By Andre Errol Baptiste
A smile has returned to West Indies cricket. It has continued to grow through the Test series win over England and the draw in the one-day series, but it has nothing to do with one or the other.
Instead it is the announcement that, come the end of March 2019, there is a strong opportunity and occasion for West Indies cricket to breathe again. Former West Indies team manager Ricky Skerritt has announced that he will be challenging the incumbent president of Cricket West Indies, Dave Cameron, for the presidency.
Cameron has been unpopular all around the West Indies since his appointment on March 27, 2013, replacing Julien Hunte, before which he was a vice president of the board. He has been especially unpopular with several of the top regional players and former players, who have had their say on his three terms (of two years each).
While there is not much, or enough, known about Skerritt as an administrator, there is a strong belief that anything is better than Cameron again. The latter has not helped himself with his utterances in the past, whether on television, radio, in print, or via social media, which many have either rightfully or otherwise described as arrogant or divisive.
It is apparent that, unlike in the case of the previous challenger to Cameron, Joel Garner of Barbados, Skerritt’s run at the presidency is gaining traction, and with it, causing a serious ripple effect all around the Caribbean.
Yet again, it appears that the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCBC) is supporting Skerritt, as too, it is reported, is the Leeward Islands board. For the TTCBC, despite the fallout from their support of Garner previously, it appears to be a case of having had enough. Indeed, the question is: why has it taken so long for the TTCBC to realise the need to challenge Cameron?
Also, we all know of recent statements by Enoch Lewis, the CWI director of the Leeward Islands board, who openly challenged Cameron’s decision to appoint Richard Pybus as the new West Indies coach without the total approval of all CWI board members.
Over the next few weeks we can expect the battle to intensify, with Cameron under pressure to hold off an angry West Indian public, who have seen the return of certain top players to the West Indies fold result in a change in attitude and performance. We can expect bitterness from Cameron’s team as they attempt to curtail the growing momentum of Skerritt. There is the strong possibility that more players will become available should Cameron no longer be president. In fact, there is talk that some players might come out of self-imposed retirement if that occurs. All of this adds up to a strong showing for Skerritt and his team, but sadly, it is not the people of the region who will vote. Were that the case, Cameron would probably lose by a record margin.
However, we also need to know more about Skerritt – and Kishore Shallow, who is running as vice-president alongside him. More than just press releases and ten-point plans, we need to have a better understanding of both men and what they can deliver and how much we can trust them. For the people of the region, trust is critical in terms of support.
The representatives of the six territorial boards – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trindad and Tobago, Windward Islands, and Leeward Islands – will vote to decide on the CWI presidency. Each board has two votes.
We have been told in a media release that Leeward Islands and Trinidad and Tobago will vote for Skerritt and Shallow. But Shallow is president of the St Vincent and Grenadines Cricket Association, which falls under the Windward Islands association, whose president is supposedly still Emmanuel Nanthan of Dominica, who is currently also the vice-president of CWI under Cameron. So there is a strong possibility that the Windward Islands’ votes could be divided between Shallow and Nanthan, thereby placing a lot of emphasis on Barbados (a noted Cameron stronghold) and Guyana (a certainty to vote for Cameron; they have also been struggling to hold elections for over six years and are being supported by the current executive of Cricket West Indies).
Two votes each for Cameron from Barbados and Guyana, plus at least one vote from the Windward Islands, puts him on five votes. Similarly, two each for Skerritt from Leeward Islands and Trinidad and Tobago, plus one vote possible from Windward Islands, places him on five votes too. This means that Jamaica’s two votes are critical. The facts that Cameron is a Jamaican by birth, and that the elections were apparently suddenly shifted to Jamaica in March, assume relevance. Politically there are those that have suggested that the current opposition party in Jamaica strongly supports Cameron. Only time will tell whether the influence of the Caricom leaders on Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, will have any impact on which way the Jamaican association votes.
So, just as the fate of West Indies in the upcoming World Cup may very well hinge on Chris Gayle, it appears that the fate of West Indies cricket administration too is in the hands of two Jamaicans.
Andre Errol Baptiste is a multimedia freelance journalist from Trinidad and Tobago