The University of the West Indies (UWI) registered yet another major achievement with the launch this morning of its Sagicor UWI High Performance Centre at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex.
The cricket High Performance Centre is a bilateral partnership financed by Sagicor. During his remarks Vice-Chancellor of UWI, Sir Hilary Beckles, took aim at Cricket West Indies (CWI) and its president Dave Cameron for backing out of what was once a tripartite partnership involving UWI, Sagicor and CWI.
According to Beckles, the university has always maintained that the relationship had to be inclusive of UWI and CWI and efforts to persuade Cameron to re-enter the tripartite arrangement have proved futile.
“West Indies Cricket Board chose to withdraw from the partnership. We have brokered a tripartite arrangement, UWI, Sagicor, WICB, a tripartite arrangement that gave us the academy that has produced all of these young cricketers. All of these young men who are doing so well, fighting for West Indies, came through the academy.
“I tried to persuade CWI and Mr. Cameron to come back into the tripartite arrangement and they [CWI] have opted not to because they have another approach. We at the University believe in the effectiveness of our research, we believe in the effectiveness of our model. It has been proven that the youngsters who are now fighting for West Indies’ future are products of that mental construct. We have confidence in them and we believe that when they return home, they should return home to an academy,” he said.
The distinguished historian and professor who has written several books on West Indies cricket over the years and is in the process of publishing another very soon entitled Cricket Without A Cause – Fall and Rise of the Mighty West Indies Test Cricketers, explained that the relationship between UWI and CWI has been a formula for the better part of 60 years but highlighted the fact that because change was not easy to conceptualize, the relationship had been a turbulent one.
He further expressed the possibility of CWI having their academy in one of the regional stadia and while he would never criticize another institution for choosing their path, he personally did not believe an academy for cricket should be based in a stadium, which he considered to be a sterile environment. Explaining that mental preparation was key to the development of young cricketers, he noted that when their careers were over they should be able to hold their heads up high and be great citizens with a future.
“The future of West Indies cricket has long been bound up in the relationship between the Cricket West Indies Board and UWI. That has been the formula now for the better part of 60 years, but it has been a turbulent formula with instability. And there are reasons for this because we all know in our University that change is not easy to conceptualize, it is not easy to conceptualize the future and it is not easy to plan towards it. It is easier to resist change than to be an advocate for change.
“In this moment in time, it is much more than technical skills. Technical skills are important, you can’t be competitive without technical skills and you can teach technical skills in a stadium but you cannot teach in an empty sterile stadium, the mental development of young athletes, you cannot do it. They must be in a classroom in a learning environment, surrounded by books, professors, technical experts; they must be surrounded by educational and learning because that is what will make them great,” Beckles said.
The UWI’s High Performance Centre is geared towards the development of cricketers from all respective age groups who aspire to develop and excel towards the highest level. And even though the programmes and structure for the centre itself have not yet been fully articulated, head of the Cave Hill Academy of Sports, Amanda Reifer, assured that in the coming months they would have everything finalized.
According to Reifer, the idea for an academy sparked in the mind of the late West Indies cricketing great, Sir Frank Worrell, and was brought to fruition by Professor Beckles, whose vision led to transforming the sports department into an academy, enhancing the cricket programme at Cave Hill and establishing the Combined Campuses and Colleges Marooners.
This morning’s event was attended by well-known personalities in the sporting and academic fraternity including UWI principal Professor Eudine Barriteau, West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite, director of cricket at the Barbados Cricket Association Steven Leslie and former West Indies batsman Floyd Reifer who is the head coach of the High Performance Centre.