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West Indies cricket again

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When the West Indies Under-19 cricket team including our own left-handed opener Gidron Pope won the World Cup last month, hopes of Caribbean cricket fans, dashed and squashed for so long, seemed to be reviving. The triumph came as their seniors were preparing to leave for India to contest the 2016 World Cup T20 version, a trophy that they won four years ago.

But, as we have been so rudely reminded time and again, West Indies cricket is never without its share of drama. First, there came the withdrawal of three of the region’s top players, all incidentally from Trinidad and Tobago. {{more}}All-rounder Kieron Pollard, recovering from injury, said that he would not be match-fit, while Darren Bravo backed out, preferring to concentrate on Test cricket.

The third withdrawal, that of embattled spinner Sunil Narine, who has been banned by the International Cricket Conference for supposed “illegal” bowling action, has now brought about controversy of its own. Narine has charged that his cricket Board President Azim Bassarath sent an email to other T&T Board officials describing his action as “pelting.” His complaint is to be investigated.

Another cloud has arisen this week, this time involving one of the team’s key players, Andre Russell. He now faces a possible two-year ban for what is called “anti-doping whereabouts” violation. International athletes are expected to be available for doping tests and Russell has allegedly missed three such tests within the past 12 months.

This is hardly the kind of backdrop for a successful World Cup campaign. Yet it is not all, for the overriding major controversy over the governance of cricket in the Caribbean just won’t go away. The recent 27th Inter-sessional Conference of CARICOM’s Heads of Government confirmed this fact. One of the issues discussed by the Heads was that of the governance of cricket in the region.

One will recall that CARICOM and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) had jointly commissioned a study on West Indies cricket governance. That commission, the third such in the last decade, and headed by UWI Professor Eudine Barriteau, fundamentally endorsed the conclusions of the first two, but went much further calling for the disbanding of the present structure and the institution of a new, more democratic arrangement.

It was promptly rejected by WICB President Dave Cameron and his colleagues, holding up the banner of “non-interference” in cricket affairs by the region’s political leaders. Cameron even went so far as to refuse to meet with CARICOM’s Cricket Committee, headed by Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell!

This was brought to the attention of the Heads, and, they are clearly not amused. The official communique issued after the Conference says that the Heads “endorsed” the recommendations of the Barriteau Commision and “affirmed that they must be implemented.” The CARICOM leaders made it plain that they were “not joking around”, to quote Dr Mitchell, and would explore all options. T&T Prime Minister Keith Rowley said that “the time has come for serious action in trying to save West Indies cricket.”

This is the far from pleasant scenario facing cricket in the region. Whilst no sane person would like to see a takeover of cricket by politicians, the current cricket administration cannot bury its head in the sand and hide under the claim of sporting immunity. This state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely, a resolution must be found.

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