“Running a board with only management skills,” declared former West Indies team manager Rudi Webster in yesterday’s Express, “is like trying to cut a piece of paper with half a pair of scissors.”
“We must remember that in general,” he also noted, “when we are dealing with human beings, we are not dealing with creatures of logic; we are dealing with creatures of habit, emotions and self-interest, creatures who crave status, recognition and power.”
Put it down to prejudice but my feeling is that, having originally written “when dealing with these human beings,” the displeased psychologist disguised his anger by removing the tell-tale demonstrative adjective.
And what are we to make of the fact that, despite referring repeatedly to “the WICB” and “the Board,” Webster is careful to avoid naming names, never once identifying in over 800 words President Dave Cameron or any of his subordinates?
His final paragraph, I imagine, is laid squarely at the feet of the President and his CEO, Michael Muirhead.
“A commitment to the status quo is no longer a viable option,” it reads. “It is a prescription for further failure or worse.”
Still, one is left to guess at what so annoyed Webster and prompted him to put acerbic pen to paper. My guess is that it is the fact that, after the World Cup victories of 1975 and 1979 and the second-place finish in 1983, these days the regional team cannot even make the cut for what is effectively the world 50-over championship.
It’s now well known that there will be no Champions Trophy participation for Denesh Ramdin’s side in 2017. And that chronic mishandling of the region’s cricketing affairs means that the next time we shall see our regional team in action will no longer be within the next month in Zimbabwe but Down Under in December.
It is true that the cut-off point for qualification for the 2017 tournament is not yet here. But we already know that, when the time for the tourney eventually rolls around, the West Indians will, like me and you, have to watch the action on television.
Once lowly Bangladesh, normally above West Indies only in alphabetical lists where cricket is concerned, will be in the final eight as will be the unpredictable Pakistanis. Along with prospective participants Zimbabwe, Kenya, and the Netherlands, the West Indians, surprise champions in 2004 under the leadership of Brian Lara, will be sitting out this one.
Does anyone need to be reminded that we were once untouchable as short-format champions of the world?
Which West Indian can have forgotten how Clive Lloyd’s world-beating Caribbean cavaliers triumphed over the rest of the world in the first two cricket World Cups and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in 1983?
How have the mighty fallen! Nowadays making even the qualifying round is beyond us.
But to be fair, it has to be said that, on their way out of 2017, the erstwhile champions got a little last-minute help from the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Realising that they might need a little help from their friends to make it into the top eight, the West Indies Cricket Board had belatedly arranged to be part of a limited-overs series between Pakistan and hosts Zimbabwe scheduled to be played in the month from next week to mid-September. In May, remember, Zimbabwe Cricket had helped Pakistan host their first international series in the country in seven years by agreeing to tour that country.
Earlier this month, however, without offering any reason for their decision, the PCB asked Zimbabwe to hold their horses, to put the August-September limited-overs series on ice.
“Both boards will now look,” a PCB official told an ESPNcricinfo reporter, “for another window other than August-September this year.”
He did not explain but for those in the know the message in the precise time reference was crystal clear.
For those not quite clear on what has been happening, here’s the context: The first eight teams in the ICC rankings as at September 30 this year will be automatic qualifiers for the 2017 Champions Trophy tournament.
As things stand, Bangladesh, by virtue of their surprise 3-0 ODI defeat of Pakistan, their 2-1 triumph over India and their shock win over South Africa by the same margin last month, are now on a secure 96 points and in an unassailable seventh place in the rankings.
Pakistan’s 3-2 ODI victory over Sri Lanka last month has enabled them to snatch eighth place on 92 points, leaving the West Indies, on 88, occupying ninth spot. Were the Caribbean side to win the proposed tri-series in Zimbabwe with Pakistan bringing up the rear, the Caribbean side might have earned the points they need to leapfrog the Pakistanis and claim eighth place.
Were the boot on the other foot, it would have surprised few of those who have been following WI cricket over the last decade or so if Cameron and company had decided to play on. A large enough sum of money, one feels, would have sufficed to get the cash-strapped WICB to thus jeopardise the team’s qualification for the 2017 tournament.
But the boots are on Pakistani feet and so it won’t happen. Discretion being the better part of valour, the PCB has understandably opted to look for another window for the series to be played.
As things stand, CEO Muirhead is now busy, the Express reported recently, trying to find an opponent—presumably one they can beat, thus severely limiting the options—willing to accommodate them for a series before the end of next month. Given the current realities of world cricket, good luck to them with that!
Some say India, in whose good books the WICB were supposed to be after Cameron defied public sentiment and voted for the triad of India, England and Australia to run world cricket, were approached to play an ODI Series.
With a still unpaid bill of almost US$42 million outstanding after the unceremonious walkout by Dwayne Bravo’s troops last year, is it really any surprise that all Muirhead got was a boof?
Had the Board treated its players better, the CEO might not have had to make the approach himself; he might have been able to ask Bravo, Keiron Pollard and Sunil Narine whose stocks are high in the sub-continent to make the overtures on his behalf. But that bridge, we can rest assured, has been well and truly burnt.
And if the rumours are to be believed, even Skipper Ramdin may not be asking the Almighty to put a hand. The word around town is that the now scuttled provisional squad for Zimbabwe did not include the underperforming Test captain.
As if preparing us for any nasty surprises, Muirhead told the Express reporter that: “The players have been playing a lot of cricket and are looking to get a rest.”
In the same day’s paper, Express sports writer Mark Pouchet is reported as asking “disappointed” former West Indies wicketkeeper Michael Findlay whether he thought West Indies would one day get back to “the near dominance of their glory years.”
“I am going to be 72 (in mid-October),” came the reply, “and I don’t think I will live to see us getting back close to that until and unless we start seriously addressing these issues.”
Findlay is obviously an optimist. There is no evidence to suggest that the, in Webster’s words, “over-managed and under-led” WICB under the stewardship of Cameron and Muirhead know what the real issues are—or care to!
Ask former president Ken Gordon or former Commonwealth secretary-general Shridath “Sonny” Ramphal or former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson.
So Pouchet is just over half the ex-selector’s age and he won’t see the West Indies back near the top of the cricket world.
Not without magic or a miracle.