Dr Rudi Webster/File Photo

Dr Rudi Webster/File Photo

Commentary by Dr Rudi V. Webster

The recent defeat of Sri Lanka by Team New Zealand in their last T20 game in Auckland has propelled West Indies to the number one position in the ICC T20 rankings.

This is quite an achievement especially for a team that for years has been near the bottom of the ODI and Test rankings.

Members of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) might now be tempted to beat their chests and try to take credit for that success, even though in their response to the Barriteau report they informed Caricom prime ministers that the players’ performance on the field is in no way connected to the governance or performance of the Board.

It is interesting to note that the players who contributed greatly to this T20 success, all IPL players – Bravo, Pollard, Simmons, Sammy, Russell, Smith, Narine, and Rampaul – will likely not be on the selectors’ lists for ODI matches and Tests.

When head coach Simmons complained that the best ODI West Indies team was not selected because of victimisation and interference by people outside the selection committee he was castigated and suspended by the Board, even though evidence of external meddling was extremely strong. We are still awaiting the results of the Board’s investigation of this matter.

The Board seems to have lost interest in the T20 and ODI formats of the game. Some sources in Australia claim that during the planning of the tour to Australia the WICB had the option of playing a few ODI and T20 games after the Test series but the Board declined, stressing that Test cricket was its main priority.

To say that the players were disappointed when they learnt of this a few days ago is a gross understatement. They felt that they could have got something out of the tour by beating Australia in one of these formats. Instead they are coming home in a state of total despair and self-doubt.

Test cricket is very important. So too are ODI and T20 cricket. Some people claim that T20 cricket is harming Test cricket and is a major cause of many of its problems. Change is one thing in life that is constant. And change in cricket is taking place at a frenetic pace. Adaptation is the key to survival, growth and high performance in today’s rapidly changing circumstances. If Test cricket does not adapt it will suffer badly.

I became aware of the power and importance of T20 cricket when I was mental skills coach to the Kolkota Knight Riders who won the IPL championship in 2012.  At the end of that series I was convinced that T20 was here to stay and that the administrators of the game would have no choice but to accept it and adjust to it.

According to the head of the international players union, Tony Irish, bilateral Test cricket will die unless radical change is implemented soon. He said that since the carving up of power and money in the ICC by India, Australia and England, the other countries are becoming poorer while these big three are becoming richer.

The Economist magazine recently claimed that WICB lost 43 million dollars by agreeing to that arrangement and that it will have to get by on scraps from the ICC. This ‘Big Boys/Little Boys’ arrangement has led to a gross disparity in the salaries of cricketers. Jason Holder, the West Indies captain alluded to this a few days ago.

The international players’ union boss further emphasised: “The worrying thing is that the players are telling us that if things don’t change they will be turning to more T20 leagues. What we are trying to impress upon the administrators is that it is not just commercial value and the fan interest that is dwindling but players are starting to turn away from the game because there is an alternative market now.”

Let’s look at the great success of Australia’s Big Bash T20 League.  A few days ago 80,833 people attended the T20 match between the two Melbourne teams at the MCG. And the Sydney Sixers recently announced that they have made $1 million in ticket sales this year.

Furthermore an amazing thing has just happened. The table below from the Melbourne Age newspaper shows that the Big Bash League has now reached the 2015 top ten most watched sports leagues in the world.

  1. NFL 68,278
  2. German Bundesliga 43, 331
  3. US College Football Division 1 FBL 43,288
  4. English Premier League 36, 464
  5. Australian Football League 33,428
  6. IPL 31,750 (2014)
  7. Major League Baseball 30,517
  8. La Liga 28,498
  9. Big Bash League 28,279
  10. Nippon Professional Baseball 28,248.

These figures speak for themselves. With the expansion of commercial interests and the growth of player rewards, the motivation to play in the IPL and BBL leagues will rise dramatically. The West Indies situation may very well be a forerunner for players from other countries.

Self-awareness and situational awareness are two conspicuous weaknesses of the WICB, If it does not wake up, accept responsibility for its decisions and actions, come to terms with what is going on in the world of cricket and change its attitude toward T20 cricket and the players who are attracted to the IPL and BBL it will destroy the very thing that it says it is trying to protect, Test cricket.

But the WICB has more urgent problems and challenges to address. The choices that it makes in the next few weeks will determine whether it adapts and survives or sticks to the status quo and perishes.

About Dr Rudi Webster

A champion track-and-field athlete in school, Dr Rudi Webster studied medicine at Edinburgh University (where he was sportsman of the year and played cricket for Scotland) and later to universities in New Zealand and Australia for postgraduate training. He taught at the Universities of McGill, Miami and Lund.

Dr Webster has done pioneering work in the mental component of performance and the mental conditioning of athletes. He has also worked with the national cricket teams of West Indies, Sri Lanka and India. He is the author of the books “Winning Ways: In Search of Your Best Performance” and “Think Like A Champion”.

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of GrenadaSports.

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