Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Tony Becca | Who will it be, Heaven or Neita?

Published:Sunday | February 24, 2019 | 12:11 AM

Cricket fans will heave a sigh of relief on Friday when they awake, hopefully, to a lovely morning and the return of the president of the Jamaica Cricket Association or to a new president, and especially so after over a month of lively, emotional, and sometimes acrimonious campaigning.

In any democratic organisation, especially in any democratic society, a contest for positions, and particularly a national one, is always a good thing, once it is fair and free of outside influence, intimidation, and, in my opinion, free of character assassination.

The contest between the incumbent president, Billy Heaven, and the second vice-president, Mark Neita, sometimes got a bit too hot for comfort in the media. The hope is that good sense will prevail going into the campaign’s last few days.

Who will win? Will it be Heaven again, or will it be Neita first time around?

That is a difficult one as there have been no holds barred during the campaigns, and everything has been exposed for all to see, including the association’s finances and the state of the islands’ cricket, and it has been exposed as never before, at least not in memory.

Heaven was elected some five years ago, not for his knowledge of cricket, but in the search for a president with management skills, especially with regard to money, in response to the problems on the board at the time.

In his two terms-plus, however, while the book-keeping and Heaven’s governance have been good, no money, or hardly any money except money from the rental of the boxes at Sabina Park, has come into the coffers of the JCA.

More importantly, however, and even though Heaven realistically cannot be the only one to be blamed for this, the standard of cricket has been in decline in all quarters in recent years.

cricket development

As far as Neita and his supporters are concerned, however, five years is a long time, and something needs to be done, especially where cricket development is concerned.

To be fair to Heaven, cricket, or the know-how of cricket’s development, is not, and has never been, his strong point. Neither, in the five years of Heaven’s leadership of cricket, has he ever claimed any such thing,

There is no denying, however, that the standard of the country’s cricket continued to slide further and further under Heaven’s watch and the newly minted “franchise” league, or the Super League, is really a waste of time and money.

Neita, on the other hand, is seeking election on the basis that cricket, apart from the fact that the present board spends too much of the association’s money on funding a “franchise” system way in excess of its funding for the established islandwide Senior Cup competition, is losing ground in the schools and that, in turn, is seriously affecting the island’s cricket in every age group.

Although, as many of Heaven’s supporters remind, Neita is the current second vice-president of the board, the chairman of the board’s cricket committee, chairman of the board’s marketing committee, and is the board’s representative to the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) and holds positions of responsibility in the Heaven-led board, Neita claims that, in many respects, he has been side-lined by Heaven and by some board members.

The former national cricketer, however, is banking on his experience as a cricketer, his accomplishments as the president of Melbourne Cricket Club for the past five years, his plans for the improvement of the local game, and the fact that he acquired the one new sponsorship for the association, the Under-17 club tournament, to win the presidency.

good governance

While agreeing that good governance is important and must be maintained, even while from questioning Heaven’s skills in that area, Neita also believes that cricket must be the priority of the JCA; that improved development of cricket in schools, clubs, and parishes is important; and that a consistently high level of performance by the national teams is also important.

Neita also does not believe in spending so much of the association’s money on a franchise system in comparison to the little that is spent on the Senior Cup competition, for many years the country’s top competition involving clubs and parishes, all governed, supposedly, by elected officers, rules and regulations.

The Senior Cup competition caters to 24 clubs and parishes with each team playing five league matches a season as against the relatively new JCA “franchise” cricket which is a selection of supposedly the 90 top cricketers, divided into six randomly-named teams, with each team playing 10 matches, with selected managers, coaches, and captains, and with no fixed addresses or structures.

Who will win the presidency of the JCA? Will it be the mild-mannered Heaven, or will it be the hard-working Neita?

Heaven looks home and dry but Neita, like the West Indies over England in the Test series recently, can spring a surprise.

It may come down to who has the better slate.

Regardless of who wins the election, unfortunately, one will be in and one will be out, and all because of the recently new “slate” system.

The “slate” system suggests that each man chooses a “slate” of candidates for an election. That system, however, weakens the board as it divides the pool of good people available to be useful board members, especially in cases where although the best man for the top job may be voted in, his “slate” usually consists of men and women of his choosing and may be not men, and women, of substance but rather people who, more likely than not, would not have won a seat on the board, or are simply, people who follow the leader.

Remembering that money and knowledge of cricket are both important to the development of the cricket, both Heaven and Neita, in their own right, are good for the game, and if they could work together after this, would have a part to play in Jamaica’s cricket.

Maybe, when all is said and done, including the voting, the first item on the agenda for the next president, apart from maintaining good governance, will be a good look at cricket development followed by a removal of the “slate” system.