Former Director blazes WICB over Simmons’ sacking
By Avenash Ramzan
Former West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Director, Claude Raphael, says the sacking of Head Coach Phil Simmons clearly illustrates the uncaring attitude of an incompetent and dictatorial board, blinded by its penchant for vindictiveness.
In an exclusive interview with News Room on Tuesday, he also spoke of the need for intervention of a “united CARICOM” in helping to save West Indies cricket.
Simmons was fired as Head Coach last week by the WICB, after initially serving a suspension last year for comments he made regarding outside interference with team selection.
While Raphael, who served as a WICB Director from 2007 to 2009, is disappointed by Simmons’ removal from the post, he is not at all surprised.
“The West Indies Cricket Board has been advocating their success- winning three titles- the only board in the world that has three titles (that’s out of the mouth of the president himself) and you would want, to my mind, ride on that and move forward rather that getting rid of a man that has been making so much of a contribution and assisting in that process. And Simmons has proven his worth as coach of the West Indies team and I’m very, very disappointed that they have asked him to go. My take on the whole thing is that it has nothing to do with his ability,” Raphael asserted.
Subsequent to Simmons’ sacking, the board, through Chief Executive Officer, Michael Muirhead, issued a statement, giving what Raphael deemed an excuse rather than a reason for the dismissal. Simmons’ vision did not “align” with the strategic approach of the WICB, Muirhead explained.
Muirhead said, “The coach has an opinion and the board collectively had another opinion, and that had happened on more than one occasion.”
Commenting on that statement, Raphael stated, “But I think they’re two different functions, two different roles. The board has its own strategic macro plan and that must be premised on winning and the success of West Indies cricket, both administratively and on the field. And if Simmons’ role is the on-the-field success and that has been making strides, it’s contradictory and to my mind very illogical for the CEO to come out and make that, what I consider an excuse rather than a reason for getting rid of Simmons.”
Raphael further divulged the reason for him not being surprised by the position the board took regarding the matter.
“Because I recognise over the last two years or so there has been a play by the administration at trying to win support for its continuity, amidst all the critiques that they were having from all these great luminaries of the Caribbean about the necessary reformation of the West Indies Cricket Board and restricting it,” Raphael reasoned.
He continued, “And I suspect and recognise that the administration is making sure that it entrenches itself by making these chess moves so that they can place themselves in a position where, come next year when the elections are due, they would have the right people to support their cause and not the people to support cricket’s cause. So they’re getting rid of all the cricket people so that they remain in charge, notwithstanding all that has been said over the past few years of so.”
Raphael, who has been involved in cricket administration since 1983, also endorsed the view that CARICOM’s intervention is necessary to save West Indies cricket.
“Ideally, you want a cricket board that is fluid, and that you can have interaction within it and people will agree, people will disagree. But at some point in time in the interest of a game that unifies Caribbean people you’d want to have them move in a particular direction so that the game will prosper. The fact that some many greats, so many knowledgables, so many luminaries from the Caribbean diaspora have decided that the cricket needs restructuring- it is to be reformed [because] in its present form it is not doing good for the cricket and development of our young people and offering them the best opportunity- given those comments from the quality of people, I’m surprised we’re still at this stage. The governments of the Caribbean and CARICOM as a whole have been unable to do anything about it, and it’s really depressing,” Raphael explained.
Committees’ recommendations ignored
The former Guyana Cricket Board’s Chairman of Selectors made reference to the many committees that were set up to look into West Indies cricket, yet none of their recommendations were ever instituted.
“Every committee said there must a restructuring and reformation of West Indies cricket, and they recommended how it could be done. But the West Indies Cricket Board doesn’t feel it must be done, and for some reason that I really can’t explain the heads of the various governments within CARICOM seem to be unable to unite in a fashion that would keep unity in West Indies cricket; the same unity that they’re asking the players to play for and to operate within,” Raphael observed.
He also shared his thoughts on what seems to be preventing CARICOM and the WICB from reaching common grounds in the interest of the sport in the Caribbean.
“Well simply because the West Indies Cricket Board does not want to compromise. They do not want reformation. They feel comfortable in their zone of operation, not regarding the care or concern of the people as to whether cricket prospers or develops or not. The CARICOM personalities that are involved seem to be at conflict with each other and to my mind have been unable to put the necessary pressure on the West Indies Cricket Board to ensure that the reformation that is necessary comes about,” he opined.
Further, Raphael called for a “united CARICOM”, pointing that the WICB may very well be a more powerful force than the regional grouping at this point.
“Well it seems so, from all indications, although it not ought to be. But you see the WICB has established itself as a private entity, so they feel within themselves they can do no wrong and nobody can touch them; they’re untouchables. But to my mind, the power is in the hands of a united CARICOM and as long as the leaders decide that they want this cricket to prosper and they want to have the restructuring that everybody else expect the West Indies Cricket Board sees as necessary, until they do that and recognise that and decide to act on that we will be in the same position. I’m sure the governments and CARICOM could do something.”
Cover photo caption: Former WICB Director Claude Raphael being interviewed by News Room’s Avenash Ramzan on Tuesday