Given all the expectations, supporters are at a loss to comprehend the West Indies Cricket Board’s (WICB) decision to appoint John Dyson as new coach of the team.
With all the names being bandied about, the Australian was hardly on the radar in the lead-up to naming Bennett King’s replacement which is why the appointment hit fans like a bolt of lightening from the clear blue sky.
No one doubts the WICB’s good intentions, especially after the Bennett King disaster, but you have to wonder about Dyson’s track record.
Dyson had mixed fortunes during one stint with the Sri Lanka team during a two-year run.
That in itself is a slightly better development than that of King, who had never coached a national team prior to his appointment.
While Dyson has some amount of playing experience with 30 Tests and 29 One-Day Internationals under his belt King had never played the game at any serious level.
The question though is whether Dyson’s far from exemplary credentials are good enough to restore a seriously struggling West Indies team back on the road to prosperity.
In the circumstances, Dyson, along with Phil Simmons, were the two most proven names on the shortlist that the WICB’s system of selecting its coaches had unearthed.
The Patterson Report has called for an almost total overhaul of the operations of the WICB because of flawed systems for making cricket decisions.
The WICB’s track record in decision making is well documented, but despite all the trauma this body has wrought on West Indies cricket, no light is being discerned at the tunnel’s end.
The irony is that the WICB has a Cricket Development Committee, which comprises entirely of ex-professional cricketers, who have proven themselves at the Test and ODI levels.
But inexplicably, those players are not allowed to make decisions and are only thought good enough to make recommendations.
Decisions can only be made at meetings when this 18-man Board gets together at its meetings during the course of the year.
And this very laborious procedure caused the Board to lose out on the services of a highly thought of coach to another country.
Ottis Gibson made known his interest of coaching West Indies a long time ago but by the time the Board got around to make its decision, England had already beaten them to the punch by snapping up the West Indian’s services for its senior team.
Already Gibson has made a big difference with the England bowlers who became an improved lot immediately upon Gibson’s involvement on the Sri Lanka tour which resulted in them winning a ODI series they were expected to lose.
West Indies cricket operations happens to be one of the least professional in all of World Cricket and it is for that said reason they find themselves behind the eight ball most of the time these days.
The appointment process is made even worse by the WICB’s requirement of re-stricting its options only to applicants.
It means that the team will only have a coach who applies, which is too much of a laid back approach for such a vital necessity.
In the fiercely competitive world of sports administration, the WICB’s approach is certainly not a recipe for success.The Board needs to be more proactive. It should be pursuing key personnel rather than the other way around.
Waiting for those appoin-tees to fall into its lap is counter productive.
Now, and in the past, better choices could have been had if the WICB was more aggressive in that regard.
The national soccer governing bodies and clubs around the world do not sit back and wait for coaching applications, they go after the best. So do the American baseball and basketball professional clubs.
But the pervading West Indies Board way of having every territory have a say in each and every decision, has contributed to the underdevelopment of the sport.
Yet it does not have to look very far for better examples of cricket management.
Right in its Antigua-base. Allen Stanford did not hire a group of cricket politicians to form his Board of Directors. He went for proven individuals, all ex-players who made up ‘The Legends’ Board and the fact that the Stanford Twenty/20 series became a raging success is now history.
Why the WICB does not have a smaller body of a few chosen members of the De-velopment Committee and if necessary, one Board member, solely handle cricket matters is mind boggling after all these years of failures.
All the red tape involved is out of place in the modern era. And especially in the West Indies context, where there are available professionals who have “been there and done that”, at the highest level of the sport.
Dyson could turn out to be a success with the West Indies team but his record does not fill one with overwhelming confidence.
If that was the case he might well have still been in charge of Sri Lanka.
But it does not mean that foreign coaches are bad for West Indies cricket, as are some observers’ misguided beliefs.
Understanding different cultures might be a factor but it is not the biggest requirement for coaches to make teams better. The West Indian players of the 1970s and 80s who went on to form some of the most successful international teams in cricket history were coached by Englishmen in the county teams, that provided the exposure they all attributed to them becoming the brilliant professionals they proved.
The WICB should also understand that it needs to acquire specialists for the different departments of the team to complement the coaching line-up, which so far is still open as much as the public knows.
It would be a travesty for them to continue with the vague assistant coach position employed since the King era.
The team is crying out for specialists in all three areas of bowling, batting and fielding, most importantly in the former category.
Most teams around the world are employing specialist coaches because they bring improvement, especially for England, with Gibson being the latest example.
The West Indies have unearthed some of the world’s most talented fast bowlers who produced magic at times but were inconsistent more often than not.
Former West Indies wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon has reportedly said no coach could improve the current West Indies team.
But he would be surprised to see a difference if the coach has greater influence in team selection.
A coach could be a great motivator for players in different ways and selection is a key component.
He knows the players best because he is closest to and able to discern whether they are committed or not, talented or not, or lazy or not.
Thus the head coach should be the person to hire and fire team members or make recommendations to a selection. In such an arrangement you bet players would find the motivation to be fit at all times and live the life of professionals, if they know their selection hinges on such requirements.
The WICB has a lot to amend to the public for and it could start by adjusting its cricket decision making policies.
Now that leading ex-players Clive Lloyd, Deryck Murray and Joel Garner are in on the WICB, you would expect some measure of improvement.
Supporters could do without having to make an SOS for Michael Holding to rock the boat.