OBSCURED by the distractions of the current double-tour from hell, a significant appointment by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has slipped under the radar.
While attention was centred on the Florida Frolic prior to the series in India and New Zealand, on the subsequent clash of dates, the protracted international travel, the belated arrivals, the needless visa confusion, the repeated collapses and the heavy defeats, Richard Pybus, a 49-year-old Englishman, was announced as the new Director of Cricket, a prominent position.
Pybus is not a familiar cricket name in these parts; his work as coach and development planner has been concentrated in Pakistan, briefly Bangladesh, and far more successfully, with provincial teams in South Africa where he was twice named coach of the year.
Preempting the inevitable question of why not a West Indian, WICB chief executive Michael Muirhead commented that Pybus “emerged after a rigorous international recruitment process which saw a diverse range of applicants both from the Caribbean and internationally”. It was, he said, “a major coup”.
He took up his post on November 1 and has already presented a report outlining his immediate strategy. It is an imposing portfolio.
According to the WICB, it “concentrated on the historical context of West Indies player production and where the system currently is”.
“He will be implementing a system review from feeder systems at grassroots level all the way through first-class cricket to the international side,” it added. “It will include an overall plan for development and schools cricket through to the West Indies senior team.”
Pybus’ title indicates that he is to be in charge of all aspects of the regional game. As he would have gleaned from the results in India and New Zealand and of reports he would have read and heard of the myriad problems hindering first-class, club and schools development, he surely appreciates the tough challenges he faces.
His immediate priority concerns the India-New Zealand humiliations. There is a pressing need, once the tour of New Zealand is over, to summons separate meetings with head coach, captain, vice-captain, team manager and selectors to hear their reasons for the dismal events over the past two months and their recommendations of what needs to be done to put things right. In other words, an inquisition that will determine his own conclusions.
Although he is an employee of the WICB, his record implies that he won’t allow board members, even as high as president, to interfere with his objectives.
He had three stints as Pakistan coach, each ending in a falling out; he called the team manager during one “a bumbling old idiot”. He quit the Bangladesh post after a disagreement over his contract.
He would know that key recommendations of weighty reports commissioned by the WICB itself, the foremost headed by the former Jamaica Prime Minister P.J.Patterson, were rejected. He is unlikely to stay very long if his are similarly treated.
Pybus once described coaching Pakistan as “the toughest job in world cricket”. He has now taken on another.