Richardson welcomes scope of Gibson's role
The former West Indies captain, Richie Richardson, has welcomed the appointment of Ottis Gibson as the new head coach of the WICB, and believes that the over-arching nature of his new role is precisely what cricket in the Caribbean has been crying out for.
In a departure from previous appointments, Gibson has been given responsibility not only for the top-level West Indies sides, but all representative teams across the Caribbean. Announcing the appointment on CBC Radio on Monday, the chief executive of WICB, Ernest Hilaire, explained that Gibson would be given "an opportunity to stamp a particular style of coaching a West Indies way".
That announcement is music to Richardson's ears. "I've always said that whoever comes in has to be responsible for cricket throughout the Caribbean, and not just the top Test players," he told Cricinfo. "The coach has to be at the top of a pyramid that goes right through West Indies cricket, from the grass-roots right through to the top. That's how we are going to make a difference."
Richardson, who was Gibson's captain during his Test debut at Lord's in 1995, believes that the new man has the presence and personality to thrive in the role, as well as the fundamental coaching skills that have been honed during his lengthy stint in English cricket, firstly at Durham and since 2007 as England's bowling coach.
"I have no doubt that he will do well," said Richardson. "Ottis is a person who gets on with other people and players, and when he was playing for West Indies, he was a good team man. He's a very passionate cricketer and a very good coach, and I just hope he gets the support he needs, from the WICB, and the people throughout the Caribbean.
"It doesn't matter how good you are as a coach if you are just given the best players," he added. "If those best players came from nowhere, you are going to struggle. [The coach] has to be able to do something at the grass-roots level, so that he knows the young players as they come through the system and, when they reach the highest level, he already knows how to work with them, and they know exactly what is expected of them.
"He just has to be given the time and the opportunity to prove himself, because I know he's going to give everything. He loves West Indies cricket and he wants to see them do well.
Gibson, who expects to be in situ in time for the home series against Zimbabwe next month, is West Indies' first full-time appointment since the former coach, John Dyson, was sacked in August following the team's strike-affected defeat against Bangladesh. However, the team is currently on a relative high, having silenced many of their critics with a spirited performance in a 2-0 Test defeat in Australia before Christmas.
Central to West Indies' current fortunes is their captain, Chris Gayle, who put his role in the player dispute to one side as he carried his bat for a magnificent 165 at Adelaide before following up with a blistering 72-ball 102 at Perth. His relationship with Dyson was never entirely smooth, but Richardson is confident that Gibson's easygoing style of man-management will appeal to his laid-back nature.
"It's very important for the captain and coach to have a good relationship and understanding, but I've no problem that they'll see eye-to-eye," said Richardson. "Chris Gayle is a very cool guy, Gibson is a people's person, so I don't envisage any problems. They may have differences, but they will realise the importance of working as a partnership for the betterment of the team, and of West Indies cricket."
It so happens that Gibson is the first West Indian head coach since Roger Harper was in charge of the side at the start of the millennium, and follows on from a trio of Australians in Bennett King, David Moore and Dyson. Richardson, however, does not believe his nationality is as significant as his job specification.
"I've said before, it doesn't matter who coaches the team, as long as that person is going to contribute to the development of West Indies cricket," he said. "When you bring in high-level coaches and pay the big money, but then they only coach the Test team, then that is misguided. It's good that he's a West Indian, but most importantly, that he is responsible for cricket throughout the region.
"I've never had any doubts about the talent that we produce, my concern was always about the structures and systems that we had in place. We've never had the right or proper structures for [nurturing] the grassroots in the Caribbean. That's what we got to look at, how to get the young players coming through."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo