By Tony McWatt
Phil Simmons has thankfully done the right thing by resigning as West Indies head coach. In so doing he has heeded the heads must roll call that has emanated from thousands of West Indian cricket fans following the team’s ignominious exit from this year’s 2022 World Cup. The two-time former champions having been booted out by Ireland and thereby failing to advance to the Super12 stage for the first time ever in the tournament’s now 15-year history.
The continuity of Phil Simmons and his entire coaching crew was made untenable by their collective World Cup strategic decision-making, which was at most times simply bizarre. The repeated use of Kyle Mayers, who is yet to take a single T20I wicket, as an opening bowler during the West Indies’ first two matches against Scotland and Zimbabwe was enough to illustrate the tactical inadequacies of Simmons and his crew.
Simmons et al had also failed to address, let alone arrest, any of the basic weaknesses and inadequacies that have been plaguing West Indies’ white-ball cricket for far too long. The demonstrated vulnerability of our batsmen to even the most basic slow bowling, not to mention top-class spin. as well as their ongoing inability to rotate the strike and reduce dot balls have been recurring themes. Regarding our bowling, there has been no meaningful reduction of gifted boundary balls on the part of the West Indies bowlers.
Simmons’ resignation should, however, only be the first of many. This latest World Cup humiliation, fashioned as it was by losses to lowly ranked Scotland and Ireland and representing as it does a further descent of West Indies cricket to the lowest of lows, should not be allowed to go unaddressed. As captain Nicholas Pooran himself suggested most recently, there must be consequences for the actions of all concerned! As such all of those deemed responsible must now be requested and required “to take a rest!”
Unfortunately for Pooran, his head will be one of the others that must also roll. Pooran as captain seemed completely out of his depth during the World Cup. Whether it was just him acting on his own volition or instead robotically carrying out the instructions that he had been handed by Simmons and his coaching crew, his management of the West Indies bowling attack was at times mind-boggling in its inefficiency.
As an example, having set Ireland a paltry 147 to win in the Group decider and desperately needing to take wickets early on, Pooran chose not to use Alzarri Joseph, by far the West Indies’ most penetrative bowler, until the third over. By this time Ireland had already gotten off to a flyer with 21 runs having been scored off the first two overs.
Pooran compounded that initial error even further by introducing the wayward Odean Smith to the attack ahead of Jason Holder, the West Indies’ most economical bowler. Those grave early innings errors were merely symptomatic of the litany of similar mistakes that had been forthcoming from Pooran’s on-field captaincy throughout the World Cup.
The weighty responsibility of captaincy also seemed to have placed an unbearable burden on Pooran’s normally outstanding batting. He could hardly find a run during the tournament. Pooran’s scores from his three World Cup Qualification Round matches were 5, 7 and 13.
Pooran’s captaincy inadequacies and their negative effect on his batting have been sufficient to suggest that he should now be immediately relieved of the captaincy responsibility. This time around though, the cancerous malaise that has affected West Indies cricket requires even deeper, less superficial, surgical cuts from those who will be placed in charge of the now desperately needed repairs and restoration.
Cricket West Indies President Ricky Skerrit issued an official statement following the West Indies World Cup exit promising an immediate post-mortem into the causes of the team’s disappointing performance. What Skerritt has failed to grasp is that both he and his Vice President Dr Kishore Shallow must now also be held accountable for this latest World Cup disgrace.
It was the Skerritt-Shallow leadership combo that, back in October 2019, rushed to get rid of the former coach Richard Pybus as an excuse to rehire the previously fired Simmons and to present him with an unprecedented four-year contract. It was also the same Skerritt-Shallow-led CWI that appointed Desmond Haynes as Lead Selector to replace Roger Harper, following the West Indies’ equally embarrassing Super12 last-place finish at the 2019 World Cup.
The sentiments among many West Indian cricket fans and followers at the time, was that Haynes would have been much better suited to be Simmons’ replacement as Head Coach. The associated belief was, therefore, that Haynes’ Chief Selector appointment had been an astute Skerritt-generated political move, designed primarily to deflect any threats to Simmons’ continuity as Head Coach.
As speculative as such beliefs may have been, the inescapable reality is that the Skerritt-Shallow now almost four-year CWI presidential tenure has been an unmitigated disaster of broken promises and unfulfilled objectives. They have not in the slightest manner contributed in any meaningful way to the continuity of improvement in the quality and sustainability of West Indies cricket on all fronts and in all formats. Far from, as the latest World Cup disaster has now clearly shown.
They too should be made to go. If not through their voluntarily provided immediate resignations, then by a Vote of No Confidence by the current CWI Board of Directors. With the 2023 ICC 50 Over World Cup looming fast on the horizon, as well as the West Indies’ scheduled hosting of the 2024 World Cup, no time should now be wasted waiting another six months until next March for Skerritt and Shallow’s final term to expire. CWI’s Directors should call an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting within the next four to six weeks for the sole purpose of electing a new President and VP.
The curative knife should also go even deeper to the extent of providing pink slips to the hierarchy of CWI’s Coolidge Cricket Center Headquarters administrative personnel. CWI’s CEO Johnny Grave has overseen an administration that has become comical for its consistently occurring blunders and demonstrated incompetency. From taped-over players’ shirts, outrageous ticket pricing, visa acquisition bungling, sporadic communications and most recently to the eighteen days prior announcement of participating teams, country venues and match schedules for this year’s edition of the supposed “Annual” Super50 tournament.
In the good old halcyon days of West Indies cricket, Stephen Camacho, God rest his soul, along with Andrew Sealey and their Admin Assistant managed West Indies cricket from within the tiniest of offices at the back of the Kensington Oval 3Ws Stand, in a most efficient manner. By comparison, CWI’s Coolidge Cricket Center Headquarters now has over twenty-paid staff. Among them those who have proven themselves to be incapable of efficiently completing as simple a task as ordering new team shirts on time!
The bigger question to be asked is why two of the most important administrative positions in West Indies cricket are currently held by gents of distinctly non-Caribbean ethnicity or heritage. Over 7 million people now live within the Caribbean region and as many if not more of our heritage are based overseas. Surely from among those millions there must be two individuals, male or female, capable of administering our cricket more efficiently and in a manner that would be much more in tune with our societal and cultural needs.
With more competent coaches in charge of our teams, as well as West Indies cricket overall being better structured, managed and administered, our players might then be motivated to give of their very best more consistently. As fans and followers, we have had enough of the roller-coaster emotions of encouraging highs, followed far too frequently by the most disappointing lows!
In the words of Dave Martins: “Just lock up the office and hand we the key, Alyuh Take Ah Rest. Find another wuk we beggin yuh please, Alyuh Take Ah Rest, You run we cricket straight on the rocks! Yuh make a Rasta cut off he locks. Alyuh Take Ah Rest!”
About The Writer: Guyana-born, Toronto-based, Tony McWatt is the Publisher of both the WI Wickets and Wickets/monthly online cricket magazines that are respectively targeted toward Caribbean and Canadian readers. He is also the only son of the former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.