The West Indies might not be winning Tests and One-Day International matches regularly, but several measures have been implemented by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) over the past three years that should halt the team’s decline in international cricket, says WICB director Conde Riley.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY Riley was adamant that the fortunes of the West Indies team will be turned around as the policies implemented start to take root. He suggested that there have already been a few signs of things to come in the future.
“About three years ago the board took the decision to employ Richard Pybus (former director of cricket) to look at the rebuilding of West Indies first-class cricket. One of his first initiatives was the expansion of the first-class season from five to ten matches. The regional one-day tournament was also expanded. We also professionalised regional cricket by contracting 15 players in each of the six territories,” Riley stated.
He added: “The contracting of these players in my view was a revolutionary development in our cricket. It allowed 90 cricketers from throughout the region to go to work on a daily basis with cricket as their main focus. They could train, get fit and prepare themselves fully for the task of playing cricket. I think that this will lead to the better development of our young cricketers in the future.”
According to Riley, another significant development in the rebuilding progress of West Indies’ cricket was the board’s decision to establish a minimum fitness standard of 18.5 for the players which is the international accepted level.
Riley said that while the result of creating new measures to rebuild West Indies cricket would not been seen overnight, he believed there were a few performances by the players last year that indicated these policies were working.
He cited Barbadian batting all-rounder Roston Chase’s batting the entire final day and scoring a century during the second Test against India at Sabina Park to earn a draw for the West Indies, and Kraigg Brathwaite batting his way into the record books to help the West Indies win the third Test against in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as examples of the process going in the right direction.
“These are homegrown players who never had the opportunity to play in any of the professional leagues around the world. They have shown the discipline the board was looking for when we established these new policies. Chase batted the entire day on a last day pitch,” Riley said.
“Brathwaite was on the field for the duration of the third Test against Pakistan and established a Test record as the first batsman in the history of Test cricket to be not out in both innings of a match. These are the little nuggets that indicated the systems we have put in place are the right measures to take West Indies cricket forward,” Riley said.
The outspoken cricket administrator noted that the faith shown by the selectors in fast bowler Shannon Gabriel seems to be paying off. The big Trinidadian pacer collected his first five-wicket Test haul in the third Test against Pakistan in the UAE. Gabriel has shown steady progress over the past 18 months to go along with his undaunted pace, though there are concerns about his fitness. He has twice been affected by side strains while playing international cricket within the last 12 months.
Riley acknowledged that the West Indian public was not satisfied with the inconsistent performances of the team, and stressed that the board never expected the policies to be an instant success.
“The board never expected the team would start defeating other teams who would have had their systems in place for several years. I believe we have made a start. We have used the expertise of Pybus who is really a coach to create new systems that will take West Indies cricket to another level. I believe over the next two years we shall see an improvement in terms of our performances on the International scene,” said Riley.
Over the last three years West Indies have lost Test series to New Zealand 2-0 (away) and 2-1 (home) in 2014; they defeated Bangladesh 2-0 at home in 2014; lost 2-0 to Sri Lanka (away); lost 2-0 to Australia (home) in 2015; drew 1-1 with England (home) in 2015; lost 2-0 to South Africa (away) in 2014/2015; lost 2-0 to Australia (away) in 2016; lost 2-0 to India (home) in 2016; and lost 2-1 to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.