THIS newspaper trusts that the statement from Mr Lester Bird regarding the current state of West Indies cricket will not be ignored by West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) President Dr Julian Hunte and others in his executive.
For Mr Bird has spoken not just as a former prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda or as a Caribbean man of high standing. A sportsman in his youth who was outstanding in cricket and in the long jump, Mr Bird's comments — whether we agree with all of them or not — capture the extreme and growing public disenchantment and frustration regarding the administration of cricket in the region.
With every passing day, cricket-loving West Indians of every class and creed become more and more pessimistic about the future of the West Indies cricket team as a viable entity.
Yet the regional cricket authorities press ahead, seemingly convinced that the regional game belongs to them, committing blunder after blunder without a proper accounting, while expecting to be taken seriously by the rest of us.
Indeed, among the more telling points made by Mr Bird in his statement republished in yesterday's Sunday Observer targeted this troubling matter of accountability: "The WICB must find a formula to improve decision making and for establishing accountability. Without accountability it is difficult to monitor performance. It is strange that the WICB demands accountability of its players but they themselves remain unaccountable."
Just as an example, to this day there has not, to our knowledge, been any proper and transparent accounting for the circumstances surrounding the abandonment of a Test match in Antigua in 2009 because the field was unsuitable for cricket. This embarrassing episode occurred despite the fact that the game's venue, the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, is just a short drive from St John's, the capital of Antigua, where the WICB headquarters is located.
We still have not heard from the WICB what action, if any, was taken to ensure that it never again happens.
Yet, the WICB feels perfectly within its rights to insist on the non-selection of former West Indies captain Mr Chris Gayle from the regional team because of alleged misconduct on his part. It has done so without resorting to due process, for as Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller puts it, "There has been no trial and no hearing..."
Now we also have an open quarrel between the WICB and its member, the Jamaica Cricket Association, over the exclusion of Jamaica as a venue for the upcoming Australian tour of the Caribbean. The suggestion by Mr Bird that the decision was meant "to punish Jamaica" for selecting Gayle "for national duty" in regional competitions is extremely troubling.
The recent public relations embarrassment involving a totally inappropriate response to Mrs Simpson Miller's comments provides further evidence of the dysfunctional nature of the administration. The planned meeting between Dr Hunte and Mrs Simpson Miller — if and when it takes place — will probably be useful.
But ultimately what is needed is a recognition by the WICB and all other stakeholders that there has to be a radical change in the way Caribbean cricket is run.
Mr Bird says, "It is clear that this bunch of leaders cannot take our cricket anywhere..." and further that, "We need a new structure to propel West Indies cricket forward and we need it urgently."
We agree entirely but feel compelled to make the point that a formula for that new structure is already on the table. We contend that it is not too late to finally take on board the recommendations of the PJ Patterson-led committee on governance of West Indies Cricket. That committee urged complete transformation in the administration of the regional game — taking into account modern realities and the need to involve all stakeholders, not least the Caribbean people themselves.
It's not too late, but time is rapidly running out.