THERE once lived a man named Dr Laurence J. Peter. He died a few years back, in relative obscurity. Few remember him these days but those who do remember him for one principle which he enunciated during his lifetime -- the Peter Principle. Simply put, it stated that in any hierarchy a man rises until he reaches his level of incompetence. This appears to be the case in West Indies cricket and all that surrounds it.
I doubt very much if all those who are propounding solutions to solve the continuing West Indies cricketing ni.htmlare have heard of this man. On the other hand, they may have, but have probably forgotten the principle for which he gained a huge following. That is probably why we are hearing, not for the first time, suggestions that a man like Viv Richards should be given charge of the West Indies team as coach or manager. To some, this is the way to the top. I beg to differ. (Some of these suggestions, it must be added, come from ex-players who, during their time, found the lure of the rand in apartheid South Africa impossible to resist. Now they have discovered a deep and abiding love for West Indies cricket.)
No disrespect to Richards. To my mind, he is the best player which the last quarter of this century has seen -- and that includes your Laras, Tendulkars and Gavaskars. In toto, he was the one batsman who could demolish an entire team or an individual psychologically and win a game for his team on that score alone. No player has done more for West Indies cricket, no man has loved playing for the Caribbean team more and no man probably hurt more deeply when the team hit some of the troughs which it did over the last few years.
But all this does not confer on Richards the ability to coach or manage a team and motivate them to be winners. Richards is a person with a strong, dominant personality. He is not the sort of man who coaxed a teammate to perform well. He led by example and expected people to follow. Else he shouted at them and got them to perform. Many a player who dropped a catch was the recipent of a cold, withering gaze. Richards had little patience with incompetence. And there is plenty of it in the present West Indies team. He was good enough to carry the team on his own on many an occasion but could not curb his style of play even when he was captain.
How would such a man interact with the likes of Brian Lara? The latter is often prone to childish petulancy. He may be a brilliant batsman and definitely has a first rate cricketing brain. How would he react to Richards's style of trying to get the best out of the team? Would he take a chiding quietly? Or would it goad him to further acts which would not be in the best interests of West Indies cricket?
I would go further and ask: would a man like Gus Logie be able to do anything with the present team? Logie was an extremely capable coach of the under-19 team. Would he, with his quiet, unobtrusive ways, be able to coach a team like the present West Indies outfit? The answer, is, I think fairly obvious. All this merely proves one of Dr Peter's observations -- to think that a good follower can be a good leader is wrong. And vice versa. Logie never captained the West Indies but made an excellent coach.
I'm sure somebody would turn around and ask -- then who should coach the West Indies now that Malcolm Marshall has gone and Clive Lloyd is unlikely to continue as manager? Joel Garner has been suggested by one writer and I frankly find little to disagree with in that suggestion. Garner was never a leader in his time as a cricketer but he may well shine as a coach; he has done a commendable job with the under-19 though that does not mean he will do as much with the senior team.
I think the one way to ensure that the West Indies start taking some interest in their own showing is by making payment conditional on performance, much the same way that it is done in any well-managed company. One cannot get away from the crass commercialism that is part of the game these days. One has to live with it. And if money makes the mare go, then maybe withholding it can be an incentive. Additional bonuses for a good showing would also help.