Negative narrative must change

-WICB’s Conde Riley

Conde Riley is tired.

He has worked for 30-odd years as a banker with Barclays Bank in Barbados and the United Kingdom but what the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Director and Chairman of the Barbados Pride cricket franchise is really tired of is the negative reports on West Indies cricket.

“I’m of the view that more attention has to be paid to what is being done to improve the performance of our international teams and our junior teams,” the distinguished Riley said whilst delivering the feature address at the Guyana Cricket Board’s (GCB) 2016 Awards ceremony Thursday night at the rebuilt national treasure known simply as the Umana Yana.

West Indies Cricket Board Director Conde Riley delivering the feature address at the Guyana Cricket Board’s 2016 Awards Ceremony at the Umana Yana Thursday Night

Riley blamed part of the decline of West Indies cricket to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which was aimed at not only giving the WI players a voice but also making them the consummate professionals but which was in fact an albatross around the WICB’s neck, resulting in the test and ODI teams rapid decline.

“Over the last 10 years, following the domination of the Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards’ led teams, the decline in performance of our senior teams in ODIs and Test cricket has been slow and painful.

“Successive presidents and boards were stifled by a Collective Bargaining Agreement which was designed at the time when Sir Wesley Hall was president, to give players a voice in their professional management through the West Indies Players Association (WIPA).”

Riley said the advent of T20 cricket with its large sums of money brought new challenges for the WICB and its territorial shareholders.

According to Riley as the West Indies players gravitated to the new format, the respective Test and One-Day teams slowly moved down the ICC rankings to the bottom of the table.

“The WICB finally got approval to renegotiate the old Collective Bargaining Agreement with WIPA and moved swiftly to spread the 25 per cent of its revenues which is set aside for players’ salaries from 15 players to an additional 90 players and we also brought 10 ladies on board,” Riley stated.

“The board was aware that amateurs don’t beat professionals and whilst the richer members of the ICC had moved to professionalize their game decades before us, we were stuck by a combination of factors.

“It suited the then leaders of WIPA to hang on to an outdated document that should have been renegotiated many years before the High Court in Trinidad said enough is enough and ruled that a new CBA be negotiated between the WICB and WIPA,” Riley told the gathering which included Minister of Foreign Affairs and acting Prime Minister Carl Greenidge and Minister within the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, Nicolette Henry.

However, changes to the CBA were not the only reason for Riley’s view that reports should focus on the positives initiated by a board which has repeatedly been asked to undergo reforms through not one but three independent reviews by three separate panels on the governance of West Indies Cricket.

According to Riley, the WICB has moved a little in that direction by improving the quality of the pitches, extending the Regional first-class season, and conducting courses for Coaches and Curators.

“The WICB appointed a Director of Cricket who, a few years ago, wrote a 19-point plan aimed at improving the regional game.

“In addition to professionalizing the game and expanding our ceiling from five to 10 games, high on the list was the setting of a standard for fitness across our Professional Cricket League,” he explained.

“We also made some other significant strides, the Level Three Coaches Course, where we partnered with the England Cricket Board, the ECB, where 25 coaches attended, passed and were subsequently certified.

“We also had the visit of the ICC consultant where 30 curators participated in the workshops. We also have four umpires heading to Elite Status and more importantly, we celebrated 16 years of unbroken partnership with Scotiabank for Kiddy’s Cricket.

“And I don’t know if you know this, but Digicel has returned as our major sponsor from this year. Our involvement with Scotiabank and Digicel are vital to the continued development of our cricket,” Riley stated emphatically.

According to Riley, this year, the WICB is celebrating 90 years as a formal organization, a milestone he feels ought to have been acknowledged and celebrated.

“When we celebrate, we recognize that opportunities are ahead and we must make efforts to seize them.”

Individual performances too merit praise

Riley also spoke of a number of individual performances on the field of play which he felt were positives that can be focused upon and which he feels support his views on the state of West Indies cricket and why he is saying repeatedly that the negative narrative must change.

“When you look at the performances of our teams and I’m not saying we have turned the corner. On the international stage, two individual performances in the last three months have shown that fitness is key to our success in international sport and must be non-negotiable.

“West Indies were playing India in Jamaica at Sabina Park and a 23-year-old, all-rounder by the name of Roston Chase, in only his second match,   batted the entire day in scoring 137 not out and saved the test for the  West Indies. This was done on a fifth day pitch against an attack that I consider to be one of the best, especially when you’re batting on the last day, the Indian spinners.

“Then in October, another 23-year-old, Kraigg Brathwaite, spent every second of the third test against Pakistan on the field and carried his bat in both innings of that test to secure a world record and win the test for the West Indies. Nobody had beaten Pakistan in the Desert. West Indies did with a very young team and I should compliment Mr. Bishoo (Devendra) who had an eight-wicket haul in that series.

Mr. Brathwaite scored 142 not out and 60 not out that and that is why I say our young cricketers are performing and the negative narrative must change.”

Riley also spoke of the performances of the West Indies A team’s recent tour of Sri Lanka where Guyanese Vishaul `Cheesy’ Singh, Shimron Hetmeyer and Ronsford Beaton excelled.

“The performance of our A team in Sri Lanka where one of your own Vishaul Singh scored a magnificent 161 and averaged 64.08 in that three-match series. Another three batsmen, Shamarh Brooks, Shimron Hetmeyer and Jahmar Hamilton averaged over 40.

“These performances are extremely heartening for a team that is being rebuilt. There was also one century and nine half-centuries. With young Hetmeyer and Hamilton narrowly missing centuries soring 94 and 99 respectively.”

Riley also highlighted the bowling performances of the burly all-rounder Rakheem Cornwall.

“Rakheem Cornwall was exceptional capturing 23 wickets at 19.2 runs per wicket from 148 overs. He bowled more than three times the overs of any other individual bowler and his performances showed that whilst he may not be as mobile as smaller players he is fit enough to play at the international level,” he opined.

Although losing the test series, 1-2, the West Indies swept the three-match One-day series with Andre Mac Carthy, Jason Mohamed and Kyle Hope scoring centuries and Riley was high in praise of the bowling of Guyana’s Ronsford Beaton.

“The bowling was led by Ronsford Beaton who captured seven wickets at 15 runs per wicket. I’d like to urge Mr. Beaton to concentrate more on the longer format of the game where he will build his stamina and fitness and go on to represent the West Indies if he so desires.

“I certainly believe that he is too promising to only play the shorter format. He was our leading fast bowler four years ago at the U19 World Cup in New Zealand when we reached the semi-finals. He must give back more to the region and to Guyana.”

Riley pointed out that  the Sri Lanka team included about four players with test experience.

“I mention the foregoing performances to illustrate the lie that our regional cricket is poor and that is why I say that the negative narrative must change,” Riley said.

(to be continued)

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