EDITORIAL: Salvaging a public good with a fig leaf

A few only would gainsay the assertion that contemporary West Indies cricket is perhaps at its lowest ebb. Forced to qualify for an international cricket tournament in which we had been finalists for its first three iterations, we have nevertheless struggled to score heavily, or even respectably, in the preparatory matches against some of the comparative minnows of world cricket with which we are now grouped.

There are those who are firmly persuaded that the problem has its source in the current administration of West Indies cricket, especially its leadership, and that once that leadership is removed, we will be well on our way to the top of the world game again. Despite the relatively underwhelming batting and bowling statistics of the current crop of players, much of the blame is still placed at the feet of the duly elected, though not wholly innocent, administration.

In this context, our attention has been drawn to a report in last Friday’s issue of the Trinidad Guardian that quotes Trinidad & Tobago’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, as stating that the heads of government of the Caribbean Community wanted “legislative best practice arrangements” put in place for West Indies cricket that is fast becoming “a depleted stock”.

In consequence, it is proposed that he and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, chairman of the cricket sub-committee of CARICOM, will meet in London with officials of the International Cricket Council this April, so that they can make their case on the “desperate urgency” that is required for West Indian cricket to be saved.

According to Dr. Rowley, the heads of government had sought legal advice on the matter from two unnamed senior counsel who had both advised that cricket was “a public good”, advice that the leaders had accepted and that they intended to guide their future interaction with West Indies cricket. According to our understanding of economic theory, a public good is a good that is both non-exclusive and non-rivalrous in that no one may be legitimately excluded from its use and that use by one individual does not thereby reduce its availability to others. Traditionally, this has included matters such as fresh air, knowledge, national security and, in some parts of our region, beaches, but we balk at any suggestion that current West Indies cricket could be similarly categorized.

We are in no doubt that the glory days of West Indies cricket would have brought inestimable pride to numerous West Indians at home in the region and abroad, but it seems, with respect, particularly facile to seek to identify the current state of the game with that bygone era. This Luddite refusal to accept the patent change in circumstances does not augur well for regional development, in our view.

It appears to us that some of the regional leaders are merely using this newfound theory of public good as a fig leaf to achieve their ultimate ambition, the removal of the current administration of West Indies cricket, a goal they have been unable to achieve, though not through lack of trying, thus far. This is in spite of Dr. Rowley’s admission in the same report that the heads had declined a request by Cricket West Indies to nominate someone to sit on the Board of “what now passes for West Indies cricket” (his words).

If the ICC should stay true to its declared stance of not permitting governmental intervention into the administration of cricket, the proposed meeting will be a wasted exercise, even though it was also reported that the fiat of the ICC is being sought to make the “necessary adjustments”.

We urge the heads to respect the democratic process and the rule of law in West Indies cricket.

Barbados Advocate

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