Bold leadership needed to reshape cricket, says former CEO Hilaire

CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC – A former high level regional cricket administrator believes there is a lack of will in West Indies cricket to make the tough decisions that will result in a full transformation of the game.

Ernest Hilaire, who signed off as chief executive of the West Indies Cricket Board two years ago, said the bold initiatives required to fix regional cricket were often thwarted by pressure from territorial boards, forcing administrators to return to the “old order”.

The St Lucian said as a result, insularity and “narrow nationalism”, continued to permeate West Indies cricket.

“I think in West Indies cricket we know what has to be done. What is needed is the will to make it happen and to stay the course,” Hilaire said in an interview with HTS Channel 4 here, in the wake of the sacking of Darren Sammy as Test captain.

“When I got involved in West Indies cricket as CEO, there was nothing new really to be done. The plans were there, all the reports [were there]. It was a question of having the fortitude to say this is the pathway forward, this is what reconstruction and reform is about and let us stick to the pathway.

“There will be difficulties, there will be criticisms but that is the right road we have to follow and be strong enough to lead the organisation in that direction.”

He continued: “There comes a time when some people believe the consequences of re-organising and restructuring is too much for them and therefore they want to go back to the old order and that’s what we keep doing in West Indies cricket.

“We keep moving forward, some countries do not like the consequences and we are forced to go back again. You keep hearing about new paradigm but every time a new paradigm is about to start, somebody suffers and puts enough pressure that forces us to go back to where we were and we’re not moving forward really.”

Hilaire, who now serves as St Lucia’s High Commissioner to London, said the issue was not one of strategic planning or finance, but bold leadership.

“The plans are all there, the strategic plan is there, they have all the money to do it but is there the will to make it happen?” he queried.

“Who’s going to stand up and say ‘this is what is going to be done, this is how it has to be done and the organisation has to be led along that road?’”

Hilaire presided over a turbulent phase of West Indies cricket which included the bitter players strike back in 2009, acrimonious spats with regional players union WIPA, and Chris Gayle’s controversial 15-month omission from the West Indies team.

However, he said during his tenure, he and then WICB president Dr Julian Hunte had embarked on a process of bold reform which had borne some fruit.

“For the time that I served as CEO and under the presidency of Mr Hunte, we sought to do that – a clear vision, a clear plan, we’re going on that road and that’s what we’re going to do and we started to see some successes,” Hilaire pointed out.

“We had won the World T20, we had moved to number four in the world in Tests, we had improved in the ODIs, the HPC was formed – there were a number of successes.

“We were moving in that direction to put things in the right place but there is a new direction, a new dispensation and that has now filtered down to a change in the team and the captain.”

Hilaire said the captaincy issue had brought to the fore some of the weaknesses in West Indies cricket, which had become more visible with the declining fortunes of the regional side.

“There will always be insularity in West Indies cricket and very narrow nationalism. That has plagued West Indies cricket and will continue to plague West Indies cricket in many ways. There are people who would never support Darren Sammy as captain, they would never support anybody from St Lucia as captain, they would never support any small-islander as captain. It is a reality,” Hilaire contended.

“And there are persons in the small islands that do no support persons from the larger territories and that’s the problem that we are plagued with inside the region where we view things from your own narrow national agenda [and] our own petty insularity of disliking players from other islands.”

He added: “When you’re winning you can cover up all those issues but when you’re losing, they really come to the fore. It’s just like any country when they are going through bad times they blame foreigners for taking up all the jobs but when things are going good they don’t have a problem with foreigners coming to your country because there is enough for all.

“It’s the same thing in cricket. When things are going good, we overlook those things; when it’s going badly, you blame each other.”


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