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Waiting for Wehby action, WI wonders about Pollard’s promotion and the Peter Principle

It’s enough to wipe the smile off your face. Or make you disrespect anyone else who is within earshot.

On the radio on Friday morning, the announcer broke the news this way: “As expected, Bangladesh defeated the West Indies by seven wickets in the second ODI earlier today.”

Photo: Bangladesh players celebrate the fall of a West Indies wicket during the second ODI meeting between the two teams.

That she should so matter-of-factly say ‘as expected’ is bad enough. What is worse is that she was neither making it up nor offering an opinion. The hosts occupy seventh spot in the ICC ODI rankings, two places above Kieron Pollard’s white-ball side. Defeat by Bangladesh is indeed what we were expecting.

And not just in the ODIs.

Mominul Haque’s Test side is ranked one place below the West Indies. For the moment anyway. But will you be surprised when next month you hear that ‘As expected, Bangladesh defeated the West Indies by seven wickets in the Second Test earlier today’?

Not I.

Sir Andy Roberts, who has 47 Tests and 202 wickets to his credit, has some coaching experience but is not known as a captain. Still, sounding more and more as if he’s had it up to here with WI cricket, he recently called the current Test skipper ‘lost’. And not long before that, sounding more and more like a man out of touch with WI cricket, Sir Clive Lloyd asked who we go put.

Photo: Iconic former West Indies pacer Joel Garner (left) has a word with current captain Jason Holder during the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
(Copyright AFP)

We are told that Sir Frank Worrell, the WI best ever captain, had as one of his guiding principles as captain ‘leave well alone.’ Perhaps the West Indies’ most successful captain genuinely believes he is echoing Sir Frank. He is not.

In 2021, all is clearly not well with WI Test cricket. So the real question should not be who we go put but what have we got to lose by replacing Jason Holder with whoever.

Cricket people are calling for Pollard. Perhaps that call is fuelled—at least in part—by David Gower’s September assertion that Pollard ‘knows that he cannot play Test cricket’.

Many want the WI white-ball captain to prove the elegant former England captain wrong. They are clamouring for the hard-hitting all-rounder to be given his chance to showcase his red ball wares at the highest level. Merely as Test player.

But once you give them that inch, can you reasonably deny them the extra mile?

Photo: West Indies batsman Kieron Pollard celebrates his century during game four of the Commonwealth Bank ODI Series against Australia at Sydney, Australia on 8 February 2013. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

I suggested earlier that the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board’s answers that question in the negative. It is almost certainly at least a part of the reason why they offered the Trinbago Knight Riders skipper the captaincy of the Red Force.

Truth be told, it would prove nothing. Given the array of talent in the Red Force line-up, even Kraigg Brathwaite can lead them to victory. He’s not won once in five attempts at the helm of the WI Test team. Even the optimists don’t expect him to be sixth time lucky in Bangladesh next month.

And as long as he remains the go-to option, Holder has nothing to worry about.

When Kerry Packer decimated the Australian ranks in 1977, the selectors called the 41-year-old Bobby Simpson out of retirement. Did Roger Harper and company even think of recalling Darren Sammy? Or even Chris Gayle?

Or were they not interested in a glance at what a leader might do with this ragtag bunch of second-raters?

Photo: West Indies batsman Kraigg Brathwaite.
(via Business Standard)

This is probably a good point at which to repeat my caveat: NOT naming a new captain will almost guarantee durable if not permanent residence in the lower reaches of the ICC Test rankings. But naming a new captain in and of itself will NOT guarantee improved results.

The most cursory reading of the Don Wehby Task Force’s July 2020 report makes clear that the paradigm has shifted. Given the disparity in available resources, WI will be playing catch-up for many years, perhaps even forevermore

“The standards of governance of CWI fall far short of best governance practices,” Wehby writes, “and do not provide the accountability and transparency which are expected of a corporate body exercising an important and influential role in the sport which brings the Caribbean people together and which in essence belongs to the people of the Caribbean.”

“The roles of the president and vice president,” he notes further, “reflect the ancient concept of a private cricket club.”

Clearly, the business model has to change. And just as clearly, pressure to make the necessary adjustments will come not just from those who produced the latest report.

Photo: Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Ricky Skerritt (left) and vice-president Dr Kishore Shallow.

Post-New Zealand, we heard Pollard calmly describing—not suggesting—the way in which the arrangements for future tours have to be adjusted. Did you also get the impression that the CWI are henceforth not going to have the option of leaving Pollard’s players’ wives at home when WI go on tour?

In the bad old days, the WICB(C) boss was mercator and each player was emptor. Thanks to Brian Lara—and Pollard and Dwayne Bravo—that’s firmly behind us now. We are emphatically in the Age of the Mercenary; CWI has had no choice but to get with the programme.

Fortunately, Dave Cameron, insecure, self-centred, anachronistic, is irretrievably consigned to the dumpster and Ricky Skerritt and Dr Kishore Shallow are now minding the store. They are strong enough and secure enough to widely share the Wehby report.

But the real test of strength and security is whether you are prepared to decentralise power, as recommended by Wehby. And others before him.

Will promoting the self-confident Pollard who knows what power is prove to be a bridge too far for them?

Photo: TKR’s Kieron Pollard celebrates the dismissal of GAW’s Ross Taylor during CPL action at the Queen’s Park Oval on 27 August 2020
(Copyright Randy Brooks/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

Or will the challenges of the Test arena prove to be beyond the promoted Pollard’s much-ballyhooed cricketing nous? How applicable to the sporting context is Laurence J Peter’s 1968 principle that people get promoted to their level of incompetence?

And, of course, as Rodd Wagner astutely suggests in the Forbes article New Evidence the Peter Principle is Real, Pollard may well decline the promotion.

One of the greatest pieces of self-awareness,” Wagner writes, “is the knowledge that management, whatever its perks, might not be worth the burdens it will impose on you.”

Pollard has said ‘no thanks’ before, declining the retainer contract that the Board offered him in 2010. It would, he reckoned, severely limit his options.

He might well decline the promotion and so put a broad smile on the face of the current besieged title-holder.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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  1. Unless the players themselves improve their game, the WI team would remain at the bottom of the ICC rankings.
    No amount of coaches or captains can change our course/fortunes.
    It’s up to the individuals to work on their personal game and even the 2nd string team should have done better. Remember the results of our 1978 2nd string team?