BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Ernest Hilaire has given a sober assessment of the future of West Indies cricket, and warns fans to expect things to get worse before they get better.
The chief executive officer of the West Indies Cricket Board has suggested that a state of emergency of sorts for the regional game should be imposed.
Hilaire was speaking at a panel discussion on the topic, “Nationalism and the future of West Indies cricket”, at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies in Barbados on Tuesday. He gave some indication of the pressure he’s under from Windies fans.
“Over the last six months, I have had the opportunity to speak to senior West Indies players, and to reflect on the operations of the WICB,” he said.
“I have listened to many past players, taxi drivers, immigration officers, and hotel barmen to name a few. All will give you advice on what to do with West Indies cricket.
He said: “People ask me, ‘What will you do about this team? They are an embarrassment’! I tell them you have about three more years of embarrassment still to witness.
“Until the High Performance Centre, as a structure of support that has been created now to prepare the next generation, we will suffer a lot of embarrassments and a lot of awfulness, because our present cricketers are not prepared.”
Hilaire said the players seem devoid of the pride that drove previous successful West Indies teams.
“I listen to our players speak, and they speak of money, that’s all that matters to them – instant gratification,” he said.
“There’s no sense of investing in the future coming from them. We are producing young people in the region that we expect, when they play cricket for the West Indies, to be paragons of virtue. That just won’t happen.”
He said: “Sometimes when you speak to the players, you feel a sense of emptiness. The whole notion of being a West Indian, and for what they are playing has no meaning at all.
“They have not been brought up with a clear understanding of what it means, and its importance. But do we blame them?”
Hilaire conceded this was a sad reflection on wider societal ills in the Caribbean.
“This is what we have produced as a region,” he said. “We as a region have some real issues and problems that are producing young men in particular, that cannot dream of excellence. “Excellence for them is about the bling, and the money they have.
“Our cricketers are products of the failure of our Caribbean society, where money and instant gratification are paramount.”
Hilaire doesn’t feel confident about the young West Indies cricketers in waiting, questioning the literacy of half the Under-19 team that finished third in the Youth World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year.
He said: “I keep hearing from people, ‘Fire those [current] guys, and bring in new ones!’, but where is the new set coming from? Who are we going to bring in?”
“Somebody said to me, ‘Bring in the Under-19s. They came third at the Youth World Cup’. And I whispered that almost half of the Under-19 team could barely read or write.
“The simple fact is that we are producing cricketers who are not capable of being World-beaters in cricket. It’s just a simple fact.”
Hilaire, who took up the CEO post last October, conceded that the present outlook was bleak unless urgent action was taken.
“We can win matches occasionally, but not consistently with what we have,” he said. “It is not that we do not have the talent, but in today’s cricketing world, having talent alone means absolutely nothing.
“For the last nine years, we have been chopping and changing. Between 2000 and 2009, the WICB has tried 59 new players in Test match cricket alone.
He continued: “We have put young men in the international arena only to be slaughtered, demoralised, dejected, and the development path they ought to take never really takes place.”
Hilaire concluded that insularity still exists, and this was also undermining the game in the region.
“One thing that has pained me over the last six months is insularity,” he said.
“For whatever reason, we as West Indians seem to have that instinct to favour our own in the region.
“Sometimes I find it really challenging in what is supposed to be a common collective endeavour, that sometimes decision-making is so tainted by our preference for our own.”