CWI president says growth possible despite 20-year struggle
A March 24, 2019 file photo of Ricky Skerritt arriving at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on for Cricket West Indies (CWI) presidential election. (PHOTO: Marlon Reid).
Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Ricky Skerritt says the governing body for cricket in the region has spent over $250 million US dollars on personnel remuneration without any sustainable improvement in performance.
Skerritt made the statement on Monday night while delivering the 20th annual Frank Worrell Memorial Lecture, which was virtually hosted by the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies through its Faculty of Sport. He was addressing the topic 'Reforming Cricket West Indies for Improved On-field Results'.
"The cost of personnel remuneration during the last 20 years has been astronomical," Skerritt said. "CWI spent a quarter-million US dollars on our players, coaches, and full-time staff during the past 20 years. This 250 million US dollars does not include the cost of travel, sustenance, and housing our many coaches, players, and administrative support people when on tour."
The president pointed out that "CWI has undoubtedly spent heavily on our teams, without any sustainable improvement in performance. And in contrast to the relatively poor results we have achieved, we have massively increased expenditure on personnel by more than 600 percent in 20 years.
"Expenditure was poorly targeted with too much-resulting waste. Altogether CWI handled in excess of 700 million US dollars in the past 20 years, including significant income earned from hosting the ICC 2007 ODI Cricket World Cup. What do we have to show today, after so much expenditure? Certainly not enough returns on the field of play."
Skerritt, a past manager of the West Indies men's team who was elected president in March 2019, provided data to show that the Caribbean team has played 194 Test matches in the past 20 years and lost 104 and won only 41 or 21 percent.
In the same period, the data showed that West Indies have won only 32 percent of the 434 ODI’s, and 45 percent of the 124 T20 Internationals they have played at home and abroad.
Skerritt said that the data in the same 20 years showed that West Indies selectors put more than 150 individual players and 18 different captains on the field to represent the West Indies.
He said, "this was the same period in which West Indies fell to the bottom of the ICC rankings ladder in all three formats of the game. These past 20 years also saw our selectors pick 28 different opening batsmen, 45 fast bowlers, and 39 spinners in Test cricket alone. The selectors’ turnstiles have been busy in the past 20 years. I remind you that, except for an occasional injury break, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes were our only opening pair for at least a decade, and Lance Gibbs was the main specialist spinner for nearly twice as long."
Skerritt pointed out that the data suggests that the CWI Board has been pointing fingers at the coaches as being responsible for the declining team performances.
He said, "in those same past 20 years, we hired 15 men’s team head coaches, most of whom spent very little time before they were relieved of the job. Most of the contracts of these head coaches were either intentionally made short-term, or were terminated well before they officially ended, suggesting that the coach was the one who had performed unsatisfactorily. Dozens of assistant coaches and supporting technical and management specialists, from all over the world, have also been hired and fired in the same 20 period."
Skerritt further said that "this data does not include the five head coaches and 13 assistant coaches engaged for the women’s team, just in the past seven years since our women’s program began in earnest. I remind you that just three years ago, in 2017 after what was a disappointing ODI World Cup performance, the entire women’s coaching staff was dismissed immediately on their return home. This came just one year after almost the same women’s team and coaching staff had brought great joy and celebration across our region after winning the T20 Cricket World Cup.
"To me, this data really tells the more important story of the inherent weaknesses in our local and regional cricket systems, which do not sufficiently support enough of our young cricketers to become truly motivated, disciplined, skilled, and mentally competitive for the global stage.
"The poor win/loss ratios, the numerous panicky team selection changes, the extremely high turnover of coaches, and the long list of team captains tell a sorry story of poor returns on investment by CWI. It also suggests that West Indies cricket administrators need to be more strategic and comprehensive in addressing the growing need for us to change the way we operate and the decisions we make - as producers of the West Indian cricket products."
Skerritt pointed out that despite the game in the Caribbean "facing great challenges," there are opportunities for improvement and growth.
He said success for West Indies over the next two to 10 years is rooted in the commitment to the “cricket first” philosophy and “West Indian first” policy that he brought to the table after he defeated the incumbent Jamaican Dave Cameron eight votes to four through a secret ballot on March 24, 2019, at CWI's Annual General Meeting (AGM) and elections at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
Skerritt said, “treat things can be achieved when the West Indian cricket community strives to think big and think differently, to collaborate and innovate together, and to put insularity and petty cricket politics to bed.
“Cricket still has a golden chance to drive transformative growth and secure its sustainable long-term future in our West Indian culture for several more decades to come.
“West Indians are a resilient people. Sir Frank Worrell showed us how to face up to adversity, and in honour of his memory, let us pledge to continue to rally around the West Indies.”
The 64-year-old from St Kitts and Nevis said the novel coronavirus pandemic had impacted CWI significantly, but the governing body was committed to forging ahead with plans to move the game forward in the Caribbean.
“[The pandemic] has disrupted regional and international schedules and introduced significant biosecurity costs and dramatically changed markets for sponsorship and broadcast rights, reduced facilities access, and caused development funding cuts, no gate receipts, and numerous job losses,” he said.
“The truth is that for the past eight months, COVID-19 has significantly slowed our forward reform momentum on both the cricket operations and financial revenue fronts.”
He said: “Fortunately, before the advent of COVID-19, we had already begun important and urgent off-field reforms that will ultimately fulfil the essentials of the 'cricket first' philosophy.
“While it is clear that the financial and other challenges of COVID-19 will not go away quickly, we cannot stop moving forward.”