By Rev. Ron Daniel
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 the phrase was coined “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Similarly Ricky Skerritt’s election to President of Cricket West Indies (CWI) less than a week ago can be seen as one small step for Ricky and one giant leap for West Indies Cricket. Indeed his election as the first person from the Leeward Islands to be President of CWI comes 46 years and 15 days after Elquemedo Willet on March 9th 1973 as a precocious teenager became the first man from the Leewards to make the West Indies team. Mr. Skerritt must realise as a former politician himself that while his victory may be one to celebrate that he must now work. Indeed, Mr. Skerritt to my mind now has the most important job in the Caribbean and that is to lead a cricket hungry archipelago of islands back to supremacy in world cricket. I wish to propose three “G’s” that President Skerritt must never forget as he leads West Indies cricket in this new epoch.
The truth is President Skerritt was able to unseat the three term President Cameron because of the tremendous groundswell across the Caribbean to remove Cameron. President Skerritt was able to get a number of Caribbean governments, cricket legends, cricket administrators, respected private sector individuals, respected cricket pundits, academic luminaries, a number of folks in the diaspora, social media enthusiasts, those of the bourgeoisie and the ordinary Barefoot Bob among others to support his election publicly. The Cameron-Nathan regime was brought to its knees not mainly because of the votes of those on Sunday but by the groundswell. Our new CWI President now must not ignore the groundswell. President Skerritt must continue to engage all of these stakeholders who see cricket not as the property of CWI but as a “public good”. President Skerritt must continue to listen and throw the door open to the groundswell and remind them that West Indies cricket while run by CWI is really owned by the groundswell. Some of the best ideas in leadership comes from the very stakeholders that you serve and Skerritt must not ignore them. One of the sad realities of politicians is that they only have time for the people and their concerns during campaign but not once the elections are over. Skerritt must not follow suit. He must realise that the groundswell wanted “change” and not “exchange” and while he cannot simply cancel all the programs of the former CWI he must be willing as to “eschew the evil” while “cleaving to that which is good”. The groundswell would have invested all of their hopes and dreams into Skeritt’s “Cricket First” plan and he must ensure that cricket always comes first. The groundswell believed and bought into the concept that President Skerrit was the man to lead West Indies Cricket into the Promise Land and the groundswell again if unsatisfied can call on new leadership in two years time.
Another key element of Skerritt’s campaign and one of the greatest issues with the administration of West Indies cricket are the present lacunae in governance. The lack of transparency, micro-management and politics of West Indies cricket has gone on for too long unabated and President Skerritt must take urgent steps to address these short comings. Many governance reports have been launched to assess CWI and some of them continue to sit on shelves. Governance should be about “principles and not men” and should always take the “nose in, fingers out approach”. The rise and fall of many successful corporate entities around the world were not for lack of management but lack of good governance. It is critical then that all directors of CWI uphold the highest ethical standards and appreciate the primacy of the calling that they have to oversee the “public good” that is West Indies Cricket. Caribbean governments must not be shunted aside but must regularly be included and seen as umbilically linked to the best interests of West Indies cricket. The 6 year term limit as proposed by Team Skerritt must move from proposal to policy as a matter of urgency and a team appointed to look at the proposed governance reforms with a deadline for implementation within the first six months of office. President Skerritt must appreciate as Dr Martin Luther King Jr of blessed memory said “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”
West Indies cricket cannot continue with its present vicissitudinous financial fortunes and expect to be successful. There must be new strategic partnerships created for the growth of the game inclusive of expansion of women and kiddies cricket, new sponsors, merchandising and petitioning of the ICC for a greater share of revenue. The truth is the financial fortunes of West Indies cricket will grow as the team’s fortunes improve as more sponsors, international teams and stakeholders will want to be associated with a winning brand. Dr Shallow as Vice President must be able to use his youth and considerable experience in IT to appeal to millennials and their obsession with their smart phones and social media to grow the CWI brand. He along with Skerrit must also use the tremendous platform that cricket provides to speak to various socio-economic issues in the Caribbean such as STDs, non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) and even Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As cricket marries itself with these noble causes by using its legends and even present day stars, there is no telling how far the game can grow.
The greatest footballer of all time, Pele said something that is instructive when he said “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”. With that said, I wish President Skerrit every success.