First off, it must be said that Cricket West Indies has been handed an essential working document by the members of the Independent Review of the West Indies’ 2022 T20 World Cup performance.
Chairman, Justice Patrick Thompson Jr, Brian Lara and Mickey Arthur did a lot of talking and evidently, active listening before having this document put together. Their suggestions, based on the summary and short, medium and long-term recommendations, should really guide how CWI moves forward with the cricket side of things. These are recommendations that have come from talking to the people on the ground, particularly most of the World Cup players and coaching staff.
There are a number of striking points, some of which have already been ventilated in the media.
I won’t go over the ground already trod, except to say that the panel’s comment about the current relationship between CWI and its players is worrying.
The report stated that there is, “significant distrust between the players and administration and this distrust is inimical to ensuring that the best 11 players turn out for the WI team in every match.”
Those words alone should really generate a sense of urgency on the part of the administration to seriously address how it treats with its employees.
The summary of the report also made this sobering declaration, that if middle ground was not found between CWI and its players over the best cricketers making themselves available to represent the Windies on a regular basis, “West Indies cricket may cease to exist as an entity.”
The extinction of West Indies cricket has been bouncing around in my mind for months now, for basically the same reasons outlined by the panel.
I don’t get the impression that once a player gets onto the international T20 franchise circuit nowadays, that playing for West Indies remains a priority. Eventually, players will reach their T20 goals without having to play for the Windies at all, just because of the exposure they can receive in a franchise tournament, like the Caribbean Premier League. Then what for this thing called WI cricket?
This problem isn’t going to be solved simply by the passage of time. The onus is on CWI to take the initiative and create the kind of atmosphere that will encourage frank and open dialogue and in the end, positive action by the players.
In this regard, the territorial boards are critical for setting the tone for much of what happens in Windies cricket.
They have not been doing enough.
The Review’s statements about those boards and its recommendations therefore require close attention.
In the summary, the report stated: “CWI should mandate that the chief executive officers of the territorial boards are to meet on a monthly or quarterly basis with the CEO of CWI and the director of cricket. These meetings should facilitate and encourage greater co-operation between territorial boards and serve to reduce the insularity that has been the bane of West Indies cricket since its inception.”
Effective communication between the various arms of West Indies cricket seems to be lacking. More talking between those whose job is to make things happen can only help.
The report also recommends long-term, that boards submit annual/biannual audits of the funds they get from CWI.
The more transparency the better, I say.
The review also suggests that each territorial board should be mandated to organise, on an annual basis, an Under-15, an Under-19, a 20-over, 40-over and three-day (90 overs per day) tournament as a minimum standard.
The review states: “Territorial boards will then have to account to CWI on why in any year these standards have not been attained and CWI must be empowered to withhold or reduce funding to territorial boards that do not comply.”
Holding people and organisations accountable is one of our shortcomings in the English-speaking Caribbean in general. It is no different in cricket. However, it will be like expecting donkeys to fly, to expect standards at the level of the international teams to steadily improve while there is widespread inefficiency at regional level.
For instance, apart from paying people to play cricket, there is little evidence that the franchises that make up the nine-year-old professional league have made any headway in becoming self-sufficient or have improved the skill level or professionalism of their players. CWI’s officers seem to have made little headway in sparking improvement from these franchises.
The review also directly addressed the perceived insularity of the boards.
It reported: “Territorial boards have a national mandate but territorial boards have to ensure that their national mandate serves the interests of CWI and is for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.”
Part of the apparent lack of cohesion in how cricket things are done in the West Indies results because individual territories prioritise what is in their narrow interests above what is best for everybody. Gaining and staying in power seems to trump doing the best thing.
To help with that, the panel recommends that by being mandated to present audited accounts at annual general meetings, this will, “encourage territorial boards to cross pollinate each other and develop regional as opposed to purely national strategies on continued best practices for the development of the game.”
Gentlemen Board Presidents - Messrs Azim Bassarath, Condey Riley, Billy Heaven and company - winning West Indies championships will continue to be a meaningless boast if that means the WI team remains at seven (T20s), eight (Tests), and ten (ODIs) in the ICC arena.
That will be like a man thumping is chest in an empty stadium.
The cricket arenas in the Caribbean are already near empty.
Before they must close altogether, gentlemen, wake up!