Dr Rudi Webster/File Photo

Dr Rudi Webster/File Photo

Commentary by Dr Rudi V. Webster

While reading West Indies Cricket Board’s (WICB) response to the Caricom Sub-Committee on Cricket, I was reminded of the words of the Irish playwright, critic and social reformer George Bernard Shaw: “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

The WICB never takes responsibility for its poor performance. It always blames everyone and everything else. Its most recent blame list includes politicians, governments, ‘academic functionaries’, former players, head coaches, current players and scarce financial resources.  In the Worrell/Sobers and the Lloyd/Richards eras when West Indies dominated world cricket, financial resources were scarcer, governments and politicians interfered more and physical resources were far inferior to what they are today.

The Board’s report is a smokescreen to hide its own incompetence and possibly other unpleasant things. It is also a clever attempt by the Board to lead Caricom prime ministers into its trap and force them to fudge, bargain and compromise.

Most of the members of WICB have good intentions to lead and develop others but they are doing poorly because they have not yet learned how to lead and develop themselves.

It is very difficult to change the direction and performance of your company without first learning to change yourself. Effective leadership of others begins with good leadership of self.  Members of the Board who are unaware of the importance of leadership must understand that organizations cannot rise above the level of their leadership.

When I last checked the Board’s Vision Statement it read: “To establish and sustain West Indies cricket as the sporting symbol of the West Indies and the West Indies team as the dominant team in international cricket.” And its Mission Statement: “To develop and promote West Indies cricket for the benefit and enjoyment of the West Indian people, its clients and other stakeholders by producing a consistently high-quality, successful and international West Indian product.”

Clearly, the Board has lost sight of its vision and mission statements. That is why our cricket development and player performance lack purpose and direction. The Board has fallen way short of its stated goals and Caribbean people no longer listen to or believe any of its declarations. The rhetoric/reality gap is far too wide.

Moreover, its structures, systems, strategies, communication, measurement and feedback and operational policies are out of sync and alignment with its vision and mission. In addition, the Board’s disruptive culture of interfering with the decisions and the work of its experts and professionals, particularly in the adversarial and toxic environment that it has created, surely does not help.

The West Indies team has been near the bottom of the ICC Test and ODI rankings for some time. A friend in India recently reminded me of this. He said, “Twenty years ago, no team relished playing the West Indies. Now, given a choice, teams will queue up for an easily winnable contest.” Even Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are anxious to join that queue.

This show how far the West Indies cricket has sunk and how hopeless the Board has performed.  This is unacceptable. Everyone involved in West Indies cricket, especially its administrators, should now be forced to put cricket development and cricket performance ahead of personal and political agendas.

During the Watergate scandal, Howard Dean, one of President Nixon’s lawyers warned the president that there was a cancer within the presidency. We all know what happened to the president and many of his administrators. If Dean were around West Indies cricket today, he would probably give the same warning to the WICB.

In assessing the effectiveness or efficiency of a company, we usually look at its input/output ratio and the processes that transform inputs to outputs. In its response to Caricom, the Board focused strongly on its inputs and paid no attention to its outputs. It submitted a long list of the ‘wonderful’ things it has done in the last few years without any reference to the results of those activities. This is a common tactic of entrenched bureaucracies. If results had been taken into account, that list would never have been included. Unfortunately the Board is committing the cardinal sin of confusing activity with results and motion with direction.

It is no surprise that the WICB has attacked the Five-person report and has tried to point out its inadequacies. Board members probably believe that pointing out what is wrong with the report will automatically prove them right. This kind of thinking is appealing but it is based on a false premise.

This is how an eminent Caribbean luminary summed up the WICB response. “The formal response by the WICB to Caricom is entirely expected and gives Caricom the finger. It says your Panel was a joke. We are not responsible for the performance of the team that comprises well-paid adults but we already have a plan to fix things and 13 committees to help. We will do our own thing in our own time. We need your money to promote the game in schools and at the local level, not your advice.”

Clearly by its words and actions, the Board has shown that it has little or no respect for Caricom prime ministers. How then can we expect it to have respect for players and the cricketing public?

The people of the Caribbean are hoping and praying that Caricom will take urgent and drastic action to save and revive West Indies cricket. They expect nothing less. If the prime ministers drop the ball and disappoint the people, they too will lose their trust, respect and admiration. There is no political risk in taking drastic action but there might be great political risk in compromising or taking no action.

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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