West Indies cricket is still in disarray.
How to fix it is the favourite topic in cricket circles around the Caribbean and Theo Cuffy, Cayman Islands technical director of cricket, is more qualified than many to give his opinion.
He is one of the most respected cricket coaches in the region.
A former captain of the Trinidad national side, as a coach he helped Brian Lara’s talent for six years.
West Indies has just appointed Australian John Dyson as its new coach, despite the failure of two previous Aussies, David Moore and Bennett King, to improve matters. Dyson played at Test level but not with distinction.
His appointment last week caused an uproar among the rejected regional coaches who felt snubbed.
Cuffy is worried that Dyson’s appointment could mean another long period of mediocrity.
‘We need to look at it as broadly as possible. I, like anybody else, would like one of our own people in charge of the West Indies. Having said that, I have no problem with having somebody from outside, but I have a different concept on what should be happening.
‘I don’t believe in this coach business. I think our cricket has advanced to a different level and the time for having a coach being in charge has long gone. What we need to have is what I call a cricket manager. He is not an administrative manager who handles plane tickets, rooms and meals. The cricket manager handles the play on the field and some of it off the field.
‘Technology and everything else has now given us a different concept on how we should be looking at things. The mere mention of the word coach in the minds of a lot of people is that this person is training you on how to use the bat and how to bowl. I want to get away from that ideology and start to look at life in a different way now.
‘In football, Alex Ferguson is the manager on the field. They went to that level 15, 20 years ago. We’re still talking about a coach. We’re still thinking that guys who have reached Test level and need to be taught how to do this and that. When they get to that level we need a tactician sitting at the top who has many different virtues. One is he must know the game inside out. Two, he must be a good man-manager, a no-nonsense person who can tell those guys if you’re not giving me what I want I will have you replaced and he must be able to stand up to it.
‘So what I’m looking for is an icon of West Indies cricket. He doesn’t have to be a man with certification. He needs to be one of our former greats who is recognised and respected. When Vivian Richards was there he was the coach. So, too, Malcolm Marshall. The mere fact that you’re saying coach it implants in their minds that he is someone who is going to show them how to do this and how to do that.
‘So the West Indies Cricket Board now has to go back to the drawing board. We have Dyson who has a contract. He is going to be in charge of what? Is he still going to be in charge of the boys to see what they’re doing on the field in terms of batting and bowling? Or is he going to have a support staff of West Indians who will now be batting coach, fielding coach…? Are we going to do that: and if so then we’re moving in the right direction?
‘We have to use this man now to put proper strategies and tactics up there to move us from the losing syndrome to winning. He needs to develop a better attitude among the players towards what we are doing so that we can regain some of the glories we had. Not necessarily to take us back to No.1 in three years but to start moving up the ladder.’
The board is widely seen as incompetent having allowed West Indies to crumble from the pinnacle. ‘One of the board directors made a statement that it is not that we don’t have good coaches in the Caribbean, but the board did what they felt was best for regional cricket and that was to employ John Dyson. To me he didn’t say anything. It was a nonsense statement and it was an insult to us West Indian coaches.
‘One of our West Indian coaches, Henderson Springer, who was an assistant to the two previous head coaches, made a statement, which we must take into consideration. Springer said that when the CVs are placed in front of the screening committee, we don’t stand a chance because they are coming with degrees in coaching; Level 4 and we are only Level 2 or 3. It shouldn’t matter but it matters in the eyes of the people appointing them.’
The 57-year-old father of two does not subscribe to the view that West Indies is regrouping.
‘The people say we are in transition, I believe we are just going lower and lower. Every time I think we have reached rock bottom we find a way to go lower.
‘I want to wish Dyson well. He got the appointment but what is in his contract is my concern, because out of darkness I am seeing a light. How can we create a light out of that? Systems should be placed now for the development of our coaches. If they are not qualifying themselves with their own, the board has to ensure it has people qualified.
‘There’s a guy in Jamaica, Junior Bennett, who is coach of the Jamaica team now who just won the KFC Cup. There are two guys in Trinidad right now; David Williams and Tony Gray, both former Test players. There’s Albert Moore in Guyana and Henderson Springer in Barbados and Ian Allen and Eldine Baptiste from the Islands. So here we go, we have a group who want to do coaching. The board must invest into these people now.
‘They must send them off to get the best experience possible; Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and England. They can go and get qualified to the highest level possible. We need to look to arrange things with the different boards, from president to president. Our coaches need to go to these places for three to four months and they in turn have to come back and set up the programmes to develop the coaches we have in the region. And this has to be programmes that are monitored for progress. With that knowledge, within three years’ time one of these guys will be able to move up to be the coach.
‘They haven’t done that already because only I have the vision!’
Cuffy said he feels that Dyson will come with one of two of his own coaches, aka ‘engine room’ and feels that at least a couple of West Indies coaches will have to be used for local input.
‘We need to get higher certification. Certificates must not be the reason why a local cannot be the team manager. The coach must be the person working under the team manager.’
He said he feels West Indies lost too many great players too quickly in the early 1990s and a void was created. He also said he feels the region was left behind because of its winning ways. Having been victorious for so long, the administration ignored the fact that the legends would not continue forever and instead of preparing for a period of 10 or 15 years ahead, they just assumed another Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding or Richards would automatically come along. In the meantime, other countries, especially Australia, were setting up huge programmes and academies, which the West Indies hasn’t established. The St George’s Academy in Grenada was a total failure because it was improperly managed. ‘That was a political move and only really to satisfy the whims and fancies of one or two people.’
Cuffy does not want to see a ‘fly by night or two by four’ academy. He wants quality academies on par with the world’s best.
‘England hired Rod Marsh from Australia and he spent three years there and the product that came from that academy is what is benefiting England now.’
He uses Darwin, Australia, to illustrate a point.
‘I’ve been to Darwin. It has never had a Test player and yet their facilities were out of this world. Unbelievable. Even facilities for three-year-olds. Can you imagine what Sydney and Perth’s are like?
‘We also need to have a cricket committee that is headed by Clive Lloyd, thinking not only of the players, but the facilities, the infrastructure and the avenue to develop these players’ minds. The game is not only physical any longer, it is very much mental. It’s now only 10 per cent ability.’
He does not believe that West Indies players are worse discipline-wise than others.
‘Nobody partied more than some of our former greats, but they performed because performance was the ultimate. They knew that if they went out in the night, they would have to have that reserve of energy to perform the next day. Some of our guys are not seeing the big picture. They now make the Test team and think they’ve arrived.
‘I’m not a believer in curfews, I believe in responsibilities. You’re representing the life of the West Indian people, therefore when you walk on that field, all the prime ministers and presidents in the region are not equal to you, you’re more important than they are. We need for you to go out there with that amount of pride in you.
‘Our icons won’t offer themselves up for the job because they don’t want to be humiliated with a refusal. Which one of our icons is prepared to put his hand up to arrest the slide of West Indies cricket? And only one man has said he’s ready and that’s Clive Lloyd. But they don’t want to give it to him because we have this perception of a coach and he is not a coach. Lloyd needs to have his technical people in his engine room. Greg Chappell didn’t go to India to coach Tendulkar or Dravid but he was respected there and they listened to what he said.
‘I’ve not given up hope on the guys because I’ve seen a lot of talent. I saw Jerome Taylor bowl in the KFC and he has recaptured his old zeal. Daren Powell is as quick as ever and there are a number of batsman, like Shawn Findlay of Jamaica who turned on a fantastic fielding performance and young Kieron Pollard from Trinidad. All these guys are our future and we need to plan ahead. We’ve just hosted a World Cup and everybody’s boasting that we have a lot of money. And we have a big sponsor in Digicel who are putting a lot of money in it. These are the things that we need to have done. What we need to do more than anything else is to rewrite the constitution of the West Indies Cricket Board, cut down the amount of directors so that the expense of their first class travel and accommodation is cut down. Reduce the costs of the offices and administration based in Antigua and channel the money into the programmes of the development of youngsters.
‘How can we get that into our players? Money is not the answer. We need to sit down with them and work out a programme. The war between the board and the players is closing up now. The players’ representative is now on the board as a non-voting director so he is actually part of the decision making. So things have settled down a little under the new president. So hopefully, we won’t have that problem to contend with. All we have to worry about now is preparing our team properly and getting them out there and letting them perform.’
The West Indies selection process is not as biased towards the big four – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – like it was before.
‘That was changed many years ago when Richards, Ambrose, Richardson and those guys got into the side. Now it is more open, anyone can make the team from anyone of those countries.
‘However, insularity has not left our cricket. It shows up all the time, in particular when we see quota systems being used in selection policies. You need to have people picked on merit. It is so blatant sometimes you wonder if people have no shame. You are seeing three from this country and three from that one and two from that one and then you see it balance off to make a 14. You know we’re not getting the best.
‘I’ve been looking at a video analysis from a guy from Guyana on the net. It was an analysis offered to Bennett King, which he refused. It’s something produced locally, which he could have used. It gives you the score and then you can click on how somebody has been dismissed. King refused to use it because he didn’t create it.
‘Basically, he said he doesn’t want anything from anybody else. West Indies winning the ICC tournament in 2004 wasn’t down to King, it was simply that we played OK cricket and we got our breaks. We were facing the bullet when Ian Bradshaw went in to meet Courtney Browne and both of them batted sensibly and we won the match. That cannot happen again. It’s like lightning striking twice in the same place.
‘We don’t want that we want consistency in performances. We don’t want you winning a game every now and again, raising our hopes. We want to see you stay out there for ever. People don’t like to see Jacques Kallis bat. Well we need to have three or four like him in our team. We need to draw more Test matches then move on and start to win. We need to learn the art of batsmanship and that means occupying the crease. We need our players not to go for so many shots and leave the ball outside off stump and bat for long periods. We need a couple more Chanderpauls in the team.’