By John L. Aaron
The recent appointment of Clive Lloyd as Convener of Selectors for the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was met with some degree of skepticism, and understandably so, because of the depth of the doldrums occupied by West Indies cricket over the past three decades. However, it would be fair to say that the appointment of the most successful West Indies captain; was also applauded by many, including his peers and those who enjoyed the glory years when the West Indies dominated world cricket.
Those doubting the appointment of Clive Lloyd would help West Indies once again rise to the top, may be basing their skepticism on the fact that West Indies cricket is so far near the bottom of the top ten Test-playing nations, that even the great Clive Hubert Lloyd cannot execute any Houdini tricks to rescue Windies cricket. And that may be true, if their conclusions are based on short term gains.
The appointment of Clive Lloyd to a management position with West Indies cricket is a long overdue investment, as is the recognition and appointment of so many others who have contributed so much, in return for so little. Lloyd’s appointment is hopefully indicative of the vision of the new West Indies President Dave Cameron, who has seen it fit to facilitate the appointment of such an erstwhile son of the Caribbean. To understand the enigma that is Clive Lloyd is to understand the persona that is West Indies cricket.
Windies cricket has long been the surviving source of unity within the Caribbean, as no other phenomenon in sports or politics, has managed to serve as the bonding glue that is cricket to the Caribbean. Lloyd’s appointment, given his history of understanding the multi-faceted culture that is West Indies cricket on so many levels, is possibly the one factor that may once again be the wind beneath the wings of Windies cricket, and the fragrance that wins the hearts and minds, once again, of those fans in and outside of the Caribbean.
Lloyd’s ability to coalesce a disparate group of marauders of the 70s sans peg legs and one-eyed patches has been well documented. Those pirates led by a four-pronged pace attack went plundering around the cricketing globe in search of fame, fans and fortune. Although not necessarily in that order, the group known for its fiery pace with both bat and ball, won many hearts while viscerally dissecting others. That group of cricketers had the utmost respect and admiration for the man who was in the captain’s chair. But Lloyd was more than a mere captain; he was a cricketer, a diplomat, an ambassador, a mentor, a guidance counselor, and a whole lot more to so many grown men. It was an era of Windies cricket that ruled from the simple philosophy of loyalty – to the team, region, and cause of cricket.
Will Lloyd’s appointment simply as Chief Selector bring about a winning attitude to Windies cricket? Hardly likely, however, he does have the support of another visionary, WICB President Dave Cameron, who appears bent on effecting change. That coupled with Lloyd’s can-do attitude, his astute knowledge of the sport, in depth knowledge of the persona of the West Indian cricketer, his knowledge and contacts within the international cricket community, and his innate ability to mold the minds of young up and coming cricketers, while carving excellence out of them, are the ingredients of a successful sojourn as Convener of Selectors; and then some.
The conventional role of Chief Selector is to coordinate the efforts of the group of selectors and to face-the-music or jubilation of unworthy or worthy selections, respectively. However, it is hoped that Lloyd’s role is a much more expansive one than that of a mere Convener. The WICB should exploit Lloyd’s ability to the fullest, by allowing him to nurture, develop and cultivate West Indies cricket back to a semblance of respectability in the cricketing community of the world. That respect and respectability begins now, under Lloyd’s tenure as the architect of the redevelopment of Windies cricket. He has the tools and the charisma to accomplish so much, albeit over an extended period of time. We cannot expect him to turn things around with one cricket tour or one season of cricket, or one two-year term as Convener of Selectors.
According to Lloyd, Windies batsmen need to bat ugly, and in the parlance of today’s youth, ugly is handsome. To bat handsomely, one must relish one’s time as a batsman in the middle, and demonstrate the focus necessary to unselfishly score runs and maintain one’s loyalty to team and region. The psychological phenomena behind loyalty will be challenged by the socio-economic constraints of today’s marketplace and the workplace environment within the cricketing communities. Left to Lloyd and the Windies Board, the carrot and stick method will be challenged, so it is imperative that a new culture of loyalty be redefined and nurtured, while the focus is on the youth and rising stars within Windies cricket.
Part of Lloyd’s mission should be to convince the next generation of Windies cricketers that being paid US$750K to play in the IPL or similar tournaments is as important as donning the maroon cap of Windies cricket and representing the nation that is the Caribbean region. Until such time, putting the wind and win back in Windies cricket will be scrutinized, praised and criticized. However, the task is in the hands of the right man to navigate the challenging tides ahead, as much as an experienced glass-bottomed boat captain of the Caribbean can navigate the beautiful but sometimes dangerous coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea.
It appears as though Clive Lloyd is already looking ahead to the next wave of players emerging from the domestic pool in the Caribbean. If so, the timing is right for the change with Lloyd at the helm of selectors. Clive Lloyd has a keen eye for young talent, and no doubt has already begun to look ahead of the current list of high-profile, highly-paid players representing the West Indies. He has been a strong advocate of developing a domestic product that ensures a pool of players from which to select. That augurs well for all those aspiring young tall fast bowlers, focused batsmen, and mystery spinners.
Two years is not enough time to reengage a culture, develop talent and get back into the winning columns against the upper crust of the top ten Test-playing nations, but it’s a start and hopefully the wind blows favorably in the direction of Windies cricket.
Dave Cameron, as the head of WICB cricket must ensure that Lloyd’s tenure as Convener of Selectors is unhindered and managed outside the boundaries of politics and regional insularity, if both Lloyd and he are expected to leave a legacy of accomplishments in West Indies cricket.
Clive Hubert Lloyd is the captain, Convener of Selectors, and visionary to put the wind and wins back in Windies cricket. The Caribbean region must rally behind the Supercat and Windies cricket.