'I Just Couldn't do it Anymore'
Mon, Jul 10, '06
MICHELLE McDONALD interviews RICKY SKERRITT
MM: So what was it that put you to that, because it couldn't have been just that one incident?
RS: Remember, we had just come from South Africa and Zimbabwe. The back biting on that tour was constant, and I was tired and this was just the first Test match against England [at Sabina Park] and, as usual, there was a last minute preparation caused by WICB indecision about the camp and ending the regional league.
Also you had a captain and coach who were not on the same wavelength, had not been for nearly a year. It was a whole bunch of different things. There was deep division within the team, caused by a cliquism that was developing which I had not seen so bad for over three years.
It was...Let's just say the environment...I felt as if there was an uncontrollable decline in the environment, for want of a better term.
As Manager, don't you think you think you had a contribution in that decline? What could you have done to prevent that decline?
I had spent my entire tenure as Manager managing conflict and fighting fires within the team, but it had never been between Coach and Captain, two powerful and influential people who did not really report to me in our Management structure. That's the point, because it was happening around me in the management team and I was being blamed for it.
We had a retreat, we went down to Trinidad I brought in a sports psychologist down there, and we tried to resolve the finger pointing. It's kind of difficult when you...it's not as if I am having a war with somebody, it is other people having war with each other. I was the United Nations peace negotiator.
Then as Manager, you must be the mediator...
Well, I tell you, that is what I am saying. I was tired of it, I wasn't motivated to do it on my own anymore; I just could not do it anymore. I was fatigued. I felt as if I couldn't do this anymore, and when I saw the team collapse on the field to a low level that I had not seen for over two years, I knew where it was coming from. To me, it was almost as if there were certain people in the team trying to sabotage the captain.
So you are saying it wasn't a bad pitch, or that Steve Harmison was just not so good?
I am not a technical expert in cricket and I have never seen the coach's report on that performance because I left the team a few days after and I wasn't privy to the coach's report at the end of the tour. Harmison bowled well but I don't believe the team should have made 47. It wasn't the first time this team had been bowled out for under 100, but it hadn't happened for a long time. Remember this same team had made 300+ against Harmison in the first innings, so I just knew where this was coming from.
And the irony is that, two days later, when I had already drafted my letter of resignation, when we were travelling down to Trinidad, the [then] Chairman of the Cricket World Cup Rawle Branker, a personal friend of the President of the WICB, had a big headline in the Barbados papers, 'Skerritt must go'. He was really saying that the whole management team must go, because if a team makes 47 that is a reflection of the management team and the management must go.
What he didn't know was that I had already resigned, but of course nobody else around me was going to resign because that is not how people in the West Indies team normally behave. No one usually holds up their hand to take responsibility for failure. But I felt that it was such an embarrassment to score 47 against the former colonial masters at home, that it was the lowest moment that this team could possibly experience.
As much as I know it wasn't my fault, this was not about whose fault it was. This was about letting people know that the status quo could not be allowed to continue. [Then CEO Roger] Braithwaite had seen my reports from Africa and they knew that there were new major interpersonal problems in the team, but of course they had done nothing.
The issue of players on the Mound was secondary to my decision to resign at that time. What was ironic is that when I then proceeded to deal with The issue of fellas on the Mound even though there was no rule that says you cannot go on the Mound when the match finished, I got no support whatsoever from the WICB. The board eventually just threw it out you know; they just refused to deal with it on the basis that there was no rule.
I was trying to say, look, it was insensitive to the fans and I think at least a hearing should be held and the process should take place because these young players need to understand what their responsibilities to the West Indies fans are. There were mixed feelings about the whole thing but I felt that the matter needed to be ventilated, but you can't blame that for the loss because you've already lost. But you have to understand that there were some players who were so heavily protected that 'how dare the Manager go after players like this'...I wasn't going after anybody.
When you say 'protected' what you mean?
That some players couldn't be corrected because if the Manager brings any information, their home Board is going to defend it. The main point in this though was that I wrote a report to Roger Brathwaite about the incident. Roger nor anybody else engaged me in discussing this incident report. I called Roger early the Sunday afternoon, the same day of the incident, and told him what had happened and what my concern was and so on. I said there is no rule, but the fact is that some of them disappeared from the dressing room without asking permission.
I was at lunch and then at the press conference and it was only when I came back and I asked for one of them, somebody says 'he is over on the Mound' so I sent a player to look for them and tell them to come now. Roger had my report by Monday morning after a thorough investigation all Sunday afternoon and evening.
That week Friday, we started the second Test match against England. Up to the start of the match, I still had not heard anything about my report because in my report I had made recommendations about certain penalties, fines in effect...
But how could there be fines when there weren't any rules?
They had in effect left the players area without seeking permission.
And that was a rule?
That had been a well established rule, so it wasn't where they went. So in other words, they were guilty on a technicality. The rule was that if you are leaving the confines of the players' area you need to let the Manager know. The problem is, and there is a deep rooted problem because when I went to the West Indies team, there were no rules. Zero. Nothing.
Really? I thought that Clive Lloyd had developed some?
I don't know. All I could tell you is that there was nothing in writing. I found nothing. If it was there, it wasn't made available to me. And of course you know they fired Andrew Sealy, so there was no institutional memory, so I had no handbook, no nothing. I started developing all of that, including the Code of Conduct which everybody used and we adhered to it until WIPA changed guard and strengthened.
Then occasionally, when the rule began to hurt some influential player, they ran to WIPA and complained. And WIPA then said we're not accepting the Manager's rules because we had no input in them.' The previous WIPA administration had accepted them.
Even the Board turned against the team rules. When we recommended that a player [Marlon Samuels] be sent home from India because of the same rules that I had established and been revising for over two years, the Board said 'no you can't send him home'. I said but the basis on which the hearing was conducted and the decision made was the team rules.
So they then said those rules aren't valid until the Board signs off on them officially. I had submitted them to the Board for over two years. Nobody had ever responded to me. So why don't you send me some rules, I said. They apparently then appointed a retired judge to head up a panel to try to come up with new official team rules using mine as a base. Have they ever finished them? I don't know. That was 2002 in India. I left in 2004.
At the time of my resignation what we had were rules that the players knew had been rejected by the new WIPA and that the WICB had not officially endorsed. That was a formula for chaos and had created so much headaches for me in that last year because every time I tried to push the same rules that I had been enforcing since 2000, when I wrote them, some players, and especially the more influential players, they would say no, that doesn't apply to me.
So it had become potentially chaotic to manage a team without rules and especially when the management team was divided. You've got to make rules as the situation arises, but you've got to make recommendations when you have no rules. So I put in recommendations.
On the matter to do with liming on the Mound after such an embarrassing defeat, I made recommendations to the Board, because the matter was bigger than me. Because I didn't have any rules to govern by, I sent it to the Board. My point though is what the Board did with my report that upset me, even though I had already decided to resign.
The Saturday morning when we were getting ready to bat in the second Test and when the entire team was in the dressing room just before the start of play, the President sent letters to the players informing them that the Manager had written reports on them and asking them to reply to the Manager's report by the end of that day. Can you believe?
What perfect timing. I could give you a million stories where timing of decisions by the Board and release of information was about as horrible as it could be. I then had to do damage control. Fortunately during my investigation I had already told the players involved that I was going to submit a report. They knew everything that the Manager felt about that experience because I was very open with them and I said gentlemen, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this but I really believe you exhibited poor judgement and as a result, this is how I feel about it. So the players knew that the Manager had submitted a report so that wasn't a surprise to them.
They have never had a hearing on it, nothing. The thing just went. But that was the kind of uncertainty which threatened our team every day. You had a professional team owned by an amateur Board who were operating antiquated committee-based decision-making management systems with too many people crossing wires.
It is no secret that I was disgusted with numerous selection decisions and the unjustifiably large number of players who passed through our squad during my four year tenure as Manager. I am happy that the team now seems to be stabilising as a unit with fewer players revolving through the team but I still see signs of guess work by the selectors. I am also happy that the management team now has full authority.
I have stayed away from making any comments for over two years because I don't want to be in any way perceived as creating any ill will with anybody about West Indies Cricket. I am really not interested in entering into any debate about the past at this time. I really love the West Indies cricket team and want to see it go forward, no matter who is in charge or in the team. I am still optimistic about the future of West Indies cricket and continue to root every match for our team.