Let’s start today with a multiple choice question. Who wanted Ottis Gibson out?
A. Dave Cameron
B. Clive Lloyd
C. Richard Pybus
D. None of the above
E. All of the above
Whatever the answer, the mutual agreement (according to the West Indies Cricket Board) that resulted in the termination of Gibson’s contract and its formal announcement less than 12 hours before the first One-Day International against Bangladesh represents nothing more than a continuation of a ‘vai-kee-vai’ modus operandi.
From the replacement of the first coach, Rohan Kanhai, after the former West Indies batsman reported on the refusal of some senior players to follow instructions on the 1995 tour of New Zealand, to the Tuesday night missive from the WICB manager of marketing and communications, Imran Khan, matters related to the senior coaching position in West Indies cricket accurately reflect a chronic failure to respect process and structure.
Look, we keep doing these things and then wonder why, with all the abundant natural talent that we claim our players have, we can’t rebound like the way the Australians did against England, or the way the English just did against India. We admire Germany’s phenomenal record of consistency and success in World Cup football yet continue to adhere religiously to a my-way-or-the-highway formula.
This is neither about defending Gibson nor crucifying him, but simply asking if this is an acceptable way of handling such a critical position in the West Indies team? In the 19 years since Kanhai’s complaint ten men, from the illustrious to the virtually unknown, have taken on the challenge of turning fortunes around in the senior regional men’s side and have either failed or been deemed to have failed by the decision-makers and therefore summarily dismissed.
We’ve had Andy Roberts, Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Sir Vivian Richards, Roger Harper and Gus Logie, all former West Indies players of differing pedigrees, in charge. Then came the foreigners—Bennett King, David Moores and John Dyson—who brought some of their own people with them and took most of their own people on the journey back home to Australia.
That Gibson lasted 4 1/2 years, and actually signed an extension of his contract in 2013, makes him a bit of a record-breaker. But think about it: 11 different head coaches in 19 years with manager Richie Richardson becoming the 12th in a caretaker capacity and a 13th to be announced presumably before the tours of India and South Africa that follow, yet we still wonder why we can’t develop a culture of discipline and dedication that will ultimately lead to the germination, nurturing and flourishing of a winning habit.
Where the evidence comes from, I don’t know, but we—from the administrators of West Indies cricket to the media, commentators and the fans—seem to believe that the firing of people we don’t like and the hiring of personalities we do will bring positive results in next to no time.
You don’t need a degree in business management, either forged or genuine, to appreciate that style as a recipe, not only for continued failure, but a deepening of the crisis as players especially realise that the organisation in which they are involved has little or no regard for a systematic, disciplined way of doing things. So essentially anything goes. Stronger personalities have their way. Less confrontational types bow to their will or bow out. Ultimately no progress is made in the aftermath of all the noise and fury, all the flash and flair.
So let’s say Mickey Arthur, the former coach of South Africa and Australia, gets the substantive job, as has been the rumour during the early stages of this series against Bangladesh. Will he be allowed to bring in his people or will he be required to work with the likes of Stuart Williams, Henderson Springer and David Williams? Will he be allowed to lay down the law or will that depend on who runs afoul of the team code of ethics or, more importantly, who they can run to in the administration to block for them?
Success in a highly competitive environment doesn’t come overnight. Thankfully, contemporary international cricket is not so much about competition as it is about negotiation, so you have the likes of Bangladesh floating around to boost anyone’s confidence, or Zimbabwe, who are more than capable of extending any opponent’s winning streak in the manner that the West Indies utilised them early last year.
Of course, we have no issues with being utilised as well, as in the pappyshow farewell Tests for Sachin Tendulkar ten months ago and the return trip in October to help boost the World Cup-holders’ confidence. In such an environment, and in the continued absence of any structure, does it really matter who is the head coach?