BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Legal counsel for the recently-sacked Cricket West Indies (CWI) selection panel, Tony Astaphan, has slammed comments by CWI president Ricky Skerritt regarding their removal and also plans to challenge the manner of their dismissal in court.
Chief selector Courtney Browne, along with Lockhart Sebastien and Eldine Baptiste, were all removed from their posts last week, as CWI announced it would revamp its entire selection process.
In announcing the changes at a media conference in Antigua, newly-elected CWI president Ricky Skerritt, said, “We have terminated the old embedded selection policy which secretly, but actively, victimised some players and banished them from selection consideration.”
Astaphan, however, took issue with the remarks.
“My clients are very troubled by their dismissal and the manner of their dismissal, particularly the statements made about the ‘old embedded selection policy which secretly but actively victimised players and banished them from selection consideration,” Astaphan told the Mason and Guess radio show here.
That’s a serious (charge) and it affects the manner of dismissal of Mr Browne, Mr Baptiste and Mr Sebastien.”
He continued: “What we are looking at now within the context of the labour code of Antigua and Barbuda is whether having regard to all the facts and circumstances, including the terms of the agreements signed by these good gentlemen, who as you know have dedicated their lives to West Indies cricket, constitute independent contractors or employees under the Antigua and Barbuda labour code.
“It an issue we are looking extraordinarily carefully at …”
Astaphan contends that the selection policy at the centre of discussion, which allegedly marginalised certain players, had not been set by Browne or his panel.
Instead, they had simply executed their duties based on an existing policy.
In the case of Browne, Astaphan said the former Barbados captain and West Indies wicketkeeper had always gained excellent reviews during appraisals, which preceded the renewal of his contracts with CWI.
Quoting from those appraisals carried out by current director of cricket Jimmy Adams and predecessor Richard Pybus, Astaphan said Browne had been described as “diligent” and a “strategic thinker”.
“He has been there since 2010 and having, before every renewal of his contract, gone through what is called an employee job assessment and getting extraordinary marks on matters of ethics and selections, to be thrown out like that, with the commentary of a discriminatory selection policy which he did not set,” the Dominican explained.
“I think it is a well-known fact that there was selection criteria either approved by the board or requested by the board, and there was a technical team set up with the specific jurisdictional authority to decide who was eligible or not. They were the ones that made the decision as to who was eligible or not.
“The selectors were required only to select from people who were eligible from selection and it seems as if these gentlemen have been sent packing because (there are those) who believe there is an old embedded selection policy which secretly but actively victimised players, of which Mr Browne, Mr Baptiste and Mr Sebastien were a part.”
He added: “That’s extraordinary when you consider the findings made in the 2014, 2016 assessment by Richard Pybus, when he did the assessment of Courtney Browne. It said ‘Courtney has worked diligently’ … whereas Jimmy Adams was much more specific (saying) ‘Courtney has effectively managed the selection panel and its processes’. He communicates effectively to all stakeholders and is a strategic thinker’.”
Browne was replaced by interim chairman Robert Haynes, while Adams and interim head coach Floyd Reifer, were also appointed to the panel.
The move was part of sweeping personnel changes which also saw the sacking of interim head coach Pybus and his entire staff, which had been appointed for the recent England tour.
Vasbert Drakes, who served as an assistant coach, recently indicated through his lawyer, Barbadian QC, Ralph Thorne, that he would be taking legal action against CWI.
And Astaphan reiterated that the manner of, and comments regarding his clients’ dismissal, needed to be also put before the court.
“If we’re right and we think we are, that Mr Browne, Mr Baptiste and Mr Sebastien … in substance and in law are employees under the Antigua and Barbuda labour code, the moneys they got would be wholly inadequate,” he noted.
“I don’t think anybody can seriously suggest that getting a phone call and a letter after years of service to Caribbean cricket can be considered fair.
“And to make the suggestion in a statement to the media which has been repeated in numerous publications in the Caribbean … that there was this so-called conspiracy in which these good gentlemen were involved and as a result of which there needed to be radical change of the selected policy which obviously included their dismissal – that’s a very serious problem for the industrial court of Antigua to look at.”
CMC Sports understands, however, that Sebastien has distanced himself from any planned legal action against CWI.