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A THORNY ISSUE: Enforcing call a real problem


ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Enforcing call a real problem

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I DON’T mind if I’m called a pessimist, but I expect the latest, learned recommendations concerning West Indies cricket will come to nothing.

Those who made the recent recommendations [calling for the West Indies Cricket Board to be dissolved] and those who did similarly in the past had good intentions, but the will to enact them has been the problem before and probably will be again.

This in itself is an indictment on the state of the game as the various stakeholders seem too impotent to take the necessary steps that will enable us to bring the game back to the standard which represents the best qualities in the average West Indian.

How long will we sit idly by and look and just talk while the region’s greatest unifying flagship is savaged by inept management and we continue to fall light years behind the rest of the world?

The recent study rightfully focused on the governance of cricket because, as we say, if the head is bad, the whole body is infected and there’s a ripple effect.

Is it any wonder that we have gone from undisputed world champions under the leadership of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards to chumps in the past two decades, with a speed similar to Usain Bolt’s?

Is it any wonder that we have failed to qualify for the next Champions Trophy which we won in 2004 under the captaincy of Brian Lara?

And with the suggestion by a particular lobby to have a two-tier test system, aren’t we afraid that we will be at the lower end of the ladder, probably to be competing against associate members like Afghanistan and Ireland?

No wonder Sir Garry Sobers wept recently in Sri Lanka.

His tears in that setting may have been caused when he reflected on current playing standards compared with those of the past, but from my viewpoint, one of the major underlying reasons for this is that the management of West Indies cricket in recent years has hit an all-time low.

It is almost automatic or predictable that there will be some kind of dispute preceding every tour. How can the players be expected to function coherently and concentrate on their duties on the field?

The most recent dispute involved coach Phil Simmons, who was suspended while waiting in London to join the team heading to Sri Lanka. How disconcerting was that with the players having to so adjust quickly to the philosophy and style of a new head coach?

Captain Jason Holder said the team wanted back Simmons, whose methods the players had come to appreciate, and pundits said they had started to see some incremental improvements in recent series.

In Sir Garry’s time and after, there had to be situations when the governance of the game by the board was called into question too, but it has never been so bad or come under such harsh scrutiny as it is today.

However, as the recent study noted, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is still being run like back in the day, while other international bodies have evolved into organisations that keep pace with the times.

Can we safely say that is one of the reasons why even nations like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are continuing to improve while our form continues to dip appreciably?

Mind you, when Sir Garry had a strong connection with Sri Lanka in the mid 1980s, the West Indies were powerhouses and they couldn’t look us in the face. And when Gordon Greenidge was the Bangladesh coach for part of the 1990s they couldn’t ask us any questions either.

Just look at how the tables have turned. Both of these teams, for instance, will be at the Champions Trophy, while we will be mere spectators.

Their elevation must have had something to do with the structures put in place by their administrators. It perhaps puts in perspective our own level of governance or the lack of it, when you consider that countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh function in a very volatile atmosphere from time to time but yet they have done enough to record growth and positive change in their cricket.

On the other hand, it seems that we have been asleep at the wheel, but when genuine attempts have been made to help our administrators to awake from their slumber, they have apparently refused to respond to the alarms.

The much heralded Patterson Report is the perfect example – none of that document’s recommendations have been implemented. Clearly, when that kind of vision remains on the back-burner or is left to catch dust on somebody’s desk, West Indies cricket will surely perish.

I think that kind of approach precipitated Sir Garry’s weeping. Perhaps, if there were more forward-thinking procedures and better futuristic planning to suit the times we are living in, nobody would have to be so melancholic about the state of our cricket.

None of this totally absolves the players of blame in the fall from grace, but they literally bat on the wicket prepared by the administrators. I maintain the India debacle may have been avoided if the leadership of the WICB had exhibited the diplomatic and management skills required to defuse such burning issues.

In many instances the players have been used as pawns in someone else’s ego games which benefit a few while the majority are disadvantaged. In the end cricket becomes the major casualty as it appears to be now.

Disbanding the WICB and taking new guard sounds like sweet music to the ear, but who is proactive and revolutionary enough to make it happen is the question, while the answer blows in the wind.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.

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