Johnny Grave | Getting back to the top of world cricket
The following is part one of a two-part article. Part two will be published tomorrow.
As the chief executive officer of Cricket West Indies, I head back to England for the Test series after six months into his role. I must admit that work so far "is not hugely apparent" to most Caribbean cricket fans. And yet, after years of politicking, and interminable rowing between the board and players, it is possible to see the contours of a new age for Caribbean cricket; one in which the Windies will focus on external foes - their opponents on the pitch - rather than internal struggles. And one in which in which Caribbean cricketing success is not confined to Twenty20.
Since taking over as chief executive, the West Indies Cricket Board has been rebranded as Cricket West Indies; bought the old Stanford ground in Antigua to establish a new world-class high performance centre; secured US$48 million funding increase from the ICC compared to the previously agreed 2016-23 funding model. Perhaps most notably of all, we have agreed on a temporary amnesty with the players over eligibility criteria, ending the self-defeating rule that only those who played in the domestic 50-over competition could be considered for the national team.
We intend to cement this gain by agreeing new white-ball contracts with limited-overs specialists, which could be signed by the end of September. Before then, limited-overs specialists previously not considered eligible in ODI, including some or all of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine - are expected to be picked for the ODI series in England. Perhaps then, the depressing cycle - of the team being formidable in the WT20, when at full-strength, but meek outside it, when devoid of their globe-trotting superstars - can begin to be broken.
At this stage, we're just a month away from taking the deal to our board of directors for sign-off. We'll, hopefully, be able to announce those at the end of September after our September board meeting. Having more flexible contracts for our players that reflect the different formats of the game and the new opportunities for players from the T20 leagues is important - England were the first to go down that route and it's only natural that we and other boards would follow.
The same basic principle will apply: that we want to incentivise our players to play Test cricket. Our Test players will have less opportunities to play in and earn from the domestic T20 leagues, so we need to compensate them for that by giving them higher retainer contracts, and we also need to contract our white-ball cricketers in order to incentivise them to play ODI cricket, as our ODI schedule will also clash with some T20 leagues, too. Whether, in practice, all West Indies white-ball players will now be available for every bilateral fixture - especially as many have multi-year contacts in foreign T20 tournaments that will clash with future international matches - remains unclear. But even having them available for some would be a significant start.
We have to be the most efficient cricket board in the world due to our geography and the fact that we are a popular tourist destination. Poor scheduling, or late scheduling, you're probably talking not just a few dollars here and there in increased flights and hotel costs alone, but thousands of dollars or even millions. So where we play our cricket, when we play, how early we can book, how we procure all the facilities and services needed to play international and regional cricket, which are now vast, are critically important - practice and playing facilities remain "a big challenge".
We're never going to be as sophisticated, and be able to invest as much, as England, Australia and India, but at the same time, we can do the basic and simple things brilliantly. If we do that with the natural talent that we've got, and the fact that we can play cricket all year round, I genuinely think that we can go back to being one of the best sides in the world across all three formats.
As we embark on devising a new strategic plan for Cricket West Indies that will set out our objectives and priorities between 2018-2023, we want our supporters to rally 'round the Windies and partner with us, along with our players, officials, staff, fans, media and sponsors, as we strive to rebuild and get back to the top of world cricket.
- Johnny Grave is the chief executive officer of Cricket West Indies.