Unsolicitedly 10 years ago, I publicly lent some advice to the incoming president of the then governing body of West Indies cricket — The West Indies Cricket Board (see If Mr Cameron is wise, https://caribbeancricket.com/news/2006/10/32/3835 dated April 16, 2013).
Needless to say, and knowing what I know about the then incoming president, my advice went unheeded. Whycliffe "Dave" Cameron does not do 'small fry'! Not that 10 years down the road, the CWI president-to-be needs my advice. More pointedly, he does not. But as one who campaigned for the position, I have some thoughts. They might not add up to a hill of beans. But for the last 10 years at least, I have been marinating them.
As I begin to write them, it's instructive that I am on the upper level of the Georgetown Cricket Club at the Bourda Cricket Ground in Guyana, watching two Under-15 teams — Berbice and Demerara — do battle in a 50-over match. Instructive to me indeed, because I now have more faith in, and get more satisfaction from, the future of West Indies cricket, than from its present. In fact, in medical parlance, the incoming CWI president might have to be a specialist in both early childhood development and palliative care. Because from where I sit, the best CWI can do with the top-level band of West Indies cricketers, is to make the rest of its days comfortable. And true to my manifesto, I was planning to put more emphasis into 'finder-schools' development. But forget about me.
An incoming CWI president, if he is to make his mark, only has two years to do so. And so what really can he get done in that short space of time? In so saying, the incoming president has to have nourished beforehand, a well-thought-out vision as to where he wants to take West Indies cricket. That will allow him to hit the ground running. And with his vision firmly planted, the incoming president has to do the right things in order to realise the vision. And what might some of these right things be?
Stop the 'scoreboard' watching
There's a tendency these days for the Caribbean to begin doing somersaults when the West Indies win a match or a tournament. The press then leads the charge by spewing superlatives, and Caribbean heads of State stampede radio talk shows to claim ownership. We will then lose the next four matches, and then nowhere will any cheerleaders be found. A cricket president should not be goaded into claiming victory, and be distracted from the job at-hand.
First things first
If a president is to make or leave a meaningful impact, there is really no 'first thing' to be done. Challenges have to be addressed concurrently or laterally, and not linearly or sequentially. This means the incoming president must have an idea beforehand, which pegs he'll place in which holes. He must put a trusting, trustworthy and competent team around him. There is no more time for the Mickey-Mouse, eat-a-food, head-scratching appointments.
When I mentioned to a former West Indies selector-in-chief that I was running for the position, his advice was that I should abandon my tendencies for principle and instead, learn how to horse trade. And as I told him, I was not into the horse-trading business because it was ruining West Indies cricket. And towards his end, he saw it my way. I believed that then, and I believe it today. Regardless, a president must hire competent people whose cricket philosophy is in cadence with his.
A ICC lobby team
Concurrently, the president must ignore the naysayers and put together a high-powered lobby team of Caribbean heavy-hitters to trumpet at the ICC table for a more equitable share of that governing body's financial distributions. In the grand scheme of things, Prime Minister Mia Mottley and President Irfaan Ali are as recognisable and as powerful a voice as any. The new CWI president needs to co-opt them to start trumpeting around the Wall of Jericho.
Listen but be cautious
We hear incumbents saying that we are doing everything they can. We have a great bunch of guys. And it's only a matter of time before we turn the corner. Listen, but be cautious. The food is good, and some want to continue eating it. And all they are doing now from eating all this food, is making manure. Root them out!
Look at costs
We hear a lot about how West Indies cricket needs money, but hardly do we hear anything about high costs, high living and squandering. A new president must leave no stone unturned.
Lead from the front
In the last CWI administration, the president was hardly seen or heard. Instead, surrogates not looking like us, and who might not have had our best interest at heart, were trotted out.
West Indies cricket has a societal responsibility which includes letting aspiring youngsters see their reflections in the faces they see. If you are aspiring to be a CEO or a commercial and marketing director, it helps if you see faces in those positions, which look like yours. It's now 2023, not 1953.
Hard Power and Soft Power
Domestic cricket must be re-energised. And the president must lead the charge. Forget about being called out by territorial cricket directors for trespassing. The president must make the rounds, show his face, and have key people trained to devise tailor-made plans for unearthing and developing talent. Whether it be through domestic competitions like the Henriques, Macham or Rankine Cup (s) as they once had in Jamaica, or through schoolboy or Minor and Junior Cup cricket, technical faults must be ironed out before players reach the West Indies cricket senior level. The Coolidge Cricket Centre in Antigua must be a finishing school, not a remedial school.
Secondly, I feel a little embarrassed that when I run the rule down the list of national cricket feature writers, writing on ESPNcricinfo, not one is West Indian. Since the passing of Tony Cozier, we have devolved into having Tom Stroke and John Brown from God knows where, write our cricket stories. Have we no shame? It is said that failure sneaks up on us when we neglect little things.
Of course, there are umpteen more things that come to mind. But I must always keep in mind that with my manifesto, few might have taken the time to read mine.
Ray Ford is a Jamaican-born cricket writer who is based in Michigan, USA.
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