ENGLAND’S TOUR OF WEST INDIES, 2019
West Indies won the World T20 in 2016 under the tutelage of Phil Simmons. © Getty
“T20 Leagues globally eg. @IPL @APLT20official @BBL @BPLT20Cricket @MSL_T20 @thePSLt20 Where are the West Indian coaches? WI ICCT20 World Champs, Top WI T20 players @henrygayle @DJBravo47 @KieronPollard55 @SunilPNarine74 @Russell12A More proportionate coaching rep required, please”
T20 Leagues globally eg. @IPL @APLT20official @BBL @BPLT20Cricket @MSL_T20 @thePSLt20 Where are the West Indian coaches? WI ICCT20 World Champs, Top WI T20 players @henrygayle @DJBravo47 @KieronPollard55 @SunilPNarine74 @Russell12A More proportionate coaching rep required, please
— Daren Ganga (@DarenGanga) October 23, 2018
Those were the words of current globe-trotting West Indies commentator Daren Ganga last October when coaches for the UAE T20x were being announced.
That tournament unfortunately failed to bowl off, and Ganga’s comment – as is so often the case with West Indies cricket – did not pick up much attention in world cricket media circles at the time.
However, with recent news that Cricket West Indies (CWI) has hired controversial Englishman Richard Pybus as interim head coach over Caribbean candidates, Ganga’s post took on extra significance. The serious question must now be asked: Why are West Indies coaches being ignored both at home & abroad?
In both the NFL in the United States (despite the implementation of the Rooney Rule) and in the English Premier League, there has been a large debate surrounding how leagues with a majority of black athletes are struggling to have similar representation for coaches.
In T20 cricket, the game’s newest and most exhilarating format, West Indies players have been the dominant force. As journalist Tim Wigmore wrote on ESPNCricinfo recently, the Windies’ style of calculated six-hitting is T20 cricket’s version of Barcelona’s Tiki-Taka football, or current NBA Champions Golden State Warriors’ propensity to score many three pointers.
No other team can replicate it, but many franchises – including Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Perth Scorchers – have tried to follow the format in their team construction, starting with a big six-hitting, Chris Gayle-like opener at the top.
But unlike the West Indies, who from numbers three onwards give their batsmen the ultimate license to go hard, in franchise cricket Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy and Carlos Brathwaite tend to be held back for the last five overs. Very few times would they be entrusted to come earlier in an innings regardless of the match situation.
One can argue that this is due to the international player quotas in the leagues as well as budget hindrances to this.
“The building of teams in franchise cricket is a bit different because of player restrictions on overseas players. In the majority of leagues you can only pick four and in Big Bash for example it’s only two. Also with budget restrictions and because of those West Indians’ reputations, they all come at high prices in an auction, so it’s hard to buy all of them. Even if one can by two or three of them, they have to be complimented by domestic players who play in that fashion, which is not easy to do and find,” says team scout AR Srikkanth, who works with the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) but is also employed in the PSL and BPL.
Noticeably though in the recent T10 league in Dubai last November and December, we saw the eventual champions Northern Warriors win the league deploying the Caribbean style. Led by Daren Sammy with no player restrictions to worry about, the team dominated by power hitters won the tournament.
So, are T20 franchises missing a trick by not trying harder to build their teams in this way? And could there not be merit in giving Caribbean coaches, who understand this style the best, more frontline coaching roles?
The Pybus situation is so bad that CWI Directors who usually walk lock-step with dictatorial board president Dave Cameron are standing up. In a letter to CWI that was leaked to the media, Leeward Islands director Enoch Lewis noted that Cameron initially organised for Pybus to become coach without the board’s approval. He did this by ignoring the list of local options suggested by CWI’s Director of Cricket Jimmy Adams, which included Windies legend Desmond Haynes, to replace Stuart Law.
Almost all of Pybus’ initiatives in his previous stint as CWI’s director of cricket have been dismantled by Jimmy Adams & current CWI chief executive Johnny Grave – which further highlights how galling and disrespectful to the people and coaches of Caribbean his rehiring is. It prompted former West Indies captain Sammy to blast the appointment in a twitter post, factually highlighting Pybus’ lack of credentials for the job:
Now Mr President as a west Indian I need answers infact wi demand some answers. It’s 2019 and the west Indian public must stand up against this..#SurvivingDaveCameron
— Daren Sammy (@darensammy88) January 10, 2019
All of the major triumphs by West Indies in the post-1995 era of decline were achieved by local coaches. Australians John Dyson and Bennett King, the previous foreign Windies coaches of this period, didn’t achieve anything. More recently the T20 World Cup in 2016 was won under the tutelage of Phil Simmons, who is widely respected for his work with Ireland and Afghanistan. Ottis Gibson, who won the T20 World Cup with West Indies in 2012, has gone on to rejuvenate South Africa’s Test team. Both men show what West Indian coaches are capable of.
“If West Indies do not use local coaches then they do not get much chance to market themselves. Only a few, who live abroad mainly, put themselves up for international consideration by other teams,” notes Roger Harper, who coached West Indies to their most notable Test series victory over a higher-ranked nation this century – the defeat of Sourav Ganguly’s India in 2002.
In the CPL, Harper coached the Guyana Amazon Warriors for four seasons. Three times the team was runner-up, and once it was a semi-finalist. When he left for the 2018 season, Guyana gave South African Johan Botha his first head coaching job, rather than appointing a local.
This points to a broader problem – in the 2018 CPL season, only one side had a West Indian head coach, with Donovan Miller leading the St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots.
Miller is a talented young Caribbean coach who is part of Essex County cricket club. He also made waves as the winning coach of Global T20 Canada with Vancouver Knights.
Other roles include being involved in Andy Flower’s coaching setup for the Rest of World team in their charity game against West Indies last year, and being on the coaching staff of 2016 CPL champions Jamaica Tallawahs and Mzansi Super League champions Jozi Stars.
Why then is he not getting T20 coaching opportunities similar to someone like Tom Moody?
This is not to suggest that foreigners cannot make an impact on West Indies cricket. The work that famous Australian fitness trainer Dennis Waite did with the legendary West Indies teams of the 70s and 80s is well known.
Grave, an Englishman, has been the most professional and competent chief executive in West Indies cricket this millennium. He has constantly made decisions to reintegrate the Windies’ senior T20 stars since his 2017 hiring, only to see the directors and selectors find every reason to stop their recall.
With that snub extending to local coaches, the evidence is overwhelming that West Indian coaches are getting a raw deal, both at home and abroad.