A response to Sir Vivian Richards observations on West Indies Cricket Pitches

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Dear Editor

Recently we wrote to you describing West Indies myopic view of itself as an organisation. Following the publication of the letter, we have received nearly 455 responses via phone messages, text, email and social media shares. The letter was only published 20 January 2022. We believe that is a good indication that the letter was having the intended effect.

As such, we I will use this opportunity to highlight a few other issues that are constantly being discussed in rum shops, cricket grounds, on social media, amongst friends, professionals and fans.

First, I want to respond to Viv Richards portrayal of the organisation’s failure. I am confident that Viv did not intend to criticise the West Indies Cricket Board for their failure to monitor, supervise, evaluate and recommend necessary as actions to improve the pitch conditions. Yes, he suggested that the problem NOW, is that our wickets are the REASON we are not performing. I wonder how Jimmy Adams and company feels about Viv’s comments. I am equally confident they are angry as hell about Richard’s observation and wish he had not said those things.

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What do you think is going on here? Sounds like Viv is blaming the men who prepare the wickets. One cannot blame the low-level grounds keepers for preparing bad pitches. Infact preparing pitches is a science and requires significant knowledge and experience. Curators they are called, and countries like England hires only the best in the business. Here is a look at what a a Curator must know: type of soil on the wicket; the nature or composition of such soil; is it pure silt? Dirt? Black, red or blue? He must also know other characteristics associated with mixing water, or growing grass on the surface. He would have had experience about the soil’s ability to retain moisture under various conditions. For example, how much moisture will this wicket retain during the course of the game? Can players expect the pitch to completely dry out in the first hour? Or will the players find the ball turning in the second half? Other knowledge a grounds man must have includes WATERING, soaking, and seeding the soil for grass. And when watering the wicket, a curator must follow specific formulas that maximise a combination of soil, water, sunshine, humidity, and rolling. Thus knowing the composition of soil is critical. Which rollers to use for maximum effect. Curators of golf courses are similarly trained and educated so that they can deliver the best conditions on the golf course, that often resembles the surface of a pool table. In golf there is a formula to calculate how fast or slow a gold ball will roll on the green. Finally, Curators in top cricketing nations are paid handsome salaries in exchange for the years of experience and education.

Let’s compare how our people of the Caribbean stack up against their English counter parts. Or perhaps we should just let the reader explore that for themselves. My observations about ground staff in the Caribbean is that most of the staff are running onto the field BAREFOOTED, or pants torn, cut, ragged clothes some with rubber slippers. Is this an indication of how we treat our grounds people? Do these images not convey that they are poorly paid? Do these images convey a sense of professionalism like the English who are in uniform? My observation leads to this question: Where are these individuals coming from? Have they been handpicked from bystanders on the street corner to come and do a days work? I cannot imagine they are part of an organized team of grounds staff, could they?

Following these observations, the readers will then ask “what is the structure of the ground staff? Who is the director? Who supervises the director? Does he have a job description? Education and experience requirements outlined? What are the accountabilities and deliverables he is responsible for? If so what are the expectations in terms of creating a playing surface that ensures satisfaction from both teams. Again, I focus on standards and benchmarking to evaluate these performances. Are we even aware that such metrics exist and can be used in monitoring day to day operations? My bet is that he is contractor to the West Indian organization? I will examine how we select curators below.

If I was Viv Richards I would have had intimate knowledge how the West Indies goes about hiring and selecting people for managing the cricket grounds. Notice Richards only touched the surface by sharing his view of the issue. Why has he not shed any light on who’s is responsible for the failure? I would have preferred to hear him say that West Indies do not have any formal requirements for identifying nor selecting individuals for managing grounds and preparing wickets. Equally true is that nowhere in the region do we have the selection criteria for local club grounds.

To suggest the wickets are not prepared properly also SUGGESTS THAT West Indies management is ultimately responsible. Yes, or no? Ask yourself, if you have a gardener who is doing a bad job with your lawn will you continue to use him? Or if you do decide to hire someone new, I am sure you would explain that the previous gardener did a bad job, morever, you would ESTABLISH SPECIFIC EXPECTATIONS, or deliverables, before hiring the new guy, correct?

According to Mr. Richards and several others like the incoming Chairman of selection for Guyana cricket, Rabindranaught Seeram, they to share this ill conceived notion that poor wickets are the main cause for poor performances. In a video conference call last week with Mr. Seeram and he was unable to elaborate on the root causes for bad wickets. Like Richards, Seeram had no solution to the problem. It is not clear how and why prominent individuals continue to identify problems of the West Indies cricket, but do not offer solutions. Is that not a strange thing?

For 30 years, the West Indies organization have been doling out high level positions to notable individuals because of their cricket history, but NOT because they KNOW HOW TO DO THE JOB. WE continue to see individuals given responsibilities in management without any management education or experience. Most embarrassing is that majority of these individuals cannot communicate effectively when pushed by the press for answers. And in those roles, their lack of education and experience quickly begins to show.

In the absence of any policies or protocols for identifying, selecting and recruiting qualified curators, it is easy to “slip” the contract to friends of friends, men who are prominent in the communities, business associates. This I am afraid is the root of this problem: validating, and verifying their ACTUAL EXPERIENCE in grounds management. Instead, we get “business man” with access to a lawn mover, some weed wackers. He manages to do a good job with the bush and tall grass grounds and is soon rewarded with and expanded role in the overall maintenance of the ground. I want to remind your reader that cutting grass completely different from that of a curator. But who cares right? Give di man di job! Now you see where the real problem originated. Unfortunately, Mr. weed wacker man knows nothing about pitch preparation. He heard that “ all yu gatto do is wata di ting and roll it”. Remember what curators need to know to deliver excellent cricket pitches?

Now you know why our pitches are not meeting international standards. Mr. weed wacker knows nothing about soil composition, moisture and evaporation, nor how humidity and weather conditions, drainage and irrigation affect the preparation of a good cricket pitch. In management, one walks around to learn what the workers are thinking, feeling. When does West Indies management get involve at the granular level to evaluate the pitch problem they have known about so long? Have you ever seen a team of management experts at your local ground talking to ground staff? No. Sitting in your offices and staring at the lovely ocean will NOT deliver the information that will lead to change.

And speaking of change, to regain the support of millions of fans, West Indies management MUST change from inside out. Resignations should be pouring in, or heads rolling. Competent people who care about our cricket are out there. Find them. Its time to end this global embarrassment. Let new people establish management standards, policies, protocols that drives accountability and improved Performance. Begin to tie performance at every level with compensation. Team failures means management failure.

Finally, we must stop placing blame, for players are only a partially responsible for any success or failure. Statisticians, analyst, psychologist, coaches and captain MUST ALL TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for their own jobs. Everyone mentioned here plays a part in the end result.

Respectfully,
Gopaul. S Rampersaud



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