Major changes ahead for West Indies, says CEO
Ernest Hilaire, chief executive of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), believes that major changes will have to be made to the management structure of Caribbean cricket in order to deal with the challenges posed by the modern-day game, not least the growing tendency for the region's top players to turn down central contracts in favour of lucrative deals in Twenty20 tournaments such as the Indian Premier League.
Consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tomhatsu has been commissioned by the board to compile a study of cricket's changing landscape, and Hilaire believes that their findings will have to be taken seriously by the region's administrators. "Once that exercise is complete, you will see some fundamental changes to how West Indies cricket is managed," Hilaire told ESPNcricinfo. "Anyone who thinks we don't have to change are just fooling themselves."
Hilaire said the board had asked the three players who have turned down their central contracts for next season - Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and captain Chris Gayle - how to ensure such a situation does not arise again in the future.
"Two of them have said they are willing to share with us how this matter can be dealt with," Hilaire said. All three of them will be considered for selection for West Indies and the board will assume that they are available to tour at that time.
Bravo and Pollard, followed by Gayle, turned down the one-year central contracts offered by the WICB last month. The contracts require the players to make themselves available for the West Indies team at all times, something the three players - all of whom have forged prominent careers in domestic Twenty20 competitions including the IPL - were reluctant to do.
"I don't know that we should necessarily condemn them or chastise them [for doing so]," Hilaire said. "I don't think it is the right decision and I will tell them that."
Under the current rules of international cricket, those who want to play in overseas competitions, such as the Big Bash in Australia or the lucrative IPL, must get clearance to do so from their national board. Hilaire said the WICB has not received any requests from any players so far but the board is re-evaluating its liberal policy of issuing NOCs.
"We need to be a little more circumspect. It is not ideal to allow somebody to turn up just before a Test match. It doesn't make sense, but we did it. On the eve of a major series, we can't have key players exposed to exhaustion or injury.
"We want to know that when we are selecting players, there are some assurances that they will participate in preparatory activities and be at the standard that we need."
Gayle arrived in England two days before the first Test at Lord's in May 2009, two days after his scheduled arrival. He was granted two further days so that he could squeeze in one more IPL match with the Kolkata Knight Riders .
"We are not against players trying to maximise their earnings," Hilaire said. "You should go out and earn money. You are a professional sportsperson. But there are other interests and we have to figure out how best to protect all the interests involved." He admitted that it is unlikely everyone will be completely happy but believes it is possible to come up with a framework that can satisfy all the stakeholders in West Indies cricket.
Hilaire said the board has not had any discussion on whether Gayle should be replaced as captain. The West Indies selection committee will be meeting in Jamaica in a few days and will select a captain and vice-captain for the tour of Sri Lanka.
"The selection committee is empowered to pick a captain and should do so. We [the WICB board of directors] can only hold a discussion after we receive a recommendation."
Hilaire reiterated that the board is committed to the rejuvenation of West Indies cricket and is encouraged that 22 of the 25 players offered central contracts have signed them. "We have a new generation that are eager to play for West Indies on the international stage. They understand the importance of playing for the West Indies and it is an opening for us to build on that."
He said the board was focused on specific activities and programs geared at getting players ready for international cricket, as well working on broadening the base by facilitating more youngsters to take up the game. "There is competition from other sports more now than ever before. Post 15 [years of age] we should not lose players to basketball, football, tennis and swimming. If you don't have programs, they will go into other sports that do offer programs."
The WICB also wants to improve its relationship with West Indies Players' Association (WIPA), as the two organisations have to work together, but Hilaire said the relationship is "still a work in progress," and that there will always be moments where the board and WIPA do not agree. However, the important thing, according to him, is that everyone agrees "that some direct and aggressive intervention is needed" to turn West Indies cricket around.
Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo