By Kimberley Cummins
West Indies cricket will continue to have a revolving door of coaching staff and failures if the crux of its problem is not addressed.
Following West Indies fast bowling great Sir Andy Roberts’ contention that Cricket West Indies (CWI) erred when it rehired former player Phil Simmons as coach of the senior men’s team on a four-year contract, Roland Butcher has said that sacking Simmons will not solve the fundamental structural problem of cricket in the Caribbean. Instead, the former Barbados opener and England international advanced the establishment of an Under-23 tournament to redress what is now WI cricket’s decades-long decline.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY via telephone from New Jersey where he is commentating at the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Men’s World Cup qualifiers, Butcher charged that the absence of a bridge between Under-19 and franchise cricket has significantly contributed to the lack of competition for spots on the team, and to players becoming complacent which ultimately leads some to believe that CWI is at their beck and call.
“You should not be choosing when you want to play and when not to play for your national team. Australia don’t beg players to come and play for them, you either make yourself available and you play or you make yourself unavailable and Australia moves on. England doesn’t have the same problems that we do. How many times have you seen England playing series, in any form of cricket, without their main players who may be playing somewhere else? You don’t. No Indian plays in any other franchise tournament, they are not allowed to. They can retire from playing for the national team and do as they want but as long as they are going to be available for selection Indians don’t [refuse to play].
“But the West Indies are very lenient in terms of the granting of NoCs [No Objection Certificates], they don’t refuse any NoCs. I just saw Wanindu Hasaranga denied an NoC to play in the Hundred and that was worth £100,000 but they [Sri Lanka Cricket] refuse the NoC because they need him to play. And this goes back to the point I am making, there is no competition so [players] believe that they can go and come as they please. . . . And they are right because there is no pressure coming in their direction. If our system was different and there was competition we would move on from those guys. You wouldn’t even contemplate wanting to include them when they deem they are fit to play. But as it stands your barrel is pretty empty,” Butcher maintained.
To the credit of CWI, Butcher, the retired head coach of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Academy of Sport, acknowledged that the board has attempted to fill the void by the inclusion of an Under-23 team in the regional Super50 Cup, and that side won in its debut year. Moreover, the regional body has now put together a Rising Stars Academy comprising of Under-23 players, of which 15 players were given one-year contracts
and will train for an entire year. Next year’s renewal will be based on performance. This development taking place in the 19-23 age group is extremely important. However, the former high-performance coach still believes there is a need for a CWI-hosted regional Under-23 tournament which runs alongside the first-class season.
Butcher noted that until such time, CWI will continue to spend a great deal of money, time and effort to train players from Under-13 to Under19 and then when the Under-19 tournament is finished, they have nothing else for those players. So, the players have to go to club cricket which Butcher added, in the case of Barbados, is poorly resourced, and with a deficit of good training facilities and constraints on training times.
Therefore, because they no longer have the back-up of the coaches and equipment that were used for instance at the Everton Weekes
Centre of Excellence and no competition, naturally those players will regress.
In addition, he did not think it was realistic to expect a boy of age 19, coming straight out of Under-19, to get into a franchise team or the Barbados senior team. Due to this, Butcher estimated that in the past decade or so West Indies cricket has lost on average about 1,000 of the best Under-19 players across the region out of the system.
“How can a small space like the Caribbean that totals six million people, of which a small percentage play cricket, you lose 1,000 of them in ten years and then expect to compete against the best in the world? You can’t!” Butcher maintained.
He continued: “It’s impossible and that is the gap in our development process that is hampering our players. If there is competition coming from below, two things will happen, either they will step up their performances or they will be phased out. So, I am urging Cricket West Indies to somehow find the resources to have an Under-23 season, the same way that they would have the under-19 tournament. . . . So, if for instance, Barbados needs to change a player in the team and their Under-23 has been playing the same time in the season and you have somebody performing well, you pull that person into the team because they are already prepared to play
“Our system must be better if we want to compete, if it’s not, you can bring who you want as manager, as coach, as whoever and there will be no difference in results – none whatsoever. You’re not attacking the symptom. You’ve got a cold but you haven’t worked out why you’ve got a cold so you will keep getting a cold. And that is our problem. The reaction of people is, we need to change this, we need to change that. There are times when people need changing but unless you get those other things right you will be forever changing – forever,” Butcher stressed.