Diabolical failures, gross neglect

Fri, Feb 13, '09


WICB Under Scrutiny


International cricket teams do not simply turn up on the morning of the first day of a Test match and find that the venue is wholly atrocious for any level of cricket. There are several standard checks and assessments which should have been put in place by the WICB to ensure that exactly what transpired at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium this morning never occur. There must have been a series of diabolical failures and gross neglect on the part of the assigned officer for it to have reached the stage where the Caribbean is left to suffer the utter humiliation now being rightfully dished out. What should have been those checks and balances? And who, specifically, was responsible?

Upon the WICB and the ECB agreeing to the venues for the various matches the WICB would have assigned their Chief Cricket Operations Officer Tony Howard to ensure that the venues are ready for the respective matches. He would have in turn written to advise the respective governing cricket boards such as the Leeward Islands Cricket Association who would have, in turn, informed the Antigua & Barbuda Cricket Association. The preparation of the venue would have been contracted to the local authorities with oversight from the WICB, Howard in particular.

Howard would have then organized a recce visit to each venue either late in December of last year or, more than likely, early January of this year with follow-ups if necessary. He would have either personally flown to each venue or assigned his junior – Roland Holder – to so do. They would have been responsible for ensuring that preparations were moving apace and all was in place. This is not limited to the outfield and pitch but includes all facilities – stands, media center, dressing rooms, umpires rooms, practice facilities, hotels, transportation, security, etc.

In the event of any concerns, these should have been included in Howard's recce report. It should have been standard operating procedure for the local authorities to have been formally informed of any concerns or shortcomings. And a plan of action in addressing the concerns/shortcomings should have been aggressively requested. Any concerns, as there obviously should have been with the Sir Viv Richards Stadium, should have been closely and continuously monitored and assessed. Given that the WICB is headquartered in Antigua this should neither have been costly, inconvenient or akin to rocket science.

It was all directly Howard's responsibility.

Was Howard performing all along? Did he report to the WICB CEO – Donald Peters – that the Sir Viv Richards Stadium was a sand pit and therefore a major concern?

What was Howard doing? Was there a recce of the Sir Viv Richards Stadium? Who executed it? What was their report? Or was the recce a mere joyride around the Caribbean for Howard while he collected valuable per diem?

The International Cricket Council officials would also have been responsible for inspecting the venue. This is usually done in the days leading up to the match by the Match Referee (in this case Alan Hurst), the umpires and, the ICC Anti-Corruption official. The ICC will inspect venues earlier than this if the governing board (in this case the WICB) informs them that there are concerns warranting their assessment. The ICC would have then dispatched a team of specialists to review the situation and offer recommendations and interventions if necessary.

It is obvious that there was dereliction of duty by Howard as he never once raised questions about the state of the outfield in Antigua. Early word from Antigua is that the WICB is attempting to shift blame to the ICC. It is a classic case of a well known WICB disaster response strategy – passing the buck – for which Tony Cozier recently upbraided their CEO Donald Peters.

The ICC is the international governing body under whose auspices the match is being played but it is the explicit responsibility of the WICB to provide a suitable venue and safe conditions to host a Test match.

The ICC is not involved in pitch or ground preparations. The ICC is not responsible for providing dressing rooms and other facilities. Those are the responsibility of the host board – the West Indies Cricket Board. The WICB would have designated an officer to manage this on their behalf. That officer, in this instance, is Anthony Bourne Howard, born on the 27th of August 1946 in Lower Collymore Rock, St Michael Barbados.

Howard is the man who had direct responsibility to ensure that the venues are ready and adequate. He must bear (oh how frighteningly appropriate his middle name now seems) the responsibility of this unquestionable debacle. He must be made to answer the numerous bitter questions for this farce over which he presided. And in the end, as previously highlighted on this site, he must be removed so that he is never allowed to execute another fiasco (alarmingly this is just one in a series of his well documented incompetence fuelled farcical screw ups) in the name of the WICB.