Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron, chairman of the West Indies Cricket Board, was in the Cayman Islands over the weekend for the local association’s annual awards and to update local officials on how the regional game is evolving.
The West Indies board is now trying to focus on giving talented young players the best opportunities to progress, which is partly why Cameron was here.
“We have created a professional structure in the West Indies with six franchise teams,” Cameron said. “They have a club system and if you have good players, then you should try to get them to go off to play in those competitions.”
Rather than teams representing their countries, this season they are called generic names: Scorpions, Volcanoes, Pride, Red Force, Jaguars and Hurricanes. Cameron also said that the Under-19s Americas team, comprising players from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, that plays in West Indies competitions is being expanded by the board to U-15 and U-17 competitions and he hopes to see Caymanians included in those Americas teams.
Cayman has slumped to Division 6 in the International Cricket Council leagues and he wants to see it rise back up the divisions by giving youngsters more chances to play at a high level. Established players like Ramon Sealy, Troy Taylor and Omar Willis would have benefited from more playing opportunities abroad when they were youngsters.
If Cayman clubs create junior teams, as planned, then Greenies will be a good source of talent as they were league champions again. Greenies captain is Chris Palmer who is also the national skipper. Runners-up were By-Rite and these two teams were joint T20 champs. In Division 2, Sol Cubs were the champs and Paramount won the T20. By-Rite were the Premier League champs.
Cayman youngsters have such a wide range of sports to pick from that cricket has been left behind in the mix. Cameron wants to change that. “This is one of the issues Cayman is always going to have, you’re competing with a bunch of other sports,” he said. “Your youngsters want to be able to play at U-15 level up to seniors and then become professional cricketers.”
There is an Americas Combined team that Caymanians qualify to play for which competes in the Magical Super 15, a competition which will be expanded.
The recent CARICOM report on the state of West Indies cricket is wide ranging, and at least partially critical. The report is enlightening for Cameron who is optimistic about the future despite admitting that the team is not doing well, especially in the Test format.
“We’re making some strides and, in the next couple of years, I guarantee that West Indies cricket will be competitive again. Will we be No. 1? Maybe not, but we will be competing in all formats of the game.” West Indies coach Phil Simmons was suspended by the board in September for being outspoken about selection issues and after apologizing was last week reinstated.
It all boils down to Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard preferring to play lucrative club T20 matches rather than less well-paid West Indies Test matches which last five days.
Cameron feels that by creating the professional league, there will be a greater pool of players to choose from for the three formats; Test, one-day internationals and T20. “Clubs [are] where the money’s at and then you play for your country for love,” he said. “Cricket is still trying to figure out where we’re at with the emergence of the T20. Until it settles down, we’re always going to have our challenges.”
The board’s relationship with the West Indies Players’ Association has been a prickly one for decades, but since Cameron took the helm in 2013, there has been far less conflict. He is proud of the fact that the board and WIPA now have their awards night together and there has been no litigation between them in the last three years whereas the board was spending an average of $1.5 million a year on litigation in the past.
Cameron does admit that senior members of WIPA are not happy with the pay arrangements its reps made with the board, yet when WIPA officials met at a world players’ meeting in South Africa recently, the overall assessment was that the West Indies players were getting a fair deal. “We will try to mend fences with the senior players, but where we are at, our players are not necessarily happy but we’re moving to get everyone back on board,” Cameron said.
Players, coaches, officials and administrators met at a conference in Barbados recently and many points were ironed out.
Although Cameron feels it will be hard for the West Indies to be the world’s dominant side again as they were during most of the 1970s and ‘80s, he feels they can climb once more.
“We’ll never be No. 1 again, but I want us to compete,” he said. “From what I’m seeing now in our professional leagues, where players are working all the time at cricket, that, to me will make a big difference.”
He said that players now do not have to have a day job anymore and only go to practice in the evenings. “We’re 20 years behind Australia and South Africa and maybe 100 years behind England, but we will catch up because we have the natural resource,” he said.
The 45-year-old Jamaican is also the president of Kensington Cricket Club, a position he’s held for 14 years. Cameron attended Kingston College high school “the greatest institution in the world” where his love for cricket started as an off-spin bowler and left-handed batsman.
He has degrees in hotel management and computer science and owns a finance firm. Cameron’s attachment to Kensington began as a 12-year-old where he scored the board and made himself useful before graduating through the teams as a player, manager and then administrator. He also served for nine years on the Jamaica Cricket Association before joining the West Indies board in 2002.
Abali Hoilett, chairman of the Cayman Islands Cricket Association, said that Cameron’s visit was “very significant” and by taking time out of his busy schedule was showing that he “wants to help get cricket back in the right direction.”
Hoilett added that although Cameron “has his challenges with West Indies cricket at this point in time, I think his willingness to share will help us as a small cricketing nation.” He added that local players also appreciated the fact that Cameron came.
Sheila Rankine is the association’s secretary and a player with Islanders. She missed this season because of surgery on a shoulder injury but hopes to return when the season resumes in January. “Everybody was very receptive of Mr. Cameron being here,” she said. “He too was happy to be here.”
“As far as local cricket is concerned, it is very evident that we have some work to do,” Rankine added.
She wants to see more youngsters playing and falling in love with the game, so that they stay with it. “We have a lot of work to do in terms of strategic planning over the next couple of years to get it back off the ground.