New WICB plans but questionable approach

Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
January 30, 2000

Finally the West Indies Cricket Board seems to be jolted into reality in appreciating the importance of a full support staff for its senior cricket team.

Following the latest of the team's disasters in New Zealand, we have been blessed with the pleasantly surprising news of the WICB's intention to equip the side with two coaches possibly, a psychologist and a physiotherapist to work on a year round basis with the team.

In making those revelations on the CANA Cricket Line programme last week, WICB president reportedly did not specify whether those plans will be implemented for the upcoming visit of the Zimbabwe and Pakistan teams or will be held back for the tour of England later this year.

It was made clear though, that the vetting process for the new contracted West Indies coach should be nearing completion and soon the next full time appointee for the important position will be known.

However, whether the board adopted the best approach in acquiring its next coach is another matter. By advertising with specified qualification requirements for that position and also for the manager, one gets the impression the WICB was conducting the business affairs of a company rather than a sports team in a more competitive environment.

Advertising for the opposition will certainly attract persons who want the position but no necessarily the best. This WICB move is unprecedented in world cricket and there are good reasons why it has never been heard of being done by other teams.

Sports administrators are known to go after their personnel rather than wait for them to come. And one doubts whether the West Indies Cricket Board is any different to all of the other organisations running the affairs of professional sports teams.

At this time of crisis in West Indies cricket in terms of the on field performances, the team needs the very best players and just as importantly, the best technical personnel.

The WICB should at this stage of the game know specifically the type of coach needed to help restore West Indies fortunes and aggressively pursue that person to win him over.

Surely there must be some reluctant but fine prospective coaches who for one reason or the other would not want to apply. Michael Holding for instance, intellectually, one of the best cricketers ever to represent West Indies, would not want to apply because of his contractual obligations to the English Sky television channel as one of its analysts. But all contracts have clauses and there exists a number of recent instances in the sports world where national teams have acquired coaches while committed to other establishments at the said time.

The manner of the Los Angeles Lakers' acquisition of coach Phil Jackson immediately after he vowed not to return to NBA basketball competition, after resigning from the Chicago Bulls is a classic example of the type of approach professional sports organisations have adopted in the past and will continue to do in the future.

Justifiably the Lakers have been rewarded with the best team record in this season's competition with Jackson, and have a real chance of winning the title despite having some of the best players in the league but failing for many years.

The West Indies Cricket Board needs to adopt a similar approach to help to take its team back to the top of the international ladder.

One can argue that NBA teams have considerably huge financial resources that will enable them to woo coaches and players with extravagant salaries, which the WICB cannot even dream of affording. But in like manner it would be safe to assume that our coaches have not yet acquired that super salary mentality and would be more inclined to help West Indies regain its status as the best team in the world.

Their expertise in strategic ability is becoming very vital as the gap between the best teams and the minnows in world cricket closes rapidly. As is the case in most professional sports these days, physical ability alone cannot justify success and mental strength is the difference between winning and losing. Cricket is not far away.

As was evident in New Zealand the underprepared West Indians were no match for the tactically superior home team, who not long ago was considered minnows by world standards.

We must work hard towards preventing a similar occurrence in the future.