Hilaire wants to get smiles back

There is a newly West Indies Cricket Board chief executive, Ernest Hilaire, who claims to be anxious to tackle grave problems plaguing the sport in the Caribbean including the current contractual crisis.

West Indies cricket, already struggling over the past decade with declining standards and moderate international results, has been crippled in recent months by the contractual dispute between the board and the West Indies Players’ Association and Hilaire expects arbitration to settle the issues.

The bitter dispute has decimated the regional team, leading to second-string squads being picked for the home series against Bangladesh in July and the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa starting this week after the region’s top-flight players made themselves unavailable because of contract issues.

CARICOM Chairman Bharrat Jagdeo had brokered a deal in July to bring both parties to the bargaining table but the subsequent talks chaired by former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Shridath Ramphal broke down last month.

The crisis worsened two weeks ago when the board declared it would pursue disciplinary action against the defiant players and their association advised these players to seek legal action.

St Lucian Hilaire, who takes office on 1 October, declared that he wants to employ an approach of communication with WIPA.

He said: ‘I am excited by the challenge of going in there at this time to do what I can to ensure that West Indies cricket grows and the state of West Indies cricket improves dramatically.’

There was speculation last week that some striking players, including Chris Gayle and Jerome Taylor would strengthen the squad in South Africa.

Windies play Pakistan on Wednesday and have Sri Lanka and Australia in the other group games. Even with Gayle’s presence, after the recent turmoil, they will lose all three heavily.

Cayman cricket’s technical director is Theo Cuffy. He said of Hilaire’s appointment: ‘The only thing I know about him is that he has a good track record as CEO of the St Lucia World Cup squad. Apart from that, I wouldn’t say anything negative if I can’t say anything positive.

‘I don’t expect players like Gayle to go out to South Africa at the last minute because the board will not back down now. Anyway, we’ll be back after the first round. They’re in the group of death. None of those teams can afford to lose to us because they lost to Bangladesh.’

The West Indies in South Africa are captained by Floyd Reifer who was disguarded at Test level years ago and must have felt he had won the lottery when chosen two months ago to skipper the substitute side.

Cuffy was captain of the Trinidad & Tobago side in the Seventies and he quipped: ‘Even I was ready to put on my boots.’