Former West Indies captain Viv Richards has blamed the “arrogance of administrators” involved in West Indies cricket for the failure to ensure the best players in the region remain available for international duty. Several big ticket players including Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Lendl Simmons, Carlos Brathwaite, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy and Darren Bravo are currently in India to participate in the IPL even as a three-match ODI series against Pakistan gets underway on Friday in Guyana.
In the last few years a number of high profile Caribbean players declined central contracts from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), leaving them under no compulsion to appear for national duty. One of the diktats of the WICB that has irked the players is being asked to play the Regional Super50 in order to qualify for selection for ODI squad. Considering the aforesaid players all feature in domestic T20 leagues like the Big Bash, which clash with the Super50, they have refused to sign the binding WICB contract.
Richards insisted that the situation has come to pass only because members of the WICB have done a “lousy job” in creating an environment where players feel treasured by the national set-up. “When you have an arrogant administrative unit, guys are going to pick and choose,” Richards told ESPNcricinfo in Mumbai on Wednesday. “We must remember that many of the players come from humble backgrounds. I have no qualms in saying this, some of these administrators think they are as important as the players on the field. They are not. It is all about the attraction of the environment that the players on the field would have created for them to be in an administrative position.
“I think it is a bigger issue than about the guys playing in our domestic competition. Most of the guys played there when they first started out, that’s what they wanted to do. But when you get an administration who thinks that they are the most important entity where West Indies cricket is concerned, they better wake up. The players have done their bit in terms of their representation. We lost a series in the UAE recently [in 2016 against Pakistan], now we have lost the T20 series in West Indies to Pakistan. All this after winning the last World T20. That sends a message in my opinion that all is not well with all the players who are representing West Indies at this stage.”
Having failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy in June, West Indies are currently lying ninth in the ODI rankings and face the prospect of missing out on direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup. The cut-off date for the World Cup, which will be held in England, is September 30 this year. Other than the hosts England, the top seven in the ODI rankings will get a direct berth in the World Cup. West Indies, Pakistan and Bangladesh are vying to take the seventh position to avoid being forced to play the qualifiers.
In Test cricket too, West Indies continue to founder and are in eighth spot in the rankings, only above Bangladesh who are in fact snapping at their heels, and Zimbabwe. Attendances continue to be poor back home but Richards remains hopeful of a turnaround, urging the administrators to pay heed to counsel from former greats.
“I am one of those individuals that never says never,” Richards said. “I believe if we start having a little bit more respect for the individuals who would have helped the administrators into that administrative position. You have a Michael Holding, who refuses to be part of cricket in the region because of the behaviour of members at the administrative level. It hurts because we are the ones that are the trailblazers, not the ones who have come on the scene at present wanting to be administrators. We are the ones who made it attractive enough for them to administer and they have done a lousy job.”
Besides keeping a close eye on West Indies cricket, Richards has stayed involved with the game in a mentorship capacity for the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash and most recently with the Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League for the last two years. One of the most destructive players of all time, Richards keeps his advice simple to eager young batsmen who have sought him out during these stints.
“Some of these individuals in the coaching department are trying to enhance their product in terms of what they believe coaching is all about,” he laughed. “If you look at the instinctive nature of players in T20 and the things that they do try, it is tough to coach that. So it is all about getting the guys to be mentally prepared and in a frame of mind that they understand what their duty is. This is such a great format for you to have a swing of the bat. I would have loved that more than anything else.
“Our job is to give them the confidence if necessary. It is to be brave. You will have your bad days, but in the end it is about believing in the product that you have. As they say, he who dares, wins. That sort of mentality, you can take that in, you will have success.”
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75