April 27, 2014

West Indies cannot afford to ignore the Pybus report

The recommendations made by the WICB's new director of cricket have been accepted, but how many of them will get implemented, given the financial constraints and regional rivalries?

Another unsatisfactory West Indies first-class season ends this weekend.

It has once more proceeded without most of the leading players, on simultaneous T20 duties in Bangladesh for West Indies, then in the UAE for their IPL franchises, or otherwise injured.

Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo didn't have a single match; Marlon Samuels, Andre Russell and Denesh Ramdin one each, Kieron Pollard two. Kemar Roach's shoulder injury persists after five months.

There was the usual conspicuous lack of promotion so that the public and media interest was again negligible. Eight of the 23 matches leading into the challenge final for the Headley-Weekes Trophy between Windward Islands and Jamaica in St Lucia (Barbados had earlier won the round-robin phase) were completed in less than three days.

Sixteen totals were under 150, and ten over 300. Performances, individual and team, were erratic. It is a recurring theme that makes it difficult for West Indies to drag themselves up from the lower rungs of the ICC Test rankings - or for selectors to make considered choices. How, for instance, do they rate the season's top run-scorer, Shacaya Thomas, a 25-year-old, strongly built, belligerent opener from Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC), who was the only one with more than 500 runs (548 at 45.66, with two hundreds)? Ready for Test cricket?

Or which spinner alongside Narine to favour for the three Tests against New Zealand in the Caribbean in June that is a battle for sixth place on the ICC table? As has been routine for more than a decade, those of every sort filled the top ten places among wicket-takers.

Only five newcomers have been introduced in the Test team in the five series since 2012; Narine alone is assured of his place in the series.

Such evidence has finally persuaded the WICB to acknowledge Test captain Sammy's lament following the most recent heavy, successive losses in India and New Zealand that "we cannot continue like this".

As a consequence of a catalogue of sweeping changes proposed by the new director of cricket, Richard Pybus, and accepted by the WICB directors at their meeting in Port-of-Spain last month, the 2014 first-class format is likely to be the last in its present form.

Pybus, an Englishman, was twice Pakistan coach and, briefly, Bangladesh's. His reputation was made in South Africa where he managed and coached at all levels and was twice named provincial coach of the year. He knew very little about West Indies cricket when appointed last November - and vice-versa. He immediately, and wisely, set about learning about its past glories and present problems. The proposals contained in his hefty document, under the heading "West Indies Cricket System Review and Plan", are "shaped by interviews and discussions with former West Indies captains and great players, from Sobers, Griffith, Nurse and Hall to the generations of Lloyd, Roberts, Richardson, Walsh and Ambrose". There were other former and current players who shared their thoughts.

The relevant points are the "professionalisation" of the regional first-class game and the expansion of the season. There will be 90 players under contract, 75 with their individual boards, 15 with the High Performance and A squads. The objective is to ensure that all the players are available for a new tournament of double-round cricket over six months (as opposed to one round concentrated into six weeks at present).

It won't come cheap.

Pybus estimates the cost of the new plan to be US$2.8 million for staff and players, $750,000 for the expansion of the first-class and one-day competitions, $300,000 for retainers for the A squad. To raise such sums, he believes sponsorship through naming rights of teams could raise $200,000 and naming rights to their stadiums a further $500,000. "Territorial boards to source sponsorship for first-class teams as they do in Australia, England, South Africa, the IPL," he wrote, hopefully.

Given that the first-class series hasn't been sponsored since Carib, the Trinidadian brewery, ended theirs in 2009, that cricket no longer holds the sporting pride of place it once did in the region and that most of the territories are going through difficult economic times, the marketing departments face a difficult task.

What is more, the WICB is ironically competing for the same financial support from private enterprise and governments as the Caribbean Premier League, to which it sold its T20 rights last year.

For all that, the stark reality is that West Indies cricket is unmistakably in crisis. It might just be enough to change attitudes; it is either that or "continue like this" towards oblivion.

The directors even agreed to Pybus' plan for each of the six territories to select their ten contracted players after which all the others would "go into a draft to equalise the regional distribution of players to the betterment of West Indies cricket". The idea is that within a year all players will be open to a "free market… as per best practice in overseas first-class cricket".

While the CPL followed the IPL lead and introduced the draft concept in its first year in 2013, it might be a revolutionary concept too far for traditional West Indies cricket that, after all, comprises a dozen independent nations each protective of its sovereignty. It was all very well for Narine to turn out for the Guyana Amazon Warriors and Pollard to captain the Barbados Tridents rather than their native Trinidad Red Steel in the inaugural CPL T20 fiesta; another for such a switch to extend to intense, long-standing inter-territorial rivalries.

Englishmen are free to represent several counties, Australians to switch states, New Zealanders to move between provinces during their careers. They are one nationality; there are no more than 20 instances over the years of West Indians representing territories other than their own - and those have been mainly through residence.

It is a wonder West Indies cricket has survived for more than 100 years as an entity. The internal spats that have confronted Caricom, the Caribbean trade and economic grouping, throughout its comparative infancy, typify the potential pitfalls. Pybus' is not the first such report commissioned by the WICB. That, prepared by a group, headed by the former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson, presented an equally significant tome in 2007. Its main points were not acted on, prompting Patterson to complain that he had spent a couple of years wasting his time.

It has now reached the stage where the WICB cannot afford to treat Pybus' report the same way.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 2, 2014, 19:55 GMT

    @RallyWindies Pollard, was given a cap after 1 innings against Barbados.(he scored a century) not IPL, Narine did nothing to announce himself before TnT's CLT20 appearance, however Bishoo has been good domestically for years, but did nothing in IPL to date. only 3players in the current team are test cricketers,Chanders, Bravo Jr.,and lol Ramdin we do have a keeper

  • Sevarino on April 29, 2014, 21:15 GMT

    Great article Mr. Cozier. The Patterson Pybus reports are gonna be overlooked yet again. The WI FC system is weak, the players under perform or as i often say are not motivated enough. Dangke a carrot like satnford did and you will get Blood, tooth and Nail from these guys. Its money they want, most of the regional players are not well off. as for the team thats a different kettle of fish, is it future planning of another patch WI are looking for.

    My test team

    1 Kieron Powell 2 Lendell Simmons 3 Shivnarine Chanderpaul 4 Darren Bravo 5 Marlon Samules 6 Dinesh Ramdin 7 Dwayne Bravo 8 Sunil Narine 9 Jerome Taylor 10 Ravi Rampaul 11 Shane Shillingford Kemar Roach Devindra Bishoo Craig Bratwaite Nikita Miller Rainsford Beaton Chris Gayle Jason Holder Narsing Deonarine Nicholas Pooran

    Coach- Andy Flower Batting coach- BC Lara FB Bowling Coach- Curtly Ambrose Sp Bowling Coach- Saqulain Mustaq Manager- Courtney Walsh

    this should be the team for the next 5 years. Gayle & co retire soon

  • Dummy4 on April 29, 2014, 14:10 GMT

    Dropping Chanderpaul and Sarwan when they Ave. 40+ in Test was WI madness. Chanderpaul was like opener because openers out before the 10th over

  • Roy on April 28, 2014, 22:01 GMT

    Like my earlier post said WI.biggest problem is top order batting, their lacking self discipline,concentration the ability to focus and always in a rush to get back their seats in the pavilion before it gets cold. If top order batsmen do their job consistently,then the will be room to try every bowler until WI.can come up with the 4 or 5 most successful ones.First class cricket is the only way to develop batting in the WI.

  • Clifford on April 28, 2014, 15:06 GMT

    @ Rally_Windies: you are 100% correct... People don't actually know why WI were so good back in the "glory days" or don't want to admit it. Read anything from the guys who played back then: they learned physical fitness and take no prisoners attitude from Kerry Packer, they learned technique, tactics and professionalism from English County cricket and they brought raw talent, pride, and love of the game from home. Many of those guys played very little Shell Shield (regional competition at the time) cricket - if you were unfortunate enough to get stuck in that your chances of making the WI Test team were small.

  • Clifford on April 28, 2014, 14:45 GMT

    The point about the organization of the cricket is also important. Games aren't on TV and not even on the radio anymore so you can hardly follow and there's no place for money to come in to support the cricket. A WI FC cricketer therefore can hardly be a professional and train at the level of players in other countries or have the level of coaching, training, physical prep etc that you would expect so when they get to the test/ODI level they are significantly deficient.

    Some of the ideas from the CPL I like are the inclusion of international players and mobility of players intra-regionally. There also needs to be revenue sharing otherwise there'll be territories that will be underfunded relative to others.

    Of course the local boards and/or the WICB need to also look to the local competitions that feed the FC teams and work on skills and coaching so that the players coming into the FC competition are better prepared.

  • Clifford on April 28, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    It's high time that people realize that weakness in FC cricket leads to weakness in the Test team. For many years this deficiency was hidden by several factors (1) in the 70s and 80s many top WI players got seasoning in English County cricket or other international first class cricket competitions (2) for whatever reason we were able to develop test quality players that played very little FC cricket (Curtly Ambrose for example). So even in the glory days of WI test teams the FC competition was an almost irrelevant sideshow to the test team. The complaint at the time was that the best WI players were playing their FC cricket in England (mostly) and not in the regional competition so the best players in the regional tournament could not be fairly judged. Now that County (and other first class) cricket is mostly closed to WI players that avenue for development is closed and the WI needs to develop it's FC cricket to a 21st century level.

  • kent on April 28, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    Thanks again Mr. Cozier for your article. I always await your comments with baited breath and respect and admire your continued contribution to West Indies cricket. In my estimation you are WI true guru of cricket and inside of that mind of yours are some of the most sensible and practical solutions for our present game. Your knowledge of the game, of the players and the evolution and history of WI cricket is matched by very few persons today and qualifies you to lead/participate on any committee or group seeking to advance our cricket. It is my earnest hope that your capabilities will be recognized and utilized for the benefit of WI.As a WI cricket fan I anticipate your attempts to right the wrongs and to make smiles from frowns. I wait patiently to see what action will be taken on the Pybus. However, based on the trend from WICB I will not be surprised if the sweeping changes recommended in the report as just swept under the carpet!

  • CRIC on April 28, 2014, 10:00 GMT

    Why oh why do people continue to sing for the return of Ravi Rampaul...?¨

    The man has NEVER taken care of his body. An extra plate of chicken curry rather than an extra session of running has left its mark - just look at his waistline. Patently, one with such an attitude toward conditioning cannot be entrusted with the new ball going into a test match.

    Clive Lloyd nailed it in a recent interview - and Mr.Cozier often adds sense to the craziness that abounds. Pitches...fitness...coaching (utilising past greats)...management...extended first class season...all these need addressing, asap. Bring back the life in the pitches, bring back the life in the cricket.

  • Dummy4 on April 28, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    @ Barry Glen ..

    Nikita Miller played 1 test 6 years ago ..

    Maybe he is WI's best Test Spinner ? how would we know ? unless he gets some games ?

    And yes I would drop Narine ...Becasue why would you play 2 Offspinners ...

    Doenarine averages 25 with the bat and 28 with the ball, and He has TOP ORDER SCALPS .. Doenarine is not a tail-ender bully like SAMMY !

    Doenarine's average with the ball is Tests puts him in GOOD stead to play @ 6, Pick 1 other spinner and get 3 quicks .....

    And the spinner of choice should NOT BE A OFF SPINNER .... There fore , pick Permaul, Bishoo, or Miller ....

    This is the WI's best Bowling line up for TESTS... (and possibly the best bowling attack in the WORLD) .. Doenarine, Miller, Rampaul, Roach, Taylor (Holder/Narine/Bravo in the Squad for when required)

    For Narine to play.. Bravo has to be # 6 .....

    you have to BALANCE the team ....

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