Necessary transformations — Some imperatives for West Indies cricket

Will those who are tasked with administering it choose a president from among those in its smoke-filled, window-shuttered room? Or, will they raise the blinds and look around? Because by adhering to the former, and for the last 28 years, our cricket, if not on a downward spiral, surely has been on a glide path.

Like with an orchestra, entities take their cue from their conductor. Conductors surely can't play every instrument. But they can signal who should come in and when. And in the end, mellifluous music will be played. A West Indies cricket president can't be expected to know in-depth, every discipline to run the outfit. But he or she should know what to emphasise and what not to, so that in the end, stakeholders will again begin to experience outright joy, knowing that our cricket is heading in the right direction. For the longest while, for West Indies cricket supporters, this has not been the case. And for the longest while, the operatives who elect West Indies presidents have been picking from the same barrel. The time has now come to do things a bit differently. And what sort of president might West Indies cricket need at this particular juncture?

Last October, I was at a cricket match at Kensington Oval. And quite impromptuly, I was cornered by a group of Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) directors and asked what was I about. I began by saying that I was passionate about West Indies cricket, and was immediately stopped in my tracks. "Everybody is passionate about West Indies cricket," said one. "But what can you do for us?" And that was a good assertion followed by a welcomed question.

Nevertheless, passion is an important ingredient for being successful at a job. Because, it's always better to bring love to the table, than to come looking for money. And in so saying, ever since I saw my first cricket Test match, I've made a good attempt to see a Test whenever a home series is on. Besides, who would have gone to see a Benson and Hedges World Series Cup in Australia on a wing and a prayer, 41 years ago? But what else besides passion for West Indies cricket am I bringing to the table?

At least one of our brighter intellectual stars has proclaimed that West Indies cricket as we once knew it, is dead.

"West Indies cricket has become a morbid curiosity for many, like sneaking a peak while passing by a bad car accident," wrote Chris Dehring — former Cricket World Cup 2007 CEO, in his Jamaica Observer op-ed of February 27 last year. I happen to believe differently. Because if sports, as some say, is the nexus of culture and politics, then what would following Dehring's suggestion mean for the Caribbean, seeing that cricket is the only glue holding regional sports together? And so, I believe in both the concept and the importance of West Indies cricket to the Caribbean. A strong belief fuels passion, and passion fuels strong advocacy. But here are a few other things:

In making the rounds through the Caribbean so far, I sense considerable apathy among principals in West Indies cricket. And when I asked questions like 'how come' and 'why not', very often the responses were either that some things were cast in stone and could not be done differently, or that some things were too difficult to take on. And when it comes to taking on challenges, I subscribe to neither school of thought. If I did, then I'd never have taken on staging that star-studded invitational cricket match at the Kirkvine Sports Club in Manchester, Jamaica, back in 1981, or return to graduate school in 2017.

West Indies cricket leadership needs some fearlessness and boldness. And a sense of fearlessness, boldness, and not settling for things as they are which aren't working, are in my DNA. For instance, I've been told that appealing to the International Cricket Council for a fairer share of revenues is a non-starter. But assembling a financial team to do just that, will be, as stated in my manifesto under 'Governance', one of my first orders of business.

Other dragons to be slayed once and for all, include the quality of cricket pitches in the Caribbean. Towards that end, I've already engaged academics who study soil types for a living. We cannot continue to waste time revisiting the same issues year after year. And to better leverage the West Indies cricket brand, I'm also already reaching out to professionals in that area, for input. In addition, we cannot throw up our hands and say, travelling logistics within the Caribbean is the most expensive in the world, and leave it at that. The question will then be asked: What are we doing about it? Also, despite the growing presence of competing sports, we will be making a concerted effort to make cricket a favourite sport among youngsters. Only then will the pipeline nurturing and producing top-class cricketers, again begin to flow.

If the game in the Caribbean is to realise an upward inflection, then another imperative for West Indies cricket will be to find a leader who firmly believes that it will be our prowess at Test cricket which will float all other boats. Granted, white ball cricket — particularly T20, helps to fill our coffers and is the flavour of the day. But as ESPNcricinfo's Editor-in-Chief Sabit Bal wrote at new year, building a nation's cricketing foundation on T20 cricket is akin to building a house on shifting sand. For West Indies cricket, our goalposts seem to have been moved, as one CWI operative who should know better, recently bragged of our headcounts in franchise cricket. And then shortly after, when up against first-class opposition in Tests, we were cruelly exposed. Make no mistake, if elected CWI president, I'll be building our cricket on a firm foundation.

But who is Ray Ford? And why does he think that regarding re-floating West Indies cricket, he and his team have the ability to create necessary partnerships with territorial cricket boards to effect these changes?

Besides having a passion and a vision for West Indies cricket as discussed above, I am equipped with the right set of tools.

In West Indies cricket circles, my name might not be a household one. But one has to know something about cricket to have had his work published in The Cricketer International magazine edited by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, and to have written op-eds and to have covered Test matches for Red Stripe Caribbean Cricket Quarterly edited by Tony Cozier. I began doing the former in February 1986 and the latter in December 1993. And among those Test matches for which my copy was used, was that famous West Indies win over Australia at Sabina Park in March 1999.

Allied to my passion and vision for, and to my knowledge of the West Indies cricket game, is my academic background. This includes an MBA in Marketing with a specialty in international business. Armed with it, I'm conversant with all aspects of business, and am secure enough in my skin, to engage transparently in discourse with any and everybody who has ideas on resuscitating West Indies cricket. And it's not that I haven't lent support to presidential candidacies before mine or lent advice to newly elected cricket board presidents, but enough is enough. My time has now come!

If not now, then when? And if not me, then who?

Ray Ford is a West Indies cricket stakeholder running for president of Cricket West Indies.

Ray Ford

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