THE three-member panel assembled by Cricket West Indies (CWI) to undertake a comprehensive review of the senior team’s first round World Cup exit from the T20 World Cup last year has put forward 34 detailed recommendations to be implemented over the short, medium and long term.
The trio – Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court judge and committee chairman Justice Patrick Thompson Jr, West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara and South African coach Mickey Arthur – touched on a broad scope of findings in their report to the regional body.
Information was derived from dozens of interviews of players, coaches, administrators, directors and other stakeholders and other research.
In their executive summary, the report said the World Cup team was “underprepared”, unable to acclimatise to the cold conditions in Australia and hailed the absence of Guyanese batsman Shimron Hetmyer a “significant loss”.
They found that CWI must develop and create clear pathways for the identification, development and management of talent, otherwise, WI cricket runs the risk of being strip-mined by other professional leagues that can afford to harvest and develop WI players, for their benefit.
The report entailed more recommendations than reflections on the team’s performance since much emphasis was placed on the ways and means of grooming a bunch of 30-35 core players ahead of the 2024 T20 World Cup. That tournament will be played in the WI and USA.
Getting these players together, all at once, for a long period of time, to commit and train ahead of tournaments is integral to generating consistency moving forward.
Greater conversations between players and CWI, proper planning and communication between the two and coming to fair, agreeable conclusions were just some of the recommendations put forward, with detailed explanations and references.
The coming together of territorial boards to host more inter-island T20, and even red ball tournaments, outlined an array of short and long-term benefits for the future of WI cricket.
“Our players need to play as much cricket as possible. CWI must somehow accommodate a local T20 league to spot and allow talent to be spotted, a forum to display talent, a pipeline to identify prospects to develop,” said CWI president Ricky Skerritt during Thursday’s virtual media interaction on the review.
The three-man team suggested that CWI convene a three-day in-person meeting/retreat with the core squad to determine their willingness and availability to participate in the 2024 World Cup. With the 2023 cricket calendar already confirmed, and some of 2024, players should be aware of their potential availability for the next 18 months.
Commitment to representing WI remains key for all stakeholders.
“It’s practically impossible to get them all (players) at the same time for long periods but conversations are happening already. The Future tours programme is the ICC programme for bilateral cricket and it’s much better suited now to plan ahead. Planning ahead is difficult if there’s so much uncertainty,” Skerritt added.
Similarly, the committee found that West Indies cricket will “cease to exist as an entity” if the best players choose higher-earning international franchise cricket and see representing the Caribbean region as “optional”.
This was another critical conclusion derived from the report which they said played a crucial role in the T20 team’s downfall.
“There should be a clear agreement on strength and conditioning standards, player availability and needs and CWI expectations in the lead into the 2024 World Cup. In this Group’s view, there can be no real strategic plan for the 2024 World Cup without significant player input and consultations of the kind above,” the report added.
Additionally, it was recommended that CWI have targeted discussions with the players about playing as much red-ball cricket for WI as possible between now and the 2024 World Cup.
The WI team is scheduled to play six Test matches in 2023 (Zimbabwe, South Africa, India) and four in early 2024 (Australia, Pakistan), and a concerted effort must be made to have some of its white ball players play those Test matches against Australia and Pakistan.
It added that constructive discussion must be had with, but not exclusively limited to, players such as Nicholas Pooran, Evin Lewis, Akeal Hosein, Odean Smith, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Brandon King and Rovman Powell to name a few.
The committee are of the view that red ball, and in particular Test cricket, against the Test teams ranked above WI provides vital opportunities for primarily white ball players to develop their overall cricketing skills.
Skerritt said, “We have not really built up a learning culture. We have done things the best we could at the time, in many cases just fighting fires and surviving knowing there was not enough invested into the requirements for global success.”
A clear memorandum of understanding between CWI and territorial boards on the need for centre wicket practice for the WI team, players identifying what strength and conditioning facilities they would like to see in their territories, a wholesale review of CWI’s contract with players and even governance reform are just some of the lengthy list of recommendations presented to the board.