The West Indies will stage an ICC event for the first time since the 2018 women’s T20 World Cup while the USA is set to host a global tournament for the first time.
In this chat with Sportstar, Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Ricky Skerritt, part of ICC’s hosting sub-committee, explains why the USA was chosen as co-host for the 2024 men’s T20 World Cup, the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on CWI, and the challenges facing Caribbean cricket.
West Indies is set to host a major ICC event after a long time. Your thoughts on the joint bid with the USA and how big is it for the game going forward?
This decision by ICC to allocate the 2024 event to the joint hosting by CWI and USA Cricket is huge for the game, and an excellent opportunity on all fronts for both West Indies and USA cricket. In years to follow, hopefully this event will be looked back on as an historic step for cricket in North America especially.
Did the Olympics play a role in choosing the USA as a co-host?
The short answer is that it did not play a major role, but it was possibly in the backdrop to alerting ICC Board decision-makers that it is time for ICC to step up action in the Americas.
Last one and a half years have been tough on the sport, both on and off the field. What impact did the pandemic have on Cricket West Indies?
The Covid-19 pandemic has traumatised our regional and domestic cricket more than most people understand. Fortunately, CWI was innovative and bold in making appropriate adjustments to get our international cricket jump-started, but I must admit that there were times, in the first six months of the pandemic, when frustration was at the highest possible level and cash for operations had run out. The cost and logistic challenges for selecting, preparing and mobilising our international teams have continued to be humongous.
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One of the obvious changes during your term as president is that you seem to have all the players available again. That should have been a big boost.
That was a fairly simple implementation of a change from a negative policy which had never been actually formalised at the Board level. So it was relatively easy to reverse that policy to open selection to all cricketers, as it should be. Unfortunately, the animosity, insularity, and divisiveness that had been caused by the previous treatment of some of those players, still lingers within our system two years later. Rebuilding the much needed unity, trust and togetherness at the Board, and in the cricket system, are still among our biggest hurdles.
The men’s team has been a bit inconsistent in Tests, hasn’t it? And what are your thoughts on the team’s recent Twenty20 World Cup performance?
Just two years ago, West Indies men’s teams were ranked No. 10 in T20, No. 9 in ODI and No. 8 in Tests. That was after going through 15 coaches, 18 captains and dozens of new players, in the previous 20 years. Obviously our team results hadn’t dropped to such low levels overnight, and they were never going to turn around quickly. The Vice President and I were elected on a promise to change the culture of CWI and our team performances in 2 to 5 years. The recent World Cup under-performance by our team reminds us that even with the inclusion of more experienced players, changing a losing culture does not happen overnight or during competition, especially in the midst of such a stifling Pandemic. Our on-field results will get better, but all of us must first do a better job of learning from our mistakes and benchmarking our performances. Sadly, some regional decision-makers and pundits still believe today that all West Indies needs to do is to select ‘their’ right players and to hire the ‘right’ foreign coach(es).
West Indies players have often addressed wider issues in the game, like their stand pertaining to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Your thoughts on what the sport can do more and better to address the blight of racism?
Cricket West Indies has a proud history of pioneering and highlighting such a key issue as racism in world cricket. My predecessors fought many years ago against apartheid, and several of our top players were punished by what was then WICB, for breaking the international ban on our cricketers playing in South Africa. It wasn’t by accident that we were the pioneers last year, in our first overseas tour during the pandemic, to respect and acknowledge the racism-related concerns as first promoted then by the BLM movement. We were the first cricket team to “take the knee” and put a printed tribute on our shirt collars.
Is there one message you would like to give to West Indies fans around the world?
My message has been consistent from day one of the election of Dr Shallow (vice-president) and myself. All West Indies fans have the right to demand and expect improving results. But West Indies cricket needs to change from a culture that has propagated waste, negativity and decline, to one which produces excellence, pride and togetherness. The process of culture change has begun, but we need the support and involvement of all stake-holders at all levels, and on all fronts. As we move forward, I sincerely believe West Indian cricket supporters and administrators can agree to disagree without stooping to the lowest lows of insularity and pettiness. Only then will sustainability be achieved.