Ken Gordon and the Captaincy Saga
Wed, May 3, '06
West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Ken Gordon announced the reappointment of Brian Lara as captain of the West Indies team without the approval of the full board, a decision that almost backfired into a public relations debacle.
In fact, according to several sources familiar with the matter, the WICB president was summoned to an emergency WICB teleconference immediately after the captaincy announcement to explain why he overstepped his authority.
In a scenario that closely resembles the circumstances that led to the sudden resignation of Pat Rousseau as WICB president in 2001, Gordon's rush to reappoint Lara without formal board approval put him in a sticky situation and, as one Gordon ally said afterward, "the president has dodged a bullet."
The saga of Lara's reappointment highlights the challenges Gordon is facing to implement his own aggressive style of business management on a board that is accustomed to micromanaging all major decisions.
Since taking over from Teddy Griffith last August, Gordon has ignored the directors in between board meetings and forged ahead with crucial decisions to cut costs and find alternative sources of revenue but, as he found out in the latest episode, that management style has rubbed several influential directors the wrong way.
It all began when West Indies selection panel made a formal recommendation for Ramnaresh Sarwan to take over from Shiv Chanderpaul as captain.
When the Sarwan nomination reached the board, it was rejected and Ken Gordon asked selection panel convenor Joey Carew to find out if Lara would be willing to take the job for a third time.
Carew and T&T cricket board president Deryck Murray met with Lara separately and sounded out his interest and commitment to leading the side into the 2007 World Cup.
Lara told the duo he would consider it if he got the full, unconditional support of the board. After those meetings, Carew and Murray reported that Lara said all the right things about his future and his commitment to West Indies cricket.
Gordon himself met with Lara to help convince the champion batsman that his leadership was needed to present a strong West Indies side at the World Cup.
Gordon felt he needed to act swiftly with his Lara appointment because an empowered cricket committee -- consisting of members with a strong anti-Lara sentiment -- could potentially derail the plans.
By now, the cricket committee got wind of the plans and some members went public to make it clear that they supported a long-term captain. Clive Lloyd and Andy Roberts were among the committee members who publicly supported Sarwan's candidacy for the post.
The weekend before his announcement, Gordon called a meeting of the WICB's executive committee (made up of the six regional board presidents) to listen to recommendations from himself and Murray for Lara to be confirmed. Jackie Hendricks did not dial in to the conference call, meaning that the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) was not represented at the meeting.
At that meeting, Gordon got approval from the majority of the executive committee and he instructed the outgoing CEO Roger Brathwaite to make arrangements for a press conference to make the announcement.
Brathwaite then told the president that the executive committee could not choose a captain because the board's own internal rules call for the full board (two directors from each territory) to approve the decision.
Gordon then asked the board presidents to consult with the six other directors and get a consensus on Lara.
In Guyana, Chetram Singh was having trouble reaching Bish Panday, his counterpart on the board. Jackie Hendricks and Dave Cameron, the two Jamaican directors, were left out of the loop altogether.
The rest of the directors were waiting for a board meeting to reconvene to vote on the matter when they heard that Ken Gordon had made the announcement on live radio with Lara at his side.
Furious that he had overstepped his authority, several directors led by Chetram Singh called the board and expressed his anger at Gordon's premature announcement.
Faced with a serious public relations crisis, Gordon started making calls. He explained to Jamaica's Jackie Hendricks that his support was crucial to avoid a major embarrassment. A similar call was placed to Bish Panday in Guyana.
The directors all agreed to sign off on Lara's captaincy and avoid a PR debacle on the condition that Gordon was told that he was acting beyond his authority.
The next day, an emergency teleconference was arranged and several directors -- led by Singh and Hendricks -- expressed outrage at Gordon's actions.
In his defense, the president explained the board presidents were told to consult with their colleagues and since they didn't report with any negative feelings -- and with the ODI series against Zimbabwe fast approaching -- he felt he had to make the announcement.
"In the end, he actually blamed the executive committee for not consulting," said a source in the Guyana Cricket Board.
At one stage during the meeting, Gordon actually put the question to the full board: "Gentlemen, did I overreach my authority?" Several directors, including Singh, Hendricks and vice president Val Banks, voted that Gordon had indeed acted beyond his authority.
Lara would remain captain but the message was sent.
A person close to Gordon said the president is struggling hard to cope with the existing culture of the WICB, where directors have to ratify every decision.
"Sometimes, you just have to make a decision and move forward but every asshole has an opinion," the source said, expressing frustration at the culture of micromanagement that has slowed decision making to a crawl.
"They sit around, questioning everything. Sometimes, you need someone to just take the bull by the horns and get the job done. These directors have been there for years and all they did was run the board into bankruptcy."
"Now someone comes along with energy and is getting things done and all they do is complain and complain," the source said, citing Guyana's Singh as a major stumbling block.