West Indies Cricket issues remain pertinent

29simmonsThe old people say, the thick plottens. This is by way of saying that the plot, whatever it is at any given point in time, is certainly not clear to those involved and much less so to those who are the intended beneficiaries.
We can safely apply the saying to the state of West Indies cricket at present and indeed, for some time.
Phil Simmons suspended
Earlier this week it was made known that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) had suspended the newly appointed cricket coach, Phil Simmons.
The suspension comes only in the sixth month of Simmons’ contract with the WICB.
At the centre of this latest fracas is Simmons’ statement, “It’s disappointing from the fact that I haven’t got the best 50-over ODI squad that we can select.”
The powers that be seem to understand the coach’s statement as seemingly spurning the decision of the appointed selectors of the West Indies team to tour Sri Lanka, scheduled to begin on 14 October.
In making its position known to the public the WICB’s news release stated that the comments attributed to Simmons appear to “question the legitimacy of the selection process… As a result, the management of the WICB has taken action to suspend the head coach, pending an investigation into the issue…. The head coach will not now travel with the team on the tour of Sri Lanka.”
Interestingly the WCB has appointed a member of the selection panel, Eldine Baptiste, to take on charge of the team to Sri Lanka.
Cricket analysts are of the view that Simmons may not have been comfortable with the omission of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the One Day team. There is also a belief in many quarters that despite comments from the WICB leadership to the contrary the two are being punished for their respective roles in the crisis during the tour of India that led to the BCCI holding the WICB to account for significant losses incurred when the West Indies team walked out of the tour.
This latest turn of events where Simmons has been suspended is sure to take West Indies cricket on its continued trend towards the sport’s dungheap in many respects and begs a number of important albeit controversial questions.
Reports seem to indicate that Simmons was open in letting the authorities know of his disappointment at the omission of the key players. He actually cited outside influence on the selection process and called for this to be rejected as grossly unfair and untenable.
It now seems that Clive Lloyd, the chief of the selection panel for the WICB, was at one with Simmons’ stance regarding the omission of the two players and attempted to persuade the rest of the panel of their importance to the ODIs on tour.
It also seems that newly appointed captain, Jason Holder, made his own views on the exclusion of the two players known to the selectors.
Unfortunately, selectors Courtney Walsh, Courtney Browne and Eldine Baptiste, held fast to their original stance and voted 3 – 2 against the inclusion of the two players.
The critical issue for many analysts is whether it is wrong for a coach to openly express is dissatisfaction with the team he is provided to work with knowing that his chances of having a meaningful tour was severely diminished by their absence.
There are of course pundits lining up on both sides of the divide.
It is clear to many that the WICB is fearful of the more senior players who have been around the West Indies for the past several years.
This is evident in the way they have addressed the matter of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Denesh Ramdhin on different occasions.
Perhaps the authorities of West Indies cricket are tired of the aggression shown by the Players Association under the leadership of Dinanath Ramnarine at the time and may also hold the view that the senior players may have been unduly influenced by those experiences.
The decision to send a team to Sri Lanka for two test matches, three One Day Internationals and two T20 matches where there in only one player aged 30 and all others younger, may well be seen as a blooding of youngsters to take change and should, under normal circumstances, be viewed as in the best interest of the future of the sport in the region. But is that the case?
Some may be more confortable with an explanation that suggests that once the senior player are not on tour the new dispensation of more direct control over the team that the Board desires may well be more attainable with the youngsters.
Interestingly the reality may well be that the WICB has not had control over the West Indies cricket team since the return of Clive Lloyd and company from the Kerry Packer venture into the sport. The Board may therefore be salivating at the fact that it can now exercise the kind of control it has long desired.
There may also be elements on the WICB that are fearful of the role of Clive Lloyd and who recall the immense control he had over the team sine the days of the Kerry Packer arrangement.
Everyone associated with West Indies cricket for any length of time must be aware of the significant transformation that Clive Lloyd led in the team during the Packer period and thereafter, when the team returned to the traditional ICC fold following the wrapping up of the former arrangement.
Clive Lloyd has been seen by many analysts as having more than a passing interest in the fortunes of West Indies cricket and that a challenge for the presidency of the organization may not be too far off. In this regard the authorities may well be fearful that Lloyd’s presence at this juncture may be an important stepping-stone for him later in the game.
That we are now learning that Lloyd was supportive of Simmons’ stance regarding the importance of Bravo and Pollard, both all-rounders, to the team to Sri Lanka, is reason o feel that the authorities may well have influenced the decision of the other three selectors.
That the young captain, as mature as he has thus far shown himself to be, has also expressed his opinion extolling the merits of having the two aforementioned players included in the team is also important and serves to highlight the point being made here of the fear that the authorities have.
Spitting in the wind
So here we are today with a newly appointed coach acknowledging that somehow the selectors have shown themselves unable and/or unwilling to give him a West Indies cricket team with a fighting chance of success at the very beginning of his tenure.
We have the most successful West Indies cricket team captain of all time siding with the coach.
We also have the youngest West Indies team captain supporting the stance of both the coach and Clive Lloyd and they have all been seen as merely spitting in the wind as far as the majority of the selectors are concerned.
Just how accurate is Simmons’ statement about outside influence on the selectors such that they have taken the stance we now have before us?
Who are the ones wielding the influence?
What are their motives?
The most recent decision comes against the backdrop of Gonsalves’ stinging criticism of the WICB following their omission of the same players from the World Cup squad in the latter part of 2014.
Was Gonsalves’ analysis correct?
International, regional and national governing bodies for sport are always anxious to showcase their independence. That does not however exempt them from being called upon to face the brunt of the ire their decisions and actions bring to the sporting public on whom they rely for support.
The WICB continues to show itself not necessarily working in the best interest of the sport in our region and the leadership appears to be decidedly high-handed in their mode of operation.
The fact that some of our better players no longer have to rely on their selection to the West Indies team to gain them professional contracts around the world for the far more lucrative T20 competitions that are springing up everywhere had not meant anything to the WICB and this is unfortunate.
The ICC may soon find itself like FIFA in so far as making time for players to represent their respective countries in important regional competitions are concerned. Would this extend to the West Indies team as opposed to their country teams?
We may soon find ourselves at a point where as soon as any young player shows promise he would be offered a contract to play and earn significantly more than any contract the WICB may be able to proffer. Perhaps then we would get serious enough about the people we choose to lead West Indies cricket.
The dinosaurs, the animals, may be extinct but we are certainly not lacking in dinosaurs in some of our sport practiced in the Caribbean we call home.