West Indies’ uncertainties

WICB-02The triangular series involving Australia, South Africa and the West Indies has once more brought into focus the several issues confronting the game in the region.
The glorious uncertainties of the sport of cricket ought not to have involved the kind of issues that continue to plague the West Indies cricket team and the sport in general in this part of the world.
Our cricket team can on any given day deliver a level of skill competency that shows as being among the very best exponents of the game in the world. On the other hand we can deliver, also on any given day, the most dismal display on the field of play.
The most consistent aspect of the West Indies cricket team is the inconsistency of the players.
Perhaps the single most critical feature of the West Indies cricket is leadership. In any organisation leadership is important.
Despite all the analyses that have been undertaken over the several decades it is clear that West Indies cricket suffers from a chronic crisis of leadership.
In the Caribbean as elsewhere in the world leaders are elected, not necessarily based on competence but more so on the basis of popularity. The most popular personality rises to the top by virtue of the extent to which he/she can convince others that popularity would carry the organisation through to new heights. This, of course, is not necessarily the case.
Many may recall the important role that the late Frank Worrell played in the fortunes of West Indies cricket. To many, Worrell remains the best captain the team has ever had.
It is also true that some point to Clive Lloyd as the best captain but the reality is that he was the most successful on the field of play. He got the best results.
However, Frank Worrell was able to lift the players and the sport at once.
Former fast bowler, Wes Hall, has reminded us that Worrell treated the players in a manner that was always respectful of their dignity. He encouraged them to engender self-respect and to be as dignified as possible.
The players were to take responsibility for themselves on and off the field. They were called upon to be good persons, first and foremost and to understand who they were, where they came from and what they represent.
Hall remembers too that Worrell encouraged the players to think of life beyond the game so that they could make something of themselves.
Hall was of the view that Worrell, more than anything else, sought to have his players conduct themselves at all times as gentlemen. He was mindful of the racism that existed in the sport and in countries in which they played and stood up for people of colour in the team when it mattered most.
Something of a gentle hero, Worrell created a very strong team based in the players’ understanding of why they were selected and the role each must play for the grouping to be successful.
While winning was important. It seemed equally important that the players developed as individual human beings from the Caribbean.
Worrell was not afraid to stand up to the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (now WICB) as the institution was called at the time. But his challenges were done with the requisite decorum.
For some time the board has been mired in controversy with the players. In large measure this has to do with the failure of the WICB to keep pace with the changing dynamics of international sport.
It should come as no surprise that while Dinanath Ramnarine was head of the Players Association the latter won every time they took an issue to arbitration. In some instances the members of the arbitration panel must have been sadly bemused by the lack of professionalism of the WICB teams.
Some may well have wondered whether the WICB simply thought that being elected to head the sport in the region meant that they were above reproach; that they were always in the right and that the players had no rights of their own.
That may still well be the case today.
The WICB remains an organisation that is unclear of the way forward in respect of the scientific development of the sport in the region. This is amazing given the fact that only a small number of countries are members of the ICC and best practices ought therefore to be readily available.
Perhaps the situation regarding the decidedly poor leadership we have had at the level of the WICB over the past several years can be explained by the failure to engage in on-going research regarding the sport in the region. We have allowed things to occur by ‘vapse’ rather than systematic planning.
Perhaps too the individuals who have offered themselves sup for leadership of the WICB have done so out of love for the game rather than an interest in understanding its rapidly changing global dynamics and determining how best to respond to these from a Caribbean perspective.
Perhaps the leadership of the WICB may not have a Caribbean perspective on the game at all. They may merely roll along with the dictates of the ICC and focus more readily in the income-generating aspects for the organisation and the region rather than the genuine development of the sport.
The sport of cricket can be better developed in the region. There has however to be goodwill.
The establishment of an academy in and of itself does not guarantee development of the sport and the players. The approach has to be far more comprehensive.
The development of the sport must be couched in a broader developmental perspective that addresses all aspects of the game in the Caribbean.
The tinkering here and there is inadequate and will lead to nothing different.
Cricket has to adopt the approach of long term athlete development (LTAD), long term coaches development (LTCD), long term administrators development (LTAD) and long term officials development (LTOD). These will afford the sport a comprehensive re-examination of itself and the construction of very clear pathways for each of the categories mentioned.
Interested persons would have clear options open to them to choose from.
Clearly there is need for resources to be made available for the aforementioned approach. Once the commitment exists appropriate projects must be developed to facilitate acquiring the appropriate funding for development purposes.
As it now stands there is not a sense of understanding the awesome requirements of the sport for our region.
The focus on competitions remains important but unless the pathways are clear we stand to have one or two successful individuals emerge here and there rather than a consistent flow of highly competent and proficient individuals over time.
Just as the West Indies team once rose to the top of the sport we can return there and sustain our position only if we have a consistent policy regarding development.
One would imagine that the cricket academy would do much more that show players how to bat, bowl and field. We expect that they would be made to know and appreciate the history of the sport, the history of West Indies cricket, key cricketing personalities from the region and an eagerness for knowledge about all aspects of the game.
The WICB itself should ensure that it members are also afforded the opportunity to educate themselves about the sport.
In today’s world sport is changing rapidly and everyone aspiring to leadership must be in the know. Administrators must be students of the sport, accessing the latest research and developments across sports so that they can be appropriately creative in the application of broad-based knowledge to their daily experience as leaders in the region.