West Indies Cricket is in better shape administratively, Russel’s selection is a matter of Selection Panel: Rickey Skerritt, President, CWI

Pursuit of reincarnation! T20 World Cup 2022 is right around the corner and the two-time world champions, West Indies are yet to find their momentum. While many teams have completed their litmus tests with players and are letting them hone their skills, West Indies is still struggling to extract the desired results for the marquee tournament.

The recent confession from head coach Phil Simmons about the unavailability of the senior players has added more woes to the already battered West Indies Cricket. The prevailing issues have largely challenged the stature of West Indies cricket and their performances in recently concluded bilateral contests. However, Mr. Rickey Skerritt, President, Cricket West Indies believes his national cricket team is in pursuit of success and good days are ahead. In a candid conversation with The Quotes, Skerritt spoke in depth about the ongoing issues with West Indies cricket, the proliferation of T20 leagues around the world and expectations from the T20 World Cup. Excerpts of the conversation.

West Indies players dominate T20 leagues like the IPL, The Hundred, Pakistan Super League and are expected to have similar impact in the upcoming league like UAE T20 IL and the South African league. Their availability for their franchises over their national commitments is a prevailing issue. As the President of the board, what do you think is the main reason behind the situation and how do you plan to resolve it?

West Indian cricketers have always been heavily sought-after on the world stage. When we ruled the world in red-ball cricket, the English County Championship and League teams around England included the best West Indian players. Similarly, more West Indians are being drafted today by local leagues than from any other regions, including the IPL. The fact is that Cricket has evolved into a truly global sports and entertainment industry.

We can bury our heads in the sand or we can be an active part of making it happen more beneficially to all parties. We have chosen the latter and are proud of our cricketers and other professionals who are participating successfully on and off the field.

CWI is taking up the challenge to grow our pool of motivated players. We simply must improve the timing and quality of our own home-based leagues to ensure that the technical and commercial benefits are realised by all stakeholders.

ICC tournament is just a couple of months away and the team is yet to show positive signs as witnessed by the whitewash against India, 2-1 lost vs New Zealand at the home turf. Head coach admitting that he is helpless as few players have made themselves unavailable for the selection has added more woes to the situation. At the helm of the administration, how do you perceive this challenge in West Indies cricket?

You may have forgotten that we beat England and Bangladesh in T20 clashes earlier before we faced India and New Zealand, two of the very top teams. We have a young but promising T20 team which is building towards the tournament down in Australia. I am confident that we have several potentially world class players who will be eager to perform on the world stage. West Indies has a very good record in the ICC T20 World Cup since it started in 2007, and the players are aware of the legacy which they carry and the responsibility to those they represent. Hopefully all of our best players will be injury free, and ready for performing at their best. West Indies Cricket is in better shape administratively than it has ever been and there is good reason to be optimistic for the future on all fronts.

Andre Russel has recently claimed that he aspires to win the World Cup for West Indies, but mentioned about ‘certain terms,’ which are creating differences with the board. What were those terms? What would be your message to Andre Russel?

I am sure we can agree that there is no individual who, on his own, can win a World Cup. Andre Russel started his journey to professional success at home where he is still greatly loved, and West Indian fans are proud of his numerous achievements both with and outside of the West Indies team.

In the final analysis, any speculation on his selection for the West Indies team is ultimately a matter for our knowledgeable and experienced Selection Panel.

Women’s cricket made a sensational entry into the Commonwealth Games. Barbados women made headlines after Deandra Dottin announced retirement midway the Games by claiming ‘not so healthy environment’ in the dressing room. What was the whole story?

The Barbados women’s team did a very commendable job when they played recently as the West Indies’ ‘representative’ at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. They were very ably led by Hayley Matthews, the new West Indies captain, and they played every match with bright smiles and were tremendous ambassadors for their country and the entire region.

I have been assured by all concerned that the current West Indies Women’s team culture is positive and growing in the right direction. We are fortunate to have someone of the enormous stature, knowledge, and experience of Courtney Walsh, guiding our women’s programme. Our women’s cricket is now receiving more investment and support than ever before, and the results are already emerging.  

The Caribbean Premier League is about to commence at the end of this month but there is hardly any buzz in the media regarding the league. Do you think CPL is lagging, amidst growing popularity of IPL, and other leagues?

Our new ‘6ixty’ T10 product has just climaxed into a most exciting and memorable finish. It is being followed shortly by the CPL which is one of the most well-liked and respected T20 Leagues globally. Fans in the Caribbean and around the world are always excited when CPL comes around as it brings out the most amazing cricket performances and is a spectator experience like no other.

I have no doubt that the excitement will heat up quickly as soon as the action gets started. CPL is known as “the greatest party in sport” for a good reason. As you know the concept of “party” and “fete” at cricket started right here in the West Indies. It is now 10 years of a rich history since the CPL started, and that’s a milestone to be celebrated.

What is your understanding on the local T20 Leagues affecting international contests?

Affecting or complementing? That’s the question. We have seen the effect of the T20 format on the way other formats are played with a faster scoring rate and batting innovations like the “scoop” and reverse sweep. But generally, there has been more entertainment for the fans which at the end of the day matters most.

Cricket at its best is artistry, but it is also entertainment, and we must offer a right mix for our paying patrons and those watching at home and following on their devices.

We recently saw the unveiling of the ICC’s Future Tours Programmes for Men’s and Women’s cricket for the next cycle. On this note we have been able to secure full windows for the IPL and the CPL for our players as we try to find the balance between our international commitments and the emerging earning opportunities for our players from other domestic leagues. There is no easy solution to achieving the desired cricketing balance and financial sustainability in T20 cricket.

How do you see the West Indies’ title chances in T20 World Cup?

The T20 World Cup is the biggest event on the cricket calendar this year and we should all have high expectations. I expect us to deliver a fit and well-prepared team with a hunger for success, and players eager to do well for themselves and their team-mates, and keen to put their best efforts forward for their loyal and dedicated supporters.

As you are aware CWI are the joint-hosts with the USA for the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup, and it would be fantastic if we can put on a good show in Australia which would kick-start momentum as we prepare to invite fans from all over the world to our shores for a memorable T20 event in two years’ time.

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