Tarnishing the image of WICB

AN obscure clause in the International Cricket Council (ICC) code of ethics forced Chetram Singh, long-serving head of the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB), to withdraw as the sole candidate to succeed Wes Hall as president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) at its recent annual general meeting.

TONY COZIER

Chetram Singh was forced to withdraw as the sole candidate for the post of President, West Indies Board, due to an obscure clause.-Pic. AP

AN obscure clause in the International Cricket Council (ICC) code of ethics forced Chetram Singh, long-serving head of the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB), to withdraw as the sole candidate to succeed Wes Hall as president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) at its recent annual general meeting.

Coupled with the questionable process by which he was put forward, it not only left the WICB without a president until a new election was called but further undermined the credibility of an organisation already shaken to its foundations by a rash of controversies.

The road to nowhere was effectively charted by the five members of the executive committee — Hall, the fiery fast bowler of the 1960s who has quit on health grounds, vice-president Val Banks and three directors. They agreed, among themselves, that Singh, one of their own, should take over in spite of the known constraint that he was prohibited from sitting on the ICC's directorate because he owns a gambling business, legally registered though it is, in Georgetown.

Since the Cronje affair and the establishment of its Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), the ICC has initiated a code of ethics that, among other things, states that "no director shall be engaged or involved in, directly or indirectly, any conduct analogous to gambling or any other form of financial speculation".

To have made such a decision without recognising the ramifications of having a president officially regarded by the world governing body as an outcast and, as it emerged, without referral to the separate member boards was have at best, high-handed at worst.

The explanation was that, in an organisation prone to division, the decision was designed to ensure unanimity and continuity through a trusted, committed long-serving member. It is a procedure that, given the singular nature of West Indies cricket, have served the WICB well.

All but one previous president was chosen by consensus and the transition was smooth.

The exception was Jamaican attorney Pat Rousseau's victory over the Trinidad and Tobago board president Alloy Lequay in 2001 that the former said was "tainted by unpleasant tactics" and the latter complained of "deception" and "betrayal".

Understandably, the executive did not want a repeat this time. Ironically, it unwittingly triggered just that.

Somehow, it did not see the ICC's stipulation as a problem since it was satisfied that it was still free to send alternative representatives. But it should have been obvious that such an arrangement compromised the status of any president, more especially one who, presumably, would have expected to preside over the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, the ICC's premier event.

Subsequent developments reflected the disquiet of other boards.

The Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), which was not represented on the executive, soon nominated Willie Rodriguez, 69, the former Trinidad and Tobago captain and West Indies' player and manager, to oppose Singh, 53.

Of even more significance was the decision of the Barbados board to go against the recommendation of its president, Stephen Alleyne, a member of the WICB executive, and back Rodriguez.

Lequay, the 79-year-old who has run Trinidad and Tobago's cricket for more than quarter-century, didn't bother to summon his board to respond to a strong lobby that it should support their countryman, Rodriguez. It had committed to Singh through its WICB executive member, Richard de Souza, and would not change its position simply because Rodriguez was a Trinidadian.

With the six member boards (Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and the Windward Islands) having two votes each and president and vice-president one each, there was the distinct possibility of a close and divisive contest.

As it turned out, Rodriguez pulled out of the race a few days before the vote.

In the interim, Rousseau, who resigned as president in 2001 following a virtual vote of no-confidence, said that to install Singh would be "to plunge West Indies cricket into the worst crisis it has faced and cause serious long-term damage to our beloved game and to administration."

These were strong words but it was increasingly clear that they could not be ignored, not least by the WICB executive or by Singh himself. His withdrawal from the race was the inevitable, honourable course.

But the entire episode once more tarnished the image of West Indies cricket.