Roberts calls for complete WICB overhaul
Andy Roberts, the former West Indies fast bowler, has said that the West Indies cricket board needs a complete overhaul if the region's cricket is to improve. He called on the board president Julian Hunte and the chief executive Ernerst Hilaire to resign and was also critical of the way the West Indies players' association approaches its role. Roberts said today's players spend too much time in the gym and not enough time in the nets.
Having coached West Indies in the 1996 World Cup and been on the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) cricket committee as recently as 2008, Roberts understands how the existing system functions, and lashed out at the board, saying they were damaging cricket in the Caribbean. "The board does what it pleases them," Roberts told ESPNcricinfo. "They don't have a clue how to move West Indies cricket forward. They don't have a clue. Some of the board members should resign otherwise the same problems will keep appearing in the future also."
When asked specifically if he thinks Hunte and Hilaire should resign, Roberts said, "Both should resign. Some of the top people in the board should resign. We need a different approach."
The West Indies board recently decided to take cricket in the region in a new direction with an emphasis on playing younger players as the last 15 years have not produced significant improvements. Roberts, however, warned that this "new direction" could lead West Indies cricket into another cul-de-sac. "Fifteen years is a long time and we haven't seen much progress but if we don't change the current approach, another 15 years will go down the drain."
He feels that the board is erring by just focusing on a few players rather than thinking of developing cricket at the grassroots levels across the entire region. "You can't just concentrate on few players playing in the Test team. I have been saying this from 1995. The problem is that the board seems to view few players as the problem in West Indies cricket. That is wrong. The entire cricket in our region is in a mess. It's not about [Ramnaresh] Sarwan, [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul, [Chris] Gayle or [Dinanath] Ramnarine. Don't focus on two or three players.
"Focus on the lack of development of cricket and lack of advancement in players across the region. For 15 years, they have been just trying to focus on few players in Tests and haven't done much for the development of the game. Develop the regional sides, improve the system."
He believes that the real truth behind the on-going controversy between the board and some of the senior players might never be known. Gayle and Chanderpaul weren't selected for the Pakistan series, with Chanderpaul claiming the selectors asked him to retire, while Sarwan was only drafted in for the fourth ODI. "We have three sides on this issue - your side, my side and the truth. I don't think we will ever know the truth. Both parties have been presenting different versions."
However, Roberts thinks Chanderpaul should retire from the one-day cricket and focus solely on Test cricket. "It's not totally clear whether the selectors asked him to retire from all forms of cricket. Personally, I think Chanderpaul should retire from one-day cricket and focus on Tests. West Indies needs him in Tests."
At the same time, he thinks the board has not handled the situation properly. "I am not clear on the Gayle issue. Both parties' version differs so much. I wouldn't like to comment without knowing the truth but all I can say is that it's not being handled properly."
Roberts also had some advice for the WIPA, which he thinks is too focused on the monetary rewards from cricket rather than the quality of the players. "The president [Ramnarine] needs to get the players to improve their cricket. If they are good enough, they will get the money. If they aren't good, there will be confrontation and trouble as you are asking for something you don't deserve. The players should focus on setting their game right. Else we shall just keep having these problems."
The players did not escape criticism either, mostly for their attitude to personal development. "My advice to the players is to look at their cricket and take personal development seriously," Roberts said. "Work on the attitude, skill, fitness, technique and work on them yourselves. Don't wait for the board to do it. Don't indulge in blame game. If the players can improve their skills to the highest level, and improve the attitude, West Indies cricket will improve. They have to change their attitude. That can only come from within."
The emphasis on fitness at the expense of actual cricketing skills has led Roberts to believe the thinking in West Indies cricket has sunk to a new low. "The new thinking is not the old way. I know cricket has changed, thinking has changed but the basics are the same. The technique remains the same. You can't hold the ball across the seam and hope to bowl outswingers, for example."
He was critical of the approach of some players and the atmosphere fostered by the board that makes the players act in that manner. "Attitude and work ethic has changed. Lots of players don't practice cricket much. Some spend more time in the gym than in the nets.
"I heard Gayle being quoted as saying that the board says, 'If you are not fit, you can't play for West Indies'. That's not the wholesome approach. If you aren't technically and mentally good, and physical fit, then you can't play at the highest level. Less time in the gym and more time in nets is what is needed."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo