Zoral Barthley, the West Indies Cricket Board's (WICB) chief cricket operations officer, explained yesterday that Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the West Indies captain, was busy with the ongoing KFC Cup in the Caribbean, in which he has led Guyana to Sunday's final, and hence was unable to attend the meeting.
The WICB first contacted Brian Lara, and then Chris Gayle, to fill in for the absent captain but both of them backed out citing different reasons. Both of them were present in Australia for the Super Series.
"In the circumstances, I emailed Brian (Lara) on September 20 asking if he would represent the West Indies," Barthley said by telephone from his office in Antigua. "He replied last Tuesday, the day before the meeting, declining the request."
Gayle, the only other West Indies player involved in the Super Series, was scheduled to return to Jamaica the next day and said the notice was too late.
It was yet another embarrassment for West Indies cricket with unmistakable links to the long-running sponsorship row that has torn it apart.
Its origins can be traced back to March 2004 when Chanderpaul took over as captain after Lara pulled out of the team for the first Test against South Africa in solidarity with six players who, like himself, had personal endorsement contracts with Cable&Wireless, the former team sponsors, and were deemed ineligible because of the clash with Digicel, the new sponsors.
Chanderpaul has been retained since, even after Lara and the others returned for the remaining Tests of the home series against South Africa and Pakistan. He led a team to Sri Lanka in July and August comprising mostly replacement players following the withdrawal of ten of the originally-chosen squad of 13, among them Lara and Gayle.
The cause was the dispute between the WICB and the West Indies Players Associations (WIPA) over match / tour contracts. Lara and the others are now back following a compromise agreement between the parties. But this development indicates that the split remains.
Lara's opinion of the WICB's request to stand-in as captain at a meeting of his international peers was obvious at the ICC Awards function. Gayle had to be hurriedly summoned to accompany the West Indies flag onto the stage at the opening of the ceremony, a role originally assigned by organisers to Lara who, given the background, clearly regarded it as a personal affront to ask him to be stand-in captain.
The issue certainly does not bode well for the team's prospects for the imminent tour of Australia, featuring three Tests next month, for which Lara and seven others who opted out of the series in Sri Lanka return under Chanderpaul's captaincy.
Appointed captains, Ricky Ponting of Australia, Habibul Bashar of Bangladesh, Inzamam-ul-Haq of Pakistan, Graeme Smith of South Africa, Marvan Atapattu of Sri Lanka and Tatenda Taibu of Zimbabwe were all present at the meeting here.
In the absence of Michael Vaughan, Stephen Fleming and Sourav Ganguly, Andrew Flintoff represented England, Daniel Vettori New Zealand and Rahul Dravid India. They were all, like Lara and Gayle, in Australia for the current ICC Super Series.
The captains' conference has become an annual get-together at which they discuss issues affecting players and put forward their ideas to the ICC.
This would have been Chanderpaul's first. Daren Ganga, who was leading the A team on its tour of England at the time, represented the West Indies at the meeting in London in 2002 when then captain Carl Hooper informed the WICB he could not attend.
It is the second time in ten months that the West Indies have been unrepresented at a major ICC meeting. They were also the only full member missing at one of the regular meetings of chief executives in Melbourne last January.