New deal to empower next man in West Indies hot seat

If those back in the Caribbean who are supposed to run West Indies cricket could bring themselves to watch yesterday's depressing happenings at The Oval, they might, just might, have finally recognised that drastic and urgent action is required to avoid further disintegration.

If those back in the Caribbean who are supposed to run West Indies cricket could bring themselves to watch yesterday's depressing happenings at The Oval, they might, just might, have finally recognised that drastic and urgent action is required to avoid further disintegration.

Whether they possess the competence or the will to deliver is another matter. There have been as many embarrassing bungles within the administration in recent times as the proliferation on the field over the first two days of this Test.

Internal power struggles unrelated to the game itself have undermined both the West Indies Cricket Board and several of the individual boards that comprise it. There is a direct correlation between them and performances on the field.

More recently, a militant players' association has been added to the combustible equation, pressing for increased pay and better conditions for all players, not just the élite in the Test team.

Players'complaints after Sir Viv Richards' open and forthright comments on their failures was one of the reasons for the former captain's exit as chairman of selectors prior to this series.

The anguish of Richards, Michael Holding, Ian Bishop and other players from the glorious past has been obvious and understandable in this series.

Yet they have been abused for their views back home by those more concerned with protecting the reputation of captain Brian Lara than West Indies cricket.

No doubt Andy Roberts will be similarly condemned as a traitor for his similarly pessimistic assessment of the future, expressed from Antigua on BBC's Test Match Special yesterday. Roberts said the board has no proper development programme - not in terms of coaching but in promoting the game that is losing support among youth more drawn to the computer arcades of St John's than the game that identifies the West Indies.

The board predictably rejects the charge. More to the point, it recently announced fundamental changes to the management structure of the Test team based on a report by its vice-president, the Anguillan banker, Val Banks.

The most-significant changes relate to the coach and his relationship with the captain and the placing on contract of the best players, a group of up to 20.

Teddy Griffith, the former Barbados and Jamaica batsman who took over from Wes Hall as president last year, said the new scheme had "distinct and discrete roles for the manager, coach, captain and selectors with clear reporting lines and accountability". The head coach would be on a full-time contract, not series-by-series as now. He would be a member of the selection panel - which Gus Logie is not - and have the casting vote with "the principal authority" on the selection of the final XI.

"It follows therefore that he will be accountable for the performance of the team and will be judged accordingly in relation to his contract," Griffith said.

While the captain would lead the team on the field, he would "carry out the strategy and tactics as determined in collaboration with the head coach".

Griffith said there should always be flexibility, but the overall strategies would have been pre-determined and the coach would be implementing them. It is a radical change.

The coach is unlikely to be Logie, the man currently in the role. He took the job last year when Bennett King, head of the Australian Academy, declined it.

Whoever it is - and a foreigner has long since been mooted - he will have a lot on his plate. He will need all the support he can get to help lift the team out of its prolonged mire. And that is the real test.

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