As Ricky Skerritt begins a second two-year term as Cricket West Indies president, his biggest challenges will be developing the game and making sure talent is unearthed and nurtured in the hostile environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced cricket in the West Indies to be halted in March last year, with the West Indies Championship—the region’s premier first-class competition—abandoned with two rounds of matches to be played.
Domestic cricket followed suit and the only regional tournament since has been a shortened Super50 Cup in Antigua in February. The first-class competition is unlikely to take place in 2021, while all regional youth tournaments—Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19--are also still on hold.
While the full impact of the pandemic on the development of the game in the region is yet to be seen, Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board president Azim Bassarath and international cricket commentator Samuel Badree both highlighted the importance of the continued development of the game in the Covid-19 environment.
Asked what he felt the CWI president should focus on over the next 24 months, Badree said: “For me, it has always been the first-class cricket and the development at the territorial levels and governance across the territorial bodies.
“I want to see a strengthening of governance structures and also a strengthening of the first-class tournaments and more emphasis on the so-to-speak ‘fringe players’ so when they reach that international level, they are well equipped. So there needs to be more focus on the grass-roots level and territorial level and the governance across the region,” the former West Indies leg-spinner added.
He also noted that the biggest obstacle Skerritt and company will face will be Covid-19 and the reduction in the amount of cricket being played across all levels in the region.
“The first-class season may be called off and players have not played since March last year when it was called off, so how we manage that and how we still get our players being involved at a high level so that when international tours come around, they can manage...is a great challenge not only for CWI but for all boards,” Badree explained.
“Also one of the biggest things for me is getting our coaches up-skilled and getting them to a higher level because things we have been talking about 10-15 years ago in terms of technical deficiencies, we are still talking about that today, especially from a spin bowling point of view.
“When you look at the region, we haven’t had a quality spinner of note, of international repute in some years. We need to get our coaches up-skilled and up to date with modern technologies and all that sort of thing,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bassarath also agreed that “the most important thing is the product and that is cricket.”
“I think they are going to focus on the development of the game and to further enhance the sport in the region. Mr Skerritt has spoken a lot about the development of the game and spending money at the grass-roots level and that is important in the Caribbean to take the game forward,” the TTCB boss explained.
“We are not as lucky as the BCCI or Cricket Australia or the English cricket board to have funding readily available. We are struggling with funding in the Caribbean and I think if the funding is available, we will continue to produce the top-class cricketers that we are accustomed to,” Bassarath continued.
“We have a number of West Indians in the IPL and they have all come out of our development programmes and I think we must continue those programmes. I think it is...important for cricket to be developed in the Caribbean and that is something I look forward to with the proposal that Mr Skerritt has to uplift the cricket in the region,” he added.
Bassarath said Skerritt and vice-president Dr Kishore Shallow were the best candidates to lead CWI and noted that because of the pandemic, they didn’t get a fair opportunity to implement what they would have wanted but the plans they were able to implement have started to bear fruit.
“We have seen some improved performances in both the white-ball team and the red-ball team and we think, having looked at the record of the West Indies team over the past two years and within recent times, we have seen big improvements. I think it was the right decision to support both of them to continue in office,” said Bassarath.
“I think the biggest accomplishment is the improvement in the performances of the team. What has happened is that the players have expressed so much confidence in the management of the team that the players are more comfortable now. We have seen that. We have seen that there is a much closer relationship with the administrators and the players and I think that plays an important role in uplifting the team and having the team perform so much better, hence the reason why they should continue,” he added.