July 30, 2009

Lay off the legends

Rudi Webster
Lloyd and Holding are entitled to criticise the West Indies players - they've been in those shoes

A few days ago Clive Lloyd and Michael Holding expressed a few of their feelings and views about the attitude, behaviour and performance of some of the West Indies players and their representative body, the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA). WIPA did not take too kindly to those remarks and counterattacked Lloyd and Holding. But WIPA was not the only body that received criticism from those two cricket icons; over the past months they have been equally firm in their criticism of the structure, modus operandi and performance of the West Indies Cricket Board.

Records show that Lloyd built and captained one of the best, most successful teams in the history of sport, and that Michael Holding, a truly outstanding fast bowler, made a significant contribution to the triumph of that team.

As manager of that side during the Kerry Packer era, I got a first-hand view of the way those two players, along with Deryck Murray and others, transformed the West Indies team into the most professional, disciplined, courageous, motivated and mentally tough unit ever to grace a cricket field. Members of that team were not overpaid, and they did not expect or demand rewards for non-performance or poor performance. They were not overrated. And they certainly were not petty, pampered or spoilt - Kerry Packer saw to that.

It is difficult to overestimate how much the players in that team were admired and idolised on the cricket field. And off the field they were loved and respected for the manner in which they conducted themselves and for the role they played as outstanding ambassadors. Two decades have passed since those players left the scene but people around the cricket world still talk about them.

Surely Lloyd and Holding have earned the right to express their views freely and openly. And we should be grateful to them for sharing their rich experience and wisdom with us - important attributes that are missing in most of our players and in some of the administrators of WIPA and the WICB.

WIPA must understand that criticism in sport is par for the course. In fact, I don't know of many other professions where criticism is so vitriolic. And the criticism that WIPA and the players are now getting pales into insignificance against that which the players in World Series Cricket endured. Not only were they criticised, despised and abused by all the cricket boards and by critics around the world but also by former players. In some cases they were denied the use of traditional cricket grounds and had to play on football fields, on wickets that were prepared in greenhouses and then transported to the field.

As far as I can remember, those West Indian sportsmen did not bear any great animosity for or show any disrespect to their board, critics or former players. They answered them in the best possible way, the only way that really matters - winning performance on the field. The World Series was the catalyst that propelled West Indies cricket to world dominance.

I think I can say without contradiction that greed was never an important factor in the minds or the motivations of the players back then. Most of them had contracts that ranged from US$20,000 to 25,000. Compare that with the US$ 1 million that each West Indian player received last year for winning a Twenty20 game in Antigua.

Money attracted the players to World Series Cricket because what they were getting as Test players for their country was a pittance - more like an allowance than a salary. But once the cricket started, money plunged to the bottom of their list of priorities. They understood that if they performed well, money would come to them; and that if money became their most important priority, their concentration and thinking would be incorrectly focused and their performance would suffer badly.

Consequently, they used other things to motivate themselves - pride in being part of the West Indies team, pride in performance, pride in being the most professional and disciplined unit, the competition itself, enjoyment of the challenge and the battle, becoming the champions of the world. It would be interesting to find out if the current players and WIPA share those driving forces.

During World Series most of the players offered their services to their countries, but their cricket boards rejected them. The players did not abandon their countries. Eventually the courts ruled in favour of the players and ordered the various boards to reinstate them.

WIPA must understand that criticism in sport is par for the course. In fact, I don't know of many other professions where criticism is so vitriolic. And the criticism that WIPA and the players are now getting pales into insignificance against that which the players in World Series Cricket endured

West Indies cricket is now in the worst shape it has ever been. Along with Bangladesh, West Indies are at the bottom of the Test and one-day ratings. The players' bowling averages are like good batting averages, and some of their batting averages are like good bowling averages.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article in which I asked if there was cancer in West Indies cricket. I stated that if the epitome of good teamwork is found in the human body its antithesis, arrogance, selfishness (and greed), is found in cancer. It is now time for the players, WIPA and the WICB to become painfully honest with themselves and do a thorough self-examination to discover if there is, in fact, a cancer within. They should also be aware that the only treatment for cancer is radical surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The adversarial thinking that has dominated and prolonged the current conflict is the preferred style of lawyers and operatives of the union. That method must now be abandoned completely. A different approach is urgently needed. This will require two things. First is the formulation of a bright and successful future for West Indies cricket and second is the fitting of resources and strategies to bring about that future.

If the current mediation is viewed just as an exercise to resolve the long-standing contracts conflict, it will result in a palliative outcome, but the genesis of the conflict will linger. It would be more sensible for each participant to treat the situation as an exploratory exercise to design the best possible outcome for West Indies cricket. That subtle difference in approach could lead to a dramatic change in intent, thinking and behaviour.

It is now imperative that the WICB and WIPA restructure themselves, readjust their attitude and priorities and work together to create an environment that will help bring out the best in the players. This is the only way the two bodies will improve their performance.

A plant that grows in a bottle will always take on the shape of the bottle and be confined to it. No matter what seeds are planted in the bottle the result will always be the same. The plant will only grow freely, flourish and take on a different shape when the bottle is broken.

Rudi Webster is a sports psychologist. He managed the West Indies team in World Series Cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Derek on August 3, 2009, 17:06 GMT

    continued.. and the result well we all now know that as you said an average team was beaten by bangladesh. Now lets have the entire management structure changed and see if this makes any difference.

  • Derek on August 3, 2009, 17:04 GMT

    googletalk - Reserve your comments until you know enough about all parties involved. "i don't know much about their board, but surely their players let their team down" Cricketers ARE NOT mercenaries; they are professionals. If you wish to inject national pride which you are talking about get polititians and or the boy scouts who pledge an allegience to their country to "play for their country". I'm a West Indian as a result of both my parents and I do not care what any West Indian player earns. If he is not considered to be worth it then its the responsibility of the board to provide the resources to ensure players are available to represent the WI at the price they wish to pay. Dwayne Smith was considered to be worthless but he now does much better financially than most members of the WI team with a Kolpak and IPL contract which PAYS HIM. If you do get a chance to watch English county cricket check the pride which Smith puts into his worry free game. The elite players removed

  • Mohammad on August 2, 2009, 5:56 GMT

    i'm from Bangladesh and I'm happy for our wins over West Indies. But I can't deny that I have been a huge fan of West Indian cricket, and one of the main reason of that were Lloyd, Holding and their whole team. Present West Indies players have no right to criticize such legends. Specially currents players are far from world class apart from one or two. They are team of average and are earning quite lot of money. What they have been doing is disgraceful. because of their greed their national pride under threat. Because of them, their devoted local supporters have observed one of their sorryiest defeat against a relatively easier opponent. i don't know much about their board, but surely their players let their team down. Their ridiculous strike need to be examined throughly and few of them can be axed or should be accused for degrading their national pride. Strike can be a acceptable form of protest, but should not be where it is about national identity and pride.

  • kewan on August 2, 2009, 2:32 GMT

    As much as i agree with the legends, the W.I.C.B are as much to blame, why won't they just grow up and focus on what's best for W.I cricket and pick a strong side. As much as i love cricket here in the Caribbean, i have no intentions to supporting this W.I team in any form, wont even waste my money to watch them or time. i lost interest and will rather the opposite team win. You can not compare 70's and 80's players with current players, back then Lloyd and others had jobs they could of come home to, these players are now solely committed to cricket as a career. My view is that it's starts as the top, and Mediocracy as fully develop as part of the Caribbean culture. I am just waiting to see how long the W.I.C.B will continue to watch and enjoy West Indies cricket hit rock bottom. If lucky we might probably loose sponsors and they would wake up from hibernation. Thanks God i did not pursue cricket as a career.

  • Ricardo on August 2, 2009, 0:24 GMT

    I admire Lloyd & Holding immensely, & regard them as legends, but I do not consider for a moment that they are beyond criticism. If the WIPA feel it necessary to respond then what is the problem? So long as they were being respectful. Why should Lloyd or Holding or Richards criticise the board or the WIPA? and why can't the WIPA respond ?? As for the game in the caribbean, I agree with brighorientlen... the cricket followers of the caribbean along with respected writers NEED TO FORCE THE WICB TO STRUCTURALLY CHANGE.... that is the ONLY WAY!!!! the board is a fragmented & greedy collective with regional agenda's....so they can never be effective. Why can't people see that ??!!!??? If the players strike did not occur, then somrthing else would have come up eventually. The WICB may need to be dissolved. How about a new body being installed along with a job description and a budget to employ a CEO to oversea cricket management in the region??

  • Alex on August 1, 2009, 15:27 GMT

    In terms of zero accountability, dictatorships and national cricket boards are on par. Criticise Lloyd and co all you want, but fact of the matter is that he and his 70's/80's team were in a totally different orbit when it came to preparing for and playing the game itself. They made the law makers change the rules - they took flak simply based upon skin colour (this WAS the 70's, remember). But they gave as good as they got and their records speak volumes. That in 40 years, the WI administration cannot see the need to change - that the incumbents continue to tow a destructive line - that WI rankings sink so low to threaten only Bangaladesh(!) despite the obscene money paid to name players spotlights just how poorly mismanaged WI cricket administration is. Whether as a player or as an administrator, nowhere is pay for non-performance better served than in the WI. Kerry Packer must be laughing in his grave.

  • Rabindra on August 1, 2009, 11:16 GMT

    Ridi Webster's comments are obective and to the point. He is not saying that because Lloyd and Holding are legends that we have to listen to them, but that becuase they are legends what they have to say is credible and worth consideration. Nevertheless I have watched WIPA over t he years and have been saying that they will be the downfall of WI cricket. I have also criticiesed WICB for their management of WI cricket which has been apalling to say the least. To hear Darren Powell (as he did in an interview during one of the Bangladesh tests) say ont he radio that at this day and age we are still niot minded to analyse the weakbnesses of the players on other teams and then structure your game to capitalise on those weaknesses, is unacceptable. It smacks of a Baord who does not understand the science of the game. And WIP fails to analyse how badly the WI players perform , and therefore work with WICB to ensure that players are compensated and rewarded for excellence.

  • Greg on August 1, 2009, 10:30 GMT

    An excellent article. I think some of the comments miss the point; Webster is simply warning that once parties lose respect for each other and get locked into an entrenched dispute they lose perspective and become obsessed with bickering and point scoring for the sake of it. As a former litigation lawyer, I recognise the truth in that statement. Disputes are inevitable in any collective activity; what matters is how they are managed and resolved. The challenges WI cricket faces are not unique: see Steve Waugh's autobiography for an account of a similar dispute in Australian cricket in the late 90s. There, intelligent and insightful negotiation where both parties made a concerted effort to focus on issues, not personalities, and to understand and accomodate the legitimate interests of their opponents not only averted a strike but led to a new era of mutual trust which laid a sound off-field platform for on-field success. WICB and WIPA could achieve this too if they both want it enough.

  • Len on July 31, 2009, 19:05 GMT

    The west indies cricket board should be made to resign they have shown themselves incapable of managing affairs of West Indies cricket

  • Len on July 31, 2009, 17:38 GMT

    I agree with everything that has been said by Lloyd and Holding but their comments is not the issue here. The issue here is of a WIndies cricket board that persistently plays politics for its glorification, whilst the WIndies team continue to perform like a bunch of amateurs. For WIndies cricket to move forward there has to be CONCERTED PRESSURE from supporters and WIndian cricket writers in forcing the WIndies cricket boiard into creating a solid infrastructure and discipline within the WIndies team that will take us back to the top where we were in the late 70s and 80s, that is the only thing people in my view people should be looking at

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