KINGSTON, Jamaica (CMC) – Prominent Caribbean academic, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, believes whoever wins today’s Cricket West Indies (CWI) presidential elections, faces the challenge of undertaking critical governance reform of the regional body, regaining the trust of stakeholders and implementing a visionary structure to move West Indies cricket from “awful to awesome”.
In a statement entitled ‘Present Crisis and Future of West Indies Cricket’ carried live on UWI TV, Sir Hilary said CWI had now become a “backward institutional system” after rejecting the opportunity for reform through the Patterson Report, closing the Barbados-based High Performance Centre, and creating “greater acrimony” among critical stakeholders like business, government and universities.
Sir Hilary, a former CWI director, was speaking ahead of the highly anticipated showdown between incumbent Dave Cameron and former St Kitts and Nevis government minister, Ricky Skerritt, for the position of CWI president.
“Other countries that have been faced with systemic decline in their performance have opted to restructure their governance model and engage in a period of strategic planning within the stakeholder grouping,” pointed out Sir Hilary, the University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor.
“The Patterson Report sets out very clearly the path forward for West Indies cricket to enable the emergence of our cricket culture. The governance reforms embedded in the Patterson Report, however, have been rejected.
“It’s a report that calls for greater accountability in the management of West Indies cricket, in the leadership of West Indies cricket. It calls for greater transparency. It calls for the removal of cliques and cabals and it calls for the recognition that cricket is the public good in our Caribbean world.”
He continued: “Unfortunately, what we have seen in recent years is that reform has been stalled and greater acrimony is developing within the stakeholder community that represents the basis of excellence.
“The old mentality is digging in while the goose that laid the golden egg is dying. It is clear to all of us that CWI is not as accountable as we would wish; the public has been calling for greater transparency and a greater type of accountability within the leadership.”
Sir Hilary outlined 10 points with which the new CWI administration needed to grapple, among these, “developing and not dividing the young talent … embracing and not alienating investors in West Indies cricket … deepening accountability and not to deepen a lack of transparency in the stakeholders network … and a commitment to reform and not resist new visions of governance”.
He also urged CWI to “promote and not marginalise nor degrade the genius of our indigenous legends”, in reference to involvement of the iconic former players in cricket development.
Sir Hilary also pointed to the value of the now-defunct High Performance Centre (HPC), which he said provided the environment “to produce the ideal West Indian cricketer for the 21st century”.
The HPC, based at the UWI Cave Hill Campus, ceased operations last year after CWI pulled the plug.
“We are the only global cricket institution that has no high performance centre,” Sir Hilary lamented.
“We saw what happened when our players did so well in England in recent years, and returned home – no academy to help them resolve their technical and emotional problems. In that sense, we are a backward institutional system.
“In all of the countries that are competitive, they have built their academies within the learning environments of the universities. This is what England did back in the 90s … in India, in Australia this is the norm but in the West Indies, CWI continues to see the learning environment as a problem.
“We have heard the statement: ‘we’re here to produce cricketers, not professors’, and indication of a lack of understanding within the cricket environment.”
Cameron, who was elected president for the first time in 2013, is bidding for a fourth successive two-year term, along with vice-president Emmanuel Nanthan.
However, he has received a strong challenge from Skerritt, also a former Windies team manager, who has as his running mate, St Vincent and the Grenadines Cricket Association president, Dr Kishore Shallow.
Sir Hilary, who did not endorse a candidate, said West Indies’ resurgence on the field rests heavily on the quality of leadership which will emerge from CWI in coming years.
“We are clear about the fact that the decline of our performance especially at the Test level is complex (and) intellectually deep-rooted but what we are clear about is that the movement from awful to awesome has to take place at the level of leadership, on the field and in the management,” he stressed.
“We have to get rid of the old mentality, we have to embrace knowledge. We have to embrace information because we’re looking to produce the ideal West Indian cricketer for the 21st century.”