by Zaheer E. Clarke
Published February 16, 2015
Hope, elation and victory, that’s how the West Indies tour of India had begun in October 2014. In one quick breath, pain, disappointment, and anger were all I was left clinging to. My head sunk, my heart ached, and my sleepless nights were all for nought. Hope disappeared, so too the West Indian players, and with that the 2014 West Indies tour of India was abandoned.
It’s been four months later, and the pain, disappointment and anger, not only still linger, but are breaking new frontiers. The stench from that India fiasco has unraveled to an all-time high, and it’s perfusing every aspect of West Indies cricket.
In October, I said privately and publicly that three parties were to be blamed for the abandonment; West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and the West Indies cricketers. It was my view that egos, selfishness, ineffective communication, and inaction, all contributed to the US$42 million embarrassment that is now at the feet of West Indies cricket. My friends, prominent cricket zealots, and even Prime Ministers of countries attributed blame to one of the three sides. Mostly dependent on which party they hated more. It took a task force being formed months later, and a stinging judgement delivered against all three parties, for my friends and fellow zealots to unwillingly accept and concede.
Another twist, in this seemingly never ending saga, has now erupted in the lead up to WICB elections slated for March 7 in Jamaica. The Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) voted 10-6 against supporting incumbent WICB president, Kensington club president, and Jamaican, Dave Cameron at their recent directors meeting. Their support, for the time being, lies with the Barbados Cricket Association president and bowling legend, Joel Garner in the upcoming WICB elections. Within days of this decision by the JCA directors, a no-confidence motion was put forward against JCA president Billy Heaven, by a former director, Cecil Fletcher and Kensington club representative, Gautam Kumaraswamy. On the face of it, they have found reasons to justify it. However, from my point of view, it stinks to high Heaven (no pun intended).
The ironies in this latest cycle are ripped from the ‘Scandal’ TV drama. Firstly, Guyana Cricket Board called the JCA asking its president, Heaven (of Guyanese roots) and directors to join them in supporting Cameron before the 10-6 vote. Cameron’s friends and supporters within the JCA, including Fletcher, cried foul after the vote against Cameron. Subsequently, Fletcher resigned and then was joined by Cameron’s own Kensington club representative, Kumaraswamy on a no-confidence motion against JCA president Billy Heaven. Yes, this feels like ABC’s ‘Scandal’.
More ironies to speak of. Milton Henry and Cameron had worked, hand in hand, on the JCA board together as secretary and treasurer respectively, from 2006-08 under the infamous JCA president, Paul Campbell. It was little over a year ago, Cameron threw his support against Heaven, and behind his former JCA colleague Henry to govern Jamaica cricket. Billy and his team won handsomely and Henry lost in the November 2013 JCA elections.
Now Pat Rousseau, a former WICB president, and a known member of Heaven’s team, has been lambasting Cameron in the media for months since the India fiasco with simple words as ‘Dave Must Go’. Now members or supporters of Cameron’s team and his beloved cricket club are now saying ‘Billy Must Go’, with this no confidence motion. Is Heaven being singled out for his directors not voting along country lines, but in favour of what they think may be right for West Indies cricket going forward? Or was the non-support of Cameron, by the JCA as a result of the non-support of Heaven, by Kensington Club? Something smells.
Both Cameron and Heaven started their respective presidencies promising transformation, greater sponsorship and money in cricket, and the development of the grassroot level, etc. To be honest, both have made some strides. Restructuring of West Indies and Jamaica cricket seems to be afoot. New sponsors and increased monies have been earmarked, and/or have been pumped into their respective areas. The day to day administrations of both boards seem to be progressing well to a more professional business setup under their respective leaderships. The grassroot development projects are on the table, or already in the implementation stage.
Cameron, without any doubt, shares some blame in the embarrassing cancellation of the tour of India. Either collectively with the WICB or vis-a-vis his position as president of WICB. However, the work he has done and transformations don’t warrant him to go, just yet. Others aren’t so forgiving.
Similarly, Heaven’s work and transformations don’t warrant him to go either. This trivial nitpicking, no-confidence motion is peanuts compared to the work Heaven’s team have alleged to have accomplished, or about to undertake. J$90 million in sponsorship secured so far for the JCA projects and competitions for 2015. Under his watch, we finally got lights at Sabina Park in 2014. A state-of-the-art gym or wellness centre is alleged to be finalized in 2015. Proper business practices, strategic planning and governance at the JCA is now a reality. Or is this all a façade and just more bravado?
Heaven and Cameron, these mighty Jamaican men in West Indies cricket, need to be mature and put away this tit-for-tat behaviour of their team members or supporters. Supporters or pawns of Heaven or Cameron, please get out of the way. Let’s put the cricket first and the swords down, for heaven’s sake. If all parties involved in this fiasco, since October, don’t continue to push WI cricket forward from the abyss it has settled in for almost 20 years, then this is my proposal. If Billy Must Go, then Dave Must Go.
So here I find myself four months later, with hope and desire vanquished, still trying to wash my mind free, like Pontius Pilate, of this muddied October mess. All I find myself saying in frustration is “if Billy goes, Dave goes”.
Until next time …
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, February 16, 2015)