The last twenty years have not been kind to West Indies cricket. Its decline started slowly in the mid-nineties but gathered momentum as time went by and now, the team appears to be trapped in a failure spiral. It is true that the Under 19 Team and the Women’s Team excelled in the World Cups. It is also true that Darren Sammy’s T20 teams won two World Cups, 2012 and 2016, but in Tests and One Day Internationals the West Indies team has been languishing near the bottom of the ICC rankings. And yet, former West Indies teams dominated world cricket for more than twenty years under Frank Worrell and Gary Sobers in the sixties and Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards in the late seventies and the eighties.
Winning teams dominate for a while then strike a plateau and eventually go into decline. The longer the decline lasts the more difficult it is to correct it.
But decline can be prevented if a second growth curve is started while the team is still playing relatively well. Revival is usually triggered by mental and structural adjustments, and by the introduction of new leaders who have a clear vision of what they want the team to achieve, and an intelligent strategy to make their vision a reality.
In 1960/1961 that is exactly what Frank Worrell, West Indies captain, and Richie Benaud, Australia’s captain did for cricket in Australia. They revived the game and gave it a new lease of life. What Frank Worrell achieved with his young team was truly remarkable.
Few on his team had any kind of reputation before they arrived in Australia but when they left they were all superstars.
Worrell was an outstanding leader who stimulated and motivated his players in ways that previous captains could not. He changed the players’ thinking, self-image and self-confidence and instilled in them a will to win and a belief in their ability to win. Importantly, he altered their perception of how the game should be played and transformed them into a highly disciplined and professional unit. His team so captured the hearts and minds of the Australian public that half a million fans lined Collins Street in Melbourne to give the players a sensational ticker tape farewell and an invitation ‘to come back soon’. This happened at a time when the world was very different from what it is today. That team went on to dominate world cricket in the sixties.
Twice during the last year, I had the pleasure of listening to two members of that team Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Wesley Hall talking about West Indies cricket. I marveled at their wisdom and knowledge and at their passion and love for West Indies cricket. They seemed to be more concerned about the wellbeing and the future of West Indies cricket than the people who are governing and administering the game.
Keith Miller, the great Australian all-rounder, often spoke glowingly about the natural talent of West Indies players. After watching Worrell’s team in Australia Miller wrote, “Of all the nations who play cricket, the West Indians show a bigger desire to play cricket joyfully than any other race. It is in their minds. They also possess a natural ability to relax which is one of the foundations of good batting.
They do not get all knotted and twisted mentally, and they are never beaten by reputations of opposing players. They play with dancing feet because they come from a region where the feet are always moving, where people are given to dancing.”
Miller added, “Bright, exciting cricket comes from the minds of the players. Since the game began, the players who have made the biggest impact did so because of their mental makeup, rather than their technical skill. Cricket is as much a test of a man’s character and mental strength as it is about his range of strokes or bowling accuracy.”
If Miller were alive today he would certainly have a few things to say to English journalist Mark Nicholas who expressed the view that the players in Darren Sammy’s 2016 T20 World Cup team were somewhat short of brains. But Miller would have reserved his strongest words for a current member of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) who a few weeks ago on the radio hinted similar things about the brainpower of Barbados’ National Hero, The Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, the world’s greatest cricketer. He also hinted that Sir Garfield and fellow Legends Sir Wesley Hall, Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Andy Roberts, Charlie Griffith, Deryck Murray and Desmond Haynes, who support the recommendations of the WICB/CARICOM Committee, were being used and manipulated by politicians.
That member also claimed that the Legends allowed themselves to be used by Sir Allan Stanford during his T20 competitions.
In a strongly worded rebuke of Mr. Conde Riley, the Legends informed him that no team could dominate world cricket for more than twenty years unless its players possessed great mental strength, exceptional intelligence for their sport, impeccable character and great integrity.
Let me make it abundantly clear to everyone that CARICOM has no desire or intention of getting involved in the running or day-to-day management of West Indies cricket. We do not have the yearning or the skills to do that. Moreover, prime ministers are extremely busy people. We already have enough problems and challenges in our countries to deal with. CARICOM’s sole objective in the process of reform is to help in creating a structure and an enabling environment in which West Indies cricket can again flourish and rise to the pinnacle of the sport; a position that it once occupied and enjoyed for more than twenty years.
Today’s complex, competitive and rapidly changing world requires a fundamental shift in our thinking. Organizations everywhere are being forced to change their self-image, their thinking and the way they conduct their business. They are re-examining the design and alignment of their structures and systems; reviewing traditional strategies and policies; and looking closely at the quality and effectiveness of their leadership. Governments, trade unions, companies in the private sector, the public sector, and sports organizations are all going through this process of adaptation. Sticking to the status quo in the face of rapid change is not a good option.
Today, the basic principles of organizational adaptation revolve around two important and interdependent factors – restructuring and redesigning the organization; and improving the quality and competence of its leadership. This new leadership requires more than technical expertise, administrative ability and traditional management. It calls for better self- leadership, better motivational skills, better handling of key relationships inside and outside the organization, and better management of the organization’s diversity and interdependence.
The leadership of the WICB has changed repeatedly in the last two decades and yet the Board’s governance and performance have not improved. The one thing that has remained constant over the years is the Board’s rigid and antiquated structure. By now, the Board should have learned that reshuffling its leadership without changing its thinking and structure is just as futile as adjusting its structure without reforming its leadership. The two things must be done together.
The attitude of today’s young people is very different from that of previous generations. Their expectations and values will not allow them to accept decisions and actions of the WICB that their predecessors agreed to or tolerated. The WICB must come to terms with that reality and alter its approach accordingly.
It must build trust and mutual respect by changing the way it manages and motivates its players and itself.
When people, however different, operate in the same system they tend to produce the same results because the structure of the organization influences their behaviour.
If a seed is planted in a bottle, the plant will take on the shape of the bottle and be confined to it. Breaking the bottle, the structure in which it is growing, will set it free and allow it to grow and become a large plant. Organizational structure does the same thing to its people. It limits or liberates their potential.
If sports organizations are not happy with the way their people and teams are performing they should take a close look at the system and structure in which they are working. If members continually resist change they are not working in a learning environment that values growth and development. If they are not flexible and innovative they are working in a rigid and autocratic structure. If the leaders are not team players they are working in a structure that is designed for individual performance and individual rewards. If the leaders behave like dictators they are working in a structure that supports dictatorship.
And if leaders are self-focused rather than player focused they are using systems and working in structures that are not designed to serve the players. When administrators put their own interests above the interests of the players, the game and the players usually suffer. Sir Garfield Sobers the world’s greatest cricketer referred to this when he said, “Pressure from the opposition never worried me. It lifted my game. But I found it almost impossible to deal with pressure that came from the administration, or to a lesser extent, from jealousies or petty arguments within the team.
Anything from the administration that threatened to disrupt the unity or performance of the team placed me under great pressure because my motivation to do well came from the team. I always wanted the team to do well. The team came first. I was never interested in my own score. If I had been I would have scored a hell of a lot more runs.”
If national sports organizations are not structured, designed or led to create environments in which their players can learn, grow and get the best out of themselves, they are not serving their purpose.
No one structure is ideal. Organizational structure must be fluid and must continually adapt to meet the demands and challenges that it faces and serve the purpose of the organization.
I am spending quite a bit of time on governance and organizational design because I believe that they are key factors in the development and performance of the organization.
When looking at structure, we must remember that form and structure should follow purpose and function, and that design should reflect the vision, values, goals and strategies of the organization. During structural adjustment of the organization we should always keep three questions in mind.
First, what do we want to achieve and become, and why? What is our vision? Second, what do we stand for? What are our most important values and beliefs?
Values are to organizations what roots are to trees. Without strong roots, trees fall when they are shaken by violent winds. And without strong values organizations fall apart when they are buffeted by the powerful winds of change and crisis. Talking about organizational values is not good enough. The leaders must show by example – word and deed – what the organization really stands for and believes in. And third, how should we organize ourselves to make our vision a reality?
Vision is a future that beckons. When the leaders of the organization clarify its vision, share it with members, and clarify their roles and responsibilities, members bring passion and commitment with them especially when they feel that they truly belong and believe that they can make a difference to the performance of the organization. When these energies are correctly directed and focused, a major requirement for success is satisfied. This is a lesson that the WICB must learn.
Errol Barrow, former Prime Minister of Barbados was well aware of the importance of vision and its impact on team unity, teamwork and team performance. He once said:
This vision thing is very important. You must have a powerful vision of where you want to take your country. That vision must be clear in your mind and you must simplify it and clarify it before you speak about it or show it to the country. Your people will then hopefully be able to see it and identify with it.
No matter how good your vision it will be worthless unless your people can see it, understand it and buy into it.
It would be interesting to find out if the directors and staff of the WICB along with the players know the Board’s vision and values, or have bought into them. My guess is that they don’t know them and have not bought into them.
Let us therefore look at the vision and core values of the WICB in its 2011/2016 Strategic Plan.
The Board’s vision is to establish a commercially viable organization and an efficient governing body; to establish cricket as the sport of choice and to provide successful and entertaining West Indies teams whilst adhering to sporting ideals.
The Board’s core values are integrity and the preservation of ethical ideals; mutual respect; effective teamwork; the importance of diversity; accountability and unwavering honesty in communication and actions; and innovation.
Comparing Cricket Australia’s strategy with that of the WICB one notices the simplicity and specificity of the Australian strategy and the general and vague nature of that of the WICB. Four of the pillars of Cricket Australia’s strategy are:
1. Put fans first.
2. Produce the best teams, players, competitions, coaches and officials in the world.
3. Work as one team across Australian Cricket by providing world-class leadership and management to deliver its strategy;
4. Grow investment and allocate resources to deliver its strategy.
Unlike Cricket Australia, the WICB cannot honestly say that it has been selecting its best players and best teams, or that it has been putting the fans first. I am not in the habit of commenting on selection policies, but I cannot fully understand the exclusion last year of some of the best players from the World Cup team and now, their omission from the team in the upcoming Tri-series Tournament with Australia and South Africa. The inclusion of former outcast Kieron Pollard and the exclusion of Bravo, Sammy, Gayle and Russell are quite puzzling. They smack of hypocrisy.
And unlike Australia, the WICB cannot in any way claim that it is working as a competent, harmonious and cohesive unit to provide world-class leadership and management to implement its strategy.
Looking at the Board’s performance over the years one has to ask if it is living its values and achieving its vision. Objective feedback suggests that it is not.
Longstanding antagonism between the Board and West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA); the ongoing hostility between the Board and its players and coaches; the unfriendly words between the leadership of the Board and some of its players on social media;
the number of court cases between the Board and its players or players’ representatives, almost all of which the Board has lost; the mishandling of the situation in India that led to the abandonment of the tour;
the signing of the agreement to reform the ICC that automatically resulted in a loss to the WICB of 43 million dollars; the suspension of Head Coach Phil Simmons for his comments about external interference in team selection, even though the evidence is extremely strong; the snubbing of the team during the T20 world Cup, especially after the team’s amazing victory; the emotional and heartfelt comments of Captain Darren Sammy at the post match presentation; the Board’s unfortunate response to those comments; the Board’s continuing hostility towards Head Coach Simmons; the Board’s removal of Tony Cozier from its TV commentary team; and the Board’s defiance and resistance to significant reform paint a vivid picture of a dysfunctional and autocratic Board.
Living up to the lofty values in its Strategic Plan has been a serious problem for the Board. Charles Wilkin wrote about this in his letter of resignation to the WICB in 2012. He said: “The blunt refusal of territorial board members to follow their own stated principles (values) casts serious doubt on their commitment to the rest of the strategic plan and their capacity to implement same.”
During the last ten years, the WICB has rejected recommendations for structural reform in the 2007 Patterson Report, the 2012 Wilkin Report and the 2015 WICB/CARICOM Report.
Why is the Board so defiant and reluctant to change? Some members oppose change because they genuinely believe that the Board is performing well and therefore does not need to be changed. Other members resist change for fear of losing the benefits and rewards that the current systems and structures provide.
In his report, former Prime Minister of Jamaica P.J. Patterson said: “The status quo (of WICB) is unacceptable. If there is absolutely no change in the structure and the method by which persons are chosen for a board that is manifestly dysfunctional, there will be no change in performance. We will continue to lurch from one crisis to another, to defeat after defeat, so long as the present structure remains with the fatal flaws that now exist.”
Charles Wilkin QC was quite critical of the WICB for rejecting the recommendations in his report. In his letter of resignation to the WICB in 2012, Wilkin wrote: “At the special meeting of the Board in Barbados on Friday 14th September 2012 the territorial board directors flatly rejected the recommendations of the Governance Committee as to the restructuring of the Board and refused to make any change to the current structure.” Wilkin added: “Knowing full well that they wanted to preserve their positions on the Board, a conclusion I drew from listening to them for the whole day at Friday’s meeting in St. Lucia to which I was invited, the territorial board members should have spared the Governance Committee our valuable time and saved the Board the cost of the review exercise.”
In 2015 the WICB/CARICOM Committee made recommendations that were very similar to those in the Patterson and Wilkin Reports but they were again rejected by the WICB. Although the WICB gave its solemn promise to four CARICOM prime ministers on July 20, 2015 that it would accept and implement the recommendations of the WICB/CARICOM Governance Committee, it reneged on its promise.
The Committee consisted of three recommended appointees from the WICB, one from the Legends and one from CARICOM.
The only people in the Caribbean who seem to be happy with the current state of West Indies cricket and the governance and management of the WICB are the Board’s own members, territorial board members, and a few prominent people in the Caribbean who ought to know better. Everyone else is unhappy or angry – players, coaches, former players, the Legends, journalists, most of the sponsors, (some) CARICOM governments, millions of people throughout the Caribbean and hundreds of millions of cricket fans around the world.
The current West Indies Board of eighteen members is far too large to be effective and like Cricket Australia five years ago (Crawford/ Carter report) it is perceived to have embedded conflicts of interest that too frequently come into play when decisions are being made.
Following the recommendations of the 2011 Crawford/Carter Committee that was set up to examine its structure and governance, Cricket Australia dissolved its board and replaced it with a new board.
Cricket Australia has recently undergone the greatest revolution in governance and structural reform in its 100+ year history. It is no coincidence that Australia is now at the top of the Test and ODI ICC Rankings.
Cricket Australia accepted and implemented three key recommendations in the Crawford/Carter report that I will now outline. WICB would do well to copy them.
1. A smaller Board – the current CA Board of 14 members is far too large. It would be difficult to find an experienced company director in Australia who would argue that 14 non-executive members on a Board is a good proposition. The average size of company Boards throughout the English speaking world is less than 10 non-executive directors. The common wisdom in governance circles is that the preferred size of a board is between six and ten members depending on the size and complexity of the business. We recommend that the Cricket Australia Board be reformed with a maximum of nine non-executive Directors.
2. A skills-based Board – Having established the size of the Board its composition is very important. The Board should have the right mixture of skills. Currently each state appoints its own representatives to the Board of Cricket Australia with little consideration for whether their appointees add to or duplicate the skills that are already there. It was pointed out to us that the CA Board could finish up with 14 accountants or 14 former Test players. We recommend that CA adopts the practice of appointing a skills-based Board and that the creation of a transparent nominating process be established for the appointment of members.
3. The removal of conflicts of interest – we believe that a Board that is largely free of actual, or perceived conflicts of interest is the best way to restore trust. No director of Cricket Australia should at any time hold office in any state Board. The director can live in the State but must not be a member of the State Board. In time we would like to see the best nine directors in place even if they all come from the same State.
Let us look at what is happening to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the world’s richest and most powerful cricket board. At present the BCCI is undergoing significant structural reform under the close supervision of the Supreme Court of India. Like the WICB, the BCCI claims that it is a private entity but the Court’s senior advocate Gopa Subramanium told it, “You discharge a public function but you want to enjoy private status. If you have a public persona then you have to shed your private persona. If the BCCI selects the national team for the country it cannot be a private society. It is a public entity.” Subramanium stressed that if the constitution of the BCCI does not allow transparency, objectivity and accountability then it could be said to be illegal as the cricket board is discharging a public function.
When the BCCI and State Associations objected to some of the recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee, the Court informed them that it will not allow these cricketing bodies and their administrators to “filibuster” or delay the much-needed reforms to bring purity back to Indian cricket.
And in response to the BCCI’s claim to the Bench that the Indian side is a dominant force in cricket and occupies the top spots in T20 and other formats, Chief Justice Thakur said, “Yes, the players have managed despite the BCCI.”
In the last few years, revelations of corruption and dishonesty in sport have rocked the sports world. As a result, the UK government set up a Select Parliamentary Committee to look into cheating in sport.
The committee has already had hearings with Greg Dyke, the FA Chairman over FIFA corruption; Lord Sebastian Coe, the President of IAAF over doping in athletics; and Chris Kermode of ATP over match-fixing in tennis. And according to ESPN Cricinfo, Giles Clarke the President of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is soon to be called before the UK Parliament to explain his role in the controversial ICC structural reform of February 2014 in which the Boards of England, Australia and India took control of cricket’s finances. The Parliamentary Committee specifically wants to look into the conduct and governance of the ECB in relation to international cricket.
These revelations of corruption and dishonesty have forced some courts and governments to look at sport through a different lens. They are now demanding transparency and accountability and are not prepared to sit idly by and allow any national or international sports organization to do whatever it wants, or to be a law unto itself, under the pretext of being a private entity.
In addition to Cricket Australia and the BCCI, Cricket New Zealand, the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket South Africa have all undergone significant structural reform. Why then is the WICB holding out?
There is no logical reason for this. However, we must remember that when we are dealing with people we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion bustling with prejudice, and motivated by pride and vanity.
The Future of Cricket
It is sometimes foolhardy to predict the future because we hardly ever get it right.
I don’t know where West Indies cricket will be in five or ten years, but if it wants to reverse its fortunes, the Board must agree to undertake the structural reforms that are recommended in the WICB/CARICOM Report. Today’s Board must be geared toward learning, development and performance and must be designed to master its challenges and to motivate its people rather than to subordinate and limit them.
To escape the failure spiral in Tests and ODIs the Board must at once create an agenda for change that includes a clear, specific and powerful vision of what it wants to achieve and become; a vision that takes into account the legitimate long-term interests of all of its stakeholders; a strategy for achieving that vision; a strategy that considers all of the relevant organizational and environmental forces.
The Board must also build a strong implementation and monitoring network that includes supportive relationships with key people and key sources of power; relationships that will improve teamwork and team synergy; and a core group of highly motivated people who are committed to making the vision a reality. .
What about the future of the three formats of the game? This could come down to whether T20 is controlled by cricket boards or by rich entrepreneurs. The boards will try to maintain control of all three formats but money and player loyalty will be the deciders.
Test cricket must change if it is to retain its reputation as the gold standard of cricket. New models for Test cricket are already being discussed.
T20 cricket is here to stay and it will play an increasingly important role in the future of cricket. The large amounts of money in the game, particularly in places like India, will be a magnet for our players. Our best players will go where the money is. And some of them might choose to play for privately owned teams rather than for their national team.
West Indies could very well become a feeder league for lucrative T20 competitions around the world. This is already happening. Innovative and creative thinking will be required by the WICB to resolve this challenge in a way that is mutually beneficial.
T20 cricket will help in the globalization of the game that could take root in the USA and Canada.
Coaching and training will evolve to meet the changing demands of the game, and technology will continue to influence all aspects of the game from umpiring, equipment, performance data collection and analysis, the presentation of the game to its audience and the performance of the players on the field.
In his last article Tony Cozier said that the Legends should now take the lead to bring about change and structural reform of the WICB. I agree with him. I will encourage all cricket lovers in the Caribbean to join the Legends in their quest for change. We must all work together.
Sometimes it is beneficial to look at other sports in order to find the answers to problems in our own sport.
It is interesting then to examine the important and wide-ranging comments of Brian Lewis the Head of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee in a recent article in the Trinidad Guardian entitled “Athletes – Our Priority”. Lewis said that the right to be called a National Olympic Committee, a national sports organization or governing body carries with it by definition the ultimate responsibility. Only a National Olympic Committee can enter a team in the Olympic games. Only a national governing body affiliated to an international Federation can enter a national team in a regional or world championship. Lewis’ remarks beg the question, are these bodies private or public entities? Are they serving a private or public purpose? The Supreme Court of India has already issued its verdict on these questions.
We have to go beyond uncivil exchanges and the dragging and airing of dirty laundry. (For some administrators), putting athletes first are just empty words. Athletes are our priority. No ifs, buts or maybe.
When sport administrators and coaches put their egos and self interest first, dreams are destroyed, sacrifices are wasted, unnecessary obstacles and adversity are placed in the path of athletes who aspire to be the best they can be. The level of hypocrisy in many instances is subtle but no less appalling. Public utterances are more for show and public relation image building.
Sport leaders are perceived as takers rather than contributors. Either lost or struggling to catch up, the pace of change, language, new technology and thinking of modern sport may be beyond their capabilities or capacity.
But at a common sense level all it requires is a willingness to help our athletes to figure out where they want to go, what they want to do with their lives and helping them make sense of it all. Helping them live their dreams and aspiration to make the best of their talent and potential and represent Trinidad and Tobago (their country) with pride and honour.
The world of sport is going through one of the most difficult periods in the modern history of organized sport. Sport leaders are facing unprecedented challenges and are perceived as generally out of sync with the world of modern sport. The difficulties (challenges) contain opportunities to do things differently. However things are today, tomorrow they need to be better. Leaders are ultimately responsible for making things better. All that matters is making things better – embrace adversity, shoulder the blame. It is not about being right, proving your point or your ego – it’s about making people better.
I started my lecture with Sir Frank Worrell and I will end it with Sir Garfield Sobers. Sir Garfield once said, “The main difference between great players and the others, or great teams and the others, is not physical skill but rather the ability to identify the most important challenges and demands in the situations they face, or are about to face, the discipline to think clearly and simply in those situations, and the capacity to tailor their skills and organize their resources to cope with those challenges.” Sir Garfield’s words are about “purpose”, “fit” and “adaptation” the hallmarks of creative and innovative thinking.
Earlier, I said that today’s complex and rapidly changing world requires a fundamental shift in our thinking. Albert Einstein put it better when he said, “The world that we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level as they were created.” If this is so, we surely must address our challenges and circumstances from a different level, within a new perspective.
This is why I urge the territorial boards and the WICB to study the wise words of Sir Garfield Sobers closely and use his thinking as a catalyst to change their own thinking and to lift their organizations out of the negative performance spiral that over the years has entrapped them and kept them prisoner.
Finally, let me repeat something that I stated earlier. I want to make it abundantly clear to everyone that CARICOM has no desire or intention of getting involved in the running or day-to-day management of West Indies cricket. We do not have the yearning or the skills to do that. Moreover, prime ministers are extremely busy people.
We already have enough problems and challenges in our countries to deal with. CARICOM’s sole objective in the process of reform is to help in creating a structure and an enabling environment in which West Indies cricket can again flourish and rise to the pinnacle of the sport; a position that it once occupied and enjoyed for more than twenty years.
It thank you.