“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” is one of the most recognisable lines often recited from the famous William Shakespeare tragedy, Hamlet. Quite frequently, it is attributed to Hamlet, whereas, it is actually spoken by Marcellus to Horatio.
Today marks one month to the day since diehard West Indian cricket fans received the totally unexpected news that Ricky Skerritt had defeated Dave Cameron, the controversial incumbent who had sought a fourth two-year term, for the presidency of Cricket West Indies (CWI). The long-suffering fans, who had waited patiently for Cameron’s departure, might just be wondering if Skerritt, a former Rhodes Scholar and past manager of the West Indies team, who had campaigned with promises of changes, is the right person for the job.
If the fans are already adapting the quotation from Hamlet and questioning some of Skerritt’s decisions, it comes as no surprise. The new leadership group, which is cognisant of the fact that it will be under extremely close scrutiny, social media et al notwithstanding, has swiftly made several sweeping changes. Although some of these moves were a forgone conclusion, their rash timing and execution have left a lot to be desired.
One of the first announcements, two weeks into the new administration, was the change in selection policy whereby all means would be made to select the best West Indies XI at all times. In an interview with Cricbuzz, a cricket website, Skerritt was quoted as saying, “There must be no reason for non-consideration other than cricket or medical or physical health. No administrative issues, politics or petty emotional situations must prohibit or prevent players from being considered for selection.”
It was a decision warmly welcomed by the fans, following years of acrimonious fighting between the Cameron Board and the senior players, and was viewed as giving the selectors the opportunity to pick the best squad for the upcoming ICC World Cup whilst removing “politics or petty emotional situations.”
Lo and behold, following a CWI Board meeting on the 11th April, Skerritt announced during a media conference at the CWI Headquarters in Antigua that the entire West Indies selection panel and the coaching staff had been sacked. The news did not come as a complete shock since changes were anticipated, but the quickness and the extent of the changes were beyond most fans’ expectations.
Former West Indian fast bowler and now international commentator Michael Holding, had obviously heard whispers of the forthcoming changes, and in an interview with i95.5FM radio station in Trinidad, prior to the announcement, had pleaded with the new administration to consult with the players before replacing the coach, Richard Pybus, who had been appointed in January on an interim basis until after India’s visit in July/August, following the resignation of Stuart Law late last year.
“I wouldn’t say right now that we need to change everything. We need to analyse before we have knee-jerk reactions and kick out everybody and change everything,” Holding cautioned, whilst adding, “We need to sit down and analyse…”
Outspoken CWI Director and Barbados Cricket Association President Conde Riley was livid about the axing of the entire coaching team so close to the World Cup. In an interview with Observer Radio of Antigua, Riley, a Cameron supporter, was very disappointed about the timing of the firings and revealed that the entire process of the transition period had been destabilised. He noted that “…Pybus’ appointment was interim. We had put a succession planning system in place where we interviewed nine regional coaches and short-listed five and those were the people that we would look to take the team forward.” Sorry Riley. Too late. The die has been cast.
The announcements have continued to flow. Last week, CWI declared that prominent Jamaican businessman and government senator Don Wehby has been appointed to head the task force on governance reform, the very sensitive issue which the CARICOM Heads of Government have been calling for, following the shelving of its commissioned Barriteau Report, which has suffered a similar fate to the preceding Patterson, Lucky and Wilkins reports.
It has been quite a mouthful to swallow in one month. (As of writing, the team for the ICC World Cup had not been released; it was due out yesterday). As one would have guessed, the terminated selection panel and one displaced member of the coaching unit, so far, have retained legal counsel and are planning to take the CWI to court.
One month in and we have to ask the question whether the changes effected were thoroughly thought out or were they just made for the sake of change?
Once Skerritt and the CWI had effectively made the change in selection policy with regards to giving everyone interested in representing the regional side a fair chance, why was it necessary to remove the selection panel at such a crucial time when the ICC World Cup is literally days away and the team chosen by these very selectors is coming off a very good, (not excellent – still lots of room for improvement), showing against England in the recent series in the Caribbean? Wouldn’t it have been better to just have a frank face-to-face discussion with the selection team and outline the new guidelines? The three booted selectors should have been given the opportunity to continue in office for the World Cup and India’s visit.
Likewise, Pybus, whose appointment was interim anyway, and who shocked everyone by recapturing the Wisden Trophy and holding the number rated ODI side to a draw. Or is the CWI scared that a Pybus-led squad might cause a few upsets, play above expectations and reach the semi-finals or the final of the World Cup? And then hold their own against the current strong Indian team and thus forcing his fulltime confirmation? Or were you listening to certain Caribbean voices calling for one of our own to coach the side?
As Skerritt stated, Floyd Reifer, the interim coach and Robert Haynes, the new interim Chairman of selectors, have been appointed to try and bring back a “sense of pride and aspiration” to the West Indies team, the two key features which too often appeared absent from it in recent times and the moves were a bid to try and reignite the passion among players. Interesting statement Mr President. Passion for the game and pride in one’s personal performance are innate qualities. You either possess them or you don’t.
Yes, West Indies fan, it is okay to shake your confused brain. Is the CWI doing a disservice to Reifer? Skerritt acknowledged that, “Up to the end of last year, Floyd had been identified as the outstanding, emerging [West Indian] coach.” Now what happens if the team performs miserably in the World Cup and against India? The timing of his appointment is completely wrong and the interim period is much too short for a proper trial as coach. Thus, the man, who clearly appears to be favoured as the long term coach, might have to be shelved and yet another coach, the fourth within one year, will have to be appointed.
The name Don Wehby might ring a bell with West Indies cricket fans. He was appointed by the Cameron Administration back in 2016 to chair a committee to review the remaining recommendations of the Patterson, Lucky and Wilkins reports. We all remember what was done then, and now here he is once again to review governance reform. In case you forgot, Skerritt was also a member of that 2016 committee. Well, well, we will just have to wait and see how long it will take for Wehby’s report to arrive on Skerritt’s desk.
Interesting times for West Indian cricket fans. The more things change, the more they remain the same.