The Australian children who believe in Santa Claus have had a disappointing 2015 Cricketmas.
Some have even been brought to tears.
For although they were good little boys and girls, Saint Nicholas didn’t deliver an Xbox as hoped for. Instead, he left behind a 2nd hand Chinese copy of a Sega Megadrive.
We wanted West Indies circa 1980’s. What we got was something that still works, but everyone knows is not the same.
There are a plethora of theories on how to ensure that at some Cricketmas in the not too distant future, Santa’s West Indian elves deliver the right type of players.
But it appears that the players probably are not the issue.
The West Indies have talented cricketers. They are currently not a top 4 Test nation, but for context, neither was India a year ago.
Shreeks that the West Indies are a dead team walking are nonsensical, but they do reflect the mood of the populous. Cricket is part of the West Indian culture. You can’t kill culture that easily.
The question over how to fix this malaise is the only one that matters.
The symptoms give us clues to the real problem.
There was that horrible players strike while in India last year. There was the WICB refusal to let Narine miss 1 day off a training camp to play in the IPL final. There was the banning of coach Simmons for speaking out against selection policies. There was the refusal to present players to any press conference attended by the only West Indian commentator on tour in Australia because he spoke an opinion. There is Marlon Samuels’ attitude. There are the swathe of Windies playing in the Big Bash but not available for the Test side.
Unscrambling the West Indian egg is a near impossible task. However, all roads lead to a faulty administration. For without the structure being sound, the house will surely collapse.
The countries that are performing best in wider interests of their cricket are Australia and New Zealand. By this, I mean judging not only on results, but the environment created by the boards.
There is no infighting. There are no Counties defending their patch. There are no Supreme Court cases regarding board elections.
Because these guys made the crucial decision to have independent directors run their cricket. They dropped the member driven administration model for something akin to how a Fortune 500 company may run.
When that happens, the focus at all levels is on the betterment of the game, and not a specific style, country or player.
An independently run WICB will not fix their problems overnight. But it will refocus efforts on what isn’t working.
The relationship with the players union has lost trust. The Test team is not seen by most as a career path. The 15 nations that form the West Indies are all fighting each others self interest. The 1st class system is broken.
When the Windies owned cricket in the 80’s, a few key factors need to be remembered.
Firstly, they had players owning the County game with the blessing of the WICB. This overseas exposure made them better players and brought an English touch of discipline to the flair.
Secondly, they had leaders. Lloyd, Sir Viv, Richardson. Pride in the team. Pride in results.
The issue of money is one not easily solved now that the seductress of T20 leagues exists. However, that 80’s era proved that a balance can be reached between the Test format and allowing cricketers income from other playing avenues, whether that be other 1st class competitions or, at the time, World Series Cricket.
An independent board has a driver to make this happen.
Perhaps the way forward is a small step rather than a complete revolt?
What if the WICB allowed one or two independents on the board to start out? Perhaps they could be non West Indian? Perhaps even non cricket people?
In any case, something has to change. Blaming the players is not the answer, for they are only reacting to the stimulus put before them.
The move to a fully independent board is the best way forward. Someone, somehow, needs to show the West Indies how. That person is unlikely to come from the ICC given that independent boards is a direct challenge to the Big 3 governance model.
The best sporting leagues in the world have independent boards. Those that don’t are those that are failing.
Compare MLB with FIFA.
Compare the EPL with the IOC.
Compare the NBA with the ICC.
Every change the West Indies make will be meaningless and superficial until they let go of the powerbroking and embrace socialism. For that is the only model that works in sport.