The tip of an ugly iceberg

Thu, Aug 9, '07

 

Bennett King by PETER MONTGOMERY

Slowly, but not surprisingly, the truth is beginning to rise to the top.

The stories circulating about Bennett King's poor man-management and abusive approach to coaching come as no surprise to people close to the West Indies team. The sad thing is that King's departure has not stopped the negativity. In many respects, things have actually gotten worse.



King has left the scene but the work environment within the team has not gotten any better under his right hand man and now head coach David Moore. If anything it has worsened considerably and is now fully endorsed by the team manager and the WICB.

The players will tell you that prior to leaving for England a few months ago they were all called to a meeting in Barbados where the former manager of the team, Tony Howard, and now a senior operations official at the WICB offices used very strong language to threaten and virtually abuse them. It is a meeting which incensed the players but they did not make an issue of it. Things obviously boiled over during the tour and ultimately resulted in Chris Gayle taking a stand.

[ SEE: Marlon Samuels accuses coach of discrimination ]

Howard as he had done with the West Indies A Team in Sri Lanka in 2005 issued outright threats and abusive language to the players at the meeting. He barked and lorded it to the players as if they were criminals while at the same time ignoring the legendary incompetence of the WICB itself. It is a worrying pattern for anyone who is supposed to be in charge of men for a substantial period of time.

Worse is that his abusive language came at the same time he spoke of the need for professionalism by the team yet a few weeks later the same manager was unable to book flights early enough for the players to have arrived in England to play a crucial match and at the end of the tour left the players stranded in London for several days resulting in a waste of scarce WICB finances.

And it was this same manager who allowed Bennett King to get away with the abuse of players. Never once did he report any incident to the WICB. When the players informed various directors of the WICB of what was occurring on tour they were viewed with suspicion by the directors who informed them that the manager did not include any such incidents in his reports therefore no action could be taken against King or his team. In the eyes of the directors, the players were seen to be telling fibs.

[ SEE: Gayle refuses to apologise, faces censure ]

It is no secret that the current coach abused several players including both captains who took over from Sarwan during the England tour. Not only was he allowed to continue without reprimand with this abusive behavior but his actions were fully supported by the current team manager Mike Findlay and endorsed by the former manager Howard, who had told the players at the meeting in Barbados that they will not be allowed to object to anything imposed upon them by the team management. Moore has developed an authoritarian regime and his slogan is "everything is non-negotiable, do as you are told and shut up, I run this show."

This may be a feasible approach for a competent coach but not for one who is so clueless about cricket that he put his psychologist, who has no knowledge of cricket, to run the net sessions while he walks around the field chatting with fans. Worse Moore's contribution at team meetings is negligible, he has no advice, guidance or strategies to offer to the players leaving them at sea on the field.

The stories of the players, confirmed separately by other players, are so remarkable, they are shocking. It is as if the WICB has begun to run an almost slave-like operation. The players have no say, are consulted on nothing and are lorded upon without any recourse to objection. It is no surprise that Dinanath Ramnarine had to be as vigilant and militant as he has had to be. The man is fighting against the plantation mentality still firmly entrenched at the WICB.

[ SEE: WIPA: Findlay approved Gayle's criticisms ]

And this continues silently with the players being very afraid to comment publicly on it for the fear of removing bread from their table. Findlay's approach has not differed little from the previous manager. The most shocking episode was the Chris Gayle comment which Findlay is reported to have approved only to later allow Ken Gordon, the then president, to reprimand Gayle and demand an apology.

Had Findlay been a strong manager who served the best interest of the men he was employed to manage he would have said to Gordon that Gayle followed procedure and that it was he, Findlay, who approved his comments therefore it was he Findlay who ought to take the blame and have apologized if the president so desired.

Instead to protect himself, he deflected the situation, and hung Gayle out to dry.

Findlay demonstrated weakness and cowardice and it will be nigh impossible for him to command the respect of the players. The players already view him as a 'security guard' manager who is always on the phone to Gordon reporting on everything and anything that occurs while neglecting his duties.

Why he was not on the phone to Gordon asking for advice on approving Gayle's forthright column is anyone's guess. If there was ever a time that he really needed to consult Gordon, it was then, yet he did not and managed to get off relatively unscathed.

As there has been no talk of any new coach or manager it would appear as though the WICB is intent on making no changes. The new president, Julian Hunte, should realize quickly that the West Indies team urgently needs a competent coach who can command the respect of the players, not one who bullies, abuses and lords over the players as Moore has done having been groomed by King.

The manager too needs to be firm but fair and act in the best interest of the men he manages, ensuring that they are as comfortable as is possible. The current manager is more like a snitch who disappears for lengthy periods as the 'su su' with the boys back home who put him in place exactly for that purpose.

Worse, at critical times when the team needs him to sort out travel and other arrangements Findlay has quickly developed a reputation for disappearing and leaving this to Moore and other members of the team management.

Changes must be made not only at the WICB offices but also at the team management.