough in the same week marking the fourth anniversary of George W Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech to boast of the success of his invasion of Iraq. These fellows could outspin Ramadhin and Valentine, Lance Gibbs and Shane Warne put together.
The ICC is to good governance and management what Saddam Hussein was to democracy and freedom. And given the example of the ICC, there is little wonder that the WICB is so incompetent and just as contemptuous of its players and public.
Incompetence now permeates the administration of cricket at almost every level in the ICC and the WICB. For the members of the WICB, on the job performance has nothing to do with management and results, and discipline is a moveable feast. If that is the way things are at the top, there should be little surprise at the way the players comport themselves on and off the field.
Meanwhile, the regional debate over the future of West Indies cricket is heating up. In one particular commentary amongst many of value, the former Barbados batsman, Rawle Brancker, who resigned in disgust as chairman of Cricket World Cup 2007 in 2005, in delivering the 13th Sir Frank Worrell Mem-orial Lecture on April 24th last, called for an overhaul of how West Indies cricket is run, based on a new publicly-owned agency to replace the WICB, and with managers and players alike to be judged and paid on the basis of expectations and performance.
We now await the findings of the governance committee, appointed by WICB Chairman Ken Gordon, and comprising PJ Patterson, Sir Alistair McIntyre and Ian McDonald.
The future of West Indies cricket may very well lie in the hands of these three wise men. As long as they do not drop the ball, perhaps there will be a silver lining behind the dark cloud of the World Cup after all.