Poor PR from WICB
Public relations and the handling of crucial media matters have never been strong points of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
But such aspects reached an all-time low on Tuesday with the belated, wishy-washy release on the dismissal of Ottis Gibson as head coach of a rebuilding West Indies team on the eve of the low-keyed series of three One-Day Internationals, two Tests and a one-off Twenty20 International against minnows Bangladesh.
Simply put, the WICB got scooped at its own game and then operated in a “hit and run” manner. That is dangerous and totally unacceptable.
It is high time for the WICB to understand that in an age of growing technology, you have to get with it. Otherwise, embarrassment will be the order of the day.
The axing of a coach from a team in any sport is nothing new. But when those responsible for making the decisions operate as though we are in the dark ages, it boggles the mind and leaves one wondering if they, too, should not be fired.
The new appointments of a president and vice-president, as was the case with the WICB since March 27 last year when Wycliffe “Dave” Cameron, a Jamaican, and Emmanuel Nanthan, who hails from Dominica, took over as the top two following a highly charged meeting at Accra Beach Hotel on the South Coast of Barbados, have hardly changed the PR aspect of the WICB. St Lucian Julian Hunte had been seeking to be re-elected as president for a fourth two-year term, and Cameron had served as his deputy.
In his victory speech, Cameron said “we will be innovative and creative and will use every strength that we have available and try and get West Indies cricket back to the top”.
There have been a number of shortcomings since then but the latest issue involving the sacking of Gibson and the way it has been handled by the WICB is laughable.
Last Sunday, I received a text message from a person whom I have respected highly for over three decades as a source of information. It stated: “I hear Ottis gone.”
As paranoid as I could have easily become with the interpretation in light of the recent passing of my dear wife and a couple other well-known persons, I, however, understood the message to say that Gibson had been fired from the job he held as West Indies head coach since February 2010 and which was expected to end in February 2016 based on the second contract he signed last year.
It only took a few more texted exchanges with my source to get confirmation of Gibson’s sacking. Hence, when the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) carried the story during its televised sportscast the same night, any reporter worth his or her salt as a follow-up should have checked all of the key sources, especially with the knowledge that the West Indies squad was assembling in Grenada for the first ODI against Bangladesh.
The defensive nature in which the WICB operates would have hardly provided the “real” information on the issue. And so it proved by the sequence of events which followed. So while some regional newspapers were out hunting and displaying all sorts of headlines with question marks on Gibson’s future, the reporters on the CBC Sports Desk had every right to sit back, beat their chests and smile until the WICB did what it had to do with the belated Press release.
In a nutshell, Gibson had been fired since the weekend by way of a telephone call.
For me, the WICB release on Tuesday night read like a comedy: “Today the West Indies Cricket Board and Mr Ottis Gibson mutually agreed to terminate their association with immediate effect. The WICB wishes to express its gratitude to Mr Gibson for his unwavering commitment and professionalism during his tenure as the coach of the West Indies team.”
It went on: “WICB Chief Executive Officer Michael Muirhead thanked Gibson for his services.
“On behalf of the Board and West Indies cricket as a whole we express our gratitude to Ottis for his work, particularly in coaching the team to winning the ICC World Twenty20 in 2012, and offer our best wishes to him in all his future endeavours,” Mr Muirhead said.
“Team manager, Sir Richie Richardson, will take charge of the team on an interim basis for the series against Bangladesh which will be played in Grenada, St Kitts, St Vincent and St Lucia. The team management unit remains unchanged otherwise,” the release added.
Now, having spoken to Cameron a couple times on Tuesday morning, as well as Muirhead just after mid-day the same day, and against the background of their defensive and somewhat negative attitudes in wanting to talk publicly on the matter, I was not surprised with the nature of the release.
It first appeared on the WICB website sometime after 7:30 p.m. I received it by email at 8:02 p.m., as I was making my opening remarks on the CBC radio talk-show programme Mid Wicket, The Real Cricket Show.
During my chat with Cameron in the morning, he made it clear he would not be speaking on the Gibson issue either then or later on Mid Wicket, saying that a Press release would be “coming soon”.
Muirhead, who was on business in Suriname, advised that the time of the airing of Mid Wicket was likely to clash with an appointment which he had, but he suggested I could still try to contact him to find out if he would be able to speak. I called him three times at 7:39 p.m., 7:40 p.m. and 7:52 p.m. without getting a response.
So with Mid Wicket beginning at 8 p.m., my last possible contact to speak on the issue was Imran Khan, the WICB Manager of Marketing and Communications and the author of the Press release.
Efforts to contact Khan by way of telephone calls on both of his available numbers (mobile and office) as well as by email by the producer of Mid Wicket were to no avail.
This was the sort of stuff to which we were subjected by the hierarchy of the WICB and its public relations arm when thousands of listeners were anxiously waiting to hear more about the firing of the West Indies
Yet, when the WICB wants to introduce a new CEO etc and “use” the media for other matters, you don’t have to sweat. No problem, gentlemen. Carry on smartly!
By the way, just a little reminder to the current top officials of the WICB that Jamaican Pat Rousseau and Clarvis Joseph of Antigua were a powerful combination as WICB president and vice-president over a decade ago. Check your files on what led to their sudden, simultaneous resignations.
There are similarities in the way Gibson’s parting was released by the WICB to what transpired when John Dyson, the former Australian opening batsman, was fired as West Indies coach in 2009 after 21 months of his three-year contract, coincidentally in the month of August following the home series against Bangladesh and ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa, which was played from September 22 to October 5.
“The services of Mr John Dyson have been terminated with immediate effect. The assistant coach, Mr David Williams will fill this position on a temporary basis for this tour,” the WICB said in a terse release on August 13, 2009, after a teleconference among its executive.
Two days later, in an exclusive, live interview with yours truly on the popular CBC programme, Sports Express, Joel Garner, the Barbados Cricket Association president and a WICB Director, said there were disagreements between former West Indies captain Chris Gayle, manager Omar Khan, who was replaced in that job for the Champions Trophy by former top West Indies off-spinner Lance Gibbs and Dyson.
“There are debriefings and all these sorts of things that go on after every tour,” Garner said.
“It is one of the things that happened where the manager, the coach and the [former] captain disagreed and from the reports that we had, it was obvious that it wasn’t working and it was decided to part company with Mr Dyson now, rather soon than later,” Garner said while watching a BCA Division 1 (now Elite division) match between Pickwick and Carlton at the island’s newest club venue and now home of Pickwick, Foursquare Oval.
“It was a decision of the Board to part company with Mr Dyson at this time rather than waiting until a later date. We were not happy with his performance and that is the long and short of the whole issue. The matter has been settled and that is as much as I would say,” Garner added.
Dyson’s exit had come after a bitter impasse between the WICB and the West Indies Players Association, which led to the West Indies fielding a second string team for the Test and ODI series against Bangladesh.
Dyson, who played 30 Tests for Australia between 1977 and 1984, had been appointed West Indies coach in October, 2007, following the resignation of another Australian, Bennett King, who stepped down after the World Cup in the Caribbean.
The likes of Cameron and Muirhead should take a leaf out of Garner’s books. Face the media and gain respect on a matter, which needs much more than a brief Press release.
In the case of Gibson, a former Barbados and West Indies fast bowling all-rounder, it would appear that he became a victim of the dressing room in recent times.
There is not much to shout about in relation to his record as West Indies head coach. In 29 Tests, West Indies won nine and lost 16; 90 ODIs, 36 wins and 48 defeats; and in 45 T20 Internationals, 22 wins and 21 defeats, but he would have been looking forward to taking the team to the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29.
Was Gibson asking for too much power in the selection of the team?
It was only in March this year that the Board of Directors of the WICB approved a menu of 19 changes for the development of West Indies cricket with a goal of establishing the West Indies team as the number one performing team in world cricket.
The decisions were taken at a meeting in Port-of-Spain on March 21 and 22 and formed part of a comprehensive report on the West Indies Cricket System prepared and presented by the new Director of Cricket, Richard Pybus.
It was then pointed out that: 1. The West Indies Head Coach be added to the selection panel and will have full voting rights. 2. The West Indies captain(s) to be added to the selection panel as non-voting members.
And by the way, Pybus, who was appointed last November on a three-year contract, is an Englishman and former Pakistan head coach (1999-2003), who worked extensively in South Africa where he served in the capacities of head coach, professional cricket manager and consultant coach with award winning sides Titans, Border, Cape Cobras and Nashua Dolphins.
Pybus also holds a degree in Media, Literature, Communications and Cultural Studies from Portsmouth University and a post graduate certificate from Greenwich University. In addition, he is a certified Master Mental Skills coach.
So why is the WICB lacking in putting together Press releases of substance and cannot even find anyone to speak on crucial matters?
Is there any truth in a report carried by a Trinidad & Tobago newspaper that Pybus was having discussions with Mickey Arthur, the former South Africa and Australia coach re: taking over from Gibson? Is this the very same washed-up South Africa-born coach John Michael “Mickey” Arthur?
Keep your eyes open and ears pricked for the next bit of belated “breaking” news from the WICB.
(Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.)