By BASIL SPRINGER
News Americas, BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Weds. Aug. 23, 2023: Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley recently inspired hope and excitement across the region for the revival of West Indies (WI) cricket during the 22nd Annual Frank Worrell Memorial Lecture.
She challenged Cricket West Indies (CWI) to engage in disruptive innovation to build on the core pillars of brand, history, culture, unity, talent and may I add, the spirit of the legendary “Fire in Babylon” film.
In any successful WI cricketing resurgence the following are paramount: (1) robust governance (note that under the existing CWI structure many WI cricket fans are disenfranchised, i.e., they are deprived of the right to vote for the CWI leadership); (2) well-being and sustainability of players and staff; (3) enhancing the overall experience for supporters; (4) access to adequate infrastructure and modern technology; and (5) public and private sponsorship.
A significant driving force behind the revival is a thriving marketing strategy to develop sustainable revenue streams in response to the demand for live cricket, global TV audiences, strategic advertising opportunities for countries (tourism linkages) and businesses (products and services), and attractive membership packages for supporters so as to foster deeper engagement of stakeholders with the iconic WI cricket brand.
The revival extends beyond the men’s cricket team to encompass all aspects of cricket in the Caribbean. Efforts should be made to promote and develop women’s cricket and nurture talent across various age groups. With a plethora of formats available, from the traditional Test matches to the shorter white ball games, the WI cricket revival will cater to diverse cricketing preferences, ensuring a vibrant cricketing ecosystem.
To revive the WI cricketing legacy, a strong emphasis needs to be placed on training across various dimensions. Mental conditioning helps players overcome challenges and perform consistently at the highest level. Physical training enhances fitness, agility, and endurance, enabling players to endure the grueling cricketing calendar. And honing cricketing skills embraces excellence and ensures the team’s competitiveness against the world’s best.
Test cricket began in England in 1877. My grandparents were born around that time. The WI men’s team’s first international test series was in 1928. WI first beat the mother country in Tests (3-1; with no matches drawn) in 1950.
Starting in 1980, the WI team produced a staggering 15-year period of unrivaled Test success, where they went unbeaten in 29 series – winning 20 and drawing nine. Between 1982 and 1986, they were good enough to reel off seven straight series victories. The WI cricket brand was stellar.
Since then, there has been a steady decline culminating with the devastating reality that the WI team, two-time champions in 1975 and 1979 and finalists in 1983, did not qualify for the 2023 ODI World Cup for the first time in the history of the tournament and is struggling in all formats of the game.
PM Mottley stated that she could not snap her fingers and say like Bob Marley, “everything’s going to be alright. Wishing and wanting will not be enough, what is needed is a change by CWI in the governance model.”
I support PM Mottley’s call.
There are six territorial organizations which constitute CWI, associated with Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Trinidad & Tobago and the Windward Islands. The Barbados Cricket Association is an entity set up by an Act of Parliament in 1933 to administer cricket in Barbados. These six organizations need to be replaced by an “International CWI Club”, say, to administer cricket in the Caribbean.
The logical next step is for CWI to meet with the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Cricket to prepare a scope of work and hire an appropriate team of West Indian organizational change consultants (from home and abroad) to design and implement a WI cricket revival strategy.
It’s time to change our strategy in order for everything to be alright.