West Indies Cricket Symposium Suggestions Take 4!

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are set to host a pivotal Regional Conference on West Indies Cricket. Scheduled for 25 -26 April 2024, the event will take place at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad and Tobago.

Themed “Reinvigorating West Indies Cricket – A Symposium for Strategic Collaboration and Innovation,” the conference aims to foster a collaborative environment to secure the commitment of CARICOM Governments, Cricket West Indies (CWI), and territorial boards to strategically advance the sport in all its formats: Tests, One Day Internationals and T20s.

The conference will be chaired by Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Chairman of the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Cricket.

This intervention stems from the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, where it was agreed that Trinidad and Tobago would host the event, which will explore the business trajectory of the sport and emphasize collaborative efforts toward cricket development and promotion. The Conference will include all relevant agencies, organizations, cricketing legends, former and current players, clubs, coaches, and administrators. Key topics to be discussed during the two-day conference include 1. Strategic Direction of West Indies Cricket 2. Development of Cricket 3. Finance and Commercial Considerations 4. Fan Engagement and 5. Cricket and Tourism.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the regular, established Caribbean cricket media scribes were invited to participate in the Conference. I guess we media types weren’t considered worthy of inclusion in the collective that the powers that be now regard as stakeholders of West Indies cricket.

As someone who has been clamoring for the better part of the last three years for exactly such a conference to be held I do, however, have some concrete views on initiatives that should be discussed at this week’s upcoming symposium. Here then are my topline, Take 4 Suggestions for the forthcoming Symposium.

Starting with Fan Engagement and with specific regard to the Caribbean region’s hosting of this year’s ICC T20 ICC World Cup, I am sure that everyone concerned would want the West Indies team to be playing its matches in stadiums packed with their own supporters. In the same manner that this year’s ongoing Indian Premier League season, as well as last year’s India-hosted ICC 50 over World Cup, have been characterized by stadiums filled with supportive fans wearing team-colored shirts and waving flags, so too should the West Indies team’s T20 World Cup matches be identically characterized.

Between next Monday, April 29, and the West Indies’ first match in Guyana on June 2, the Caricom governments and CWI should, therefore, arrange for some inexpensive West Indies replica team shirts to be ordered and made available for purchase by fans at the ticket box office outlets at each of the participating country venues, The shirts can be ordered cheaply from China at US$10-20, and subsequently sold to fans at a maximum price of US$25.

The surplus revenues from such sales could also then be utilized specifically for the further development of Primary School cricket throughout the Caribbean. Some of the profits generated can for example be used to purchase cricket gear, bats balls, pads, gloves, helmets, etc for donation to identified Primary  Schools that are in desperate need of such items.

The supportive shirts initiative can even be taken further with Caribbean corporations and companies being encouraged to split the cost of purchases with their employees so that on match days, as many people as possible can be seen to be wearing their West Indies shirts as a visible expression of support for the team. Any fan who purchases a shirt, either individually or as part of his workplace involvement, would then have the feel-good satisfaction derived from the knowledge of having simultaneously participated in an expression of support for the West Indies team as well as the future development of Primary School cricket!

An idea that would admittedly take some monumental effort to be successfully implemented by June 2, but well worth doing in terms of not only the visual support it would provide to the West Indies team but also its potential impactful contribution to the further development of Primary Schol cricket throughout the Caribbean.

This brings us to Topic 2 for the Symposium’s Agenda, that of the Development of Cricket. I am firmly among those who hold the view that any such future development of West Indies cricket must be based on a foundation of the re-popularization of the sport among school-aged children within the region from ages 5-19! The best thing that the Caricom Heads of Government could ever do would be to make West Indies cricket history an official addition to the curriculum of Primary and Secondary schools throughout the Region. Our school children must learn about the very rich history of all the cricketing greats we have produced, from George Headley to Shivanarine Chnderpaul and every one worthy of inclusion in between.

Educational materials on the careers of our greatest players must be produced and their written autobiographies republished in both print and digital formats. The latter very likely being the preferred learning method of choice particularly among teenagers.  Schools should also have cricket coaches employed among their staff so that participating students can also be taught the correct fundamentals at a very early age. Some of our great legendary former players, those who are still around and sufficiently active, should be engaged to conduct visits to schools throughout the region.

Concerning Topic 1, the Strategic Direction for West Indies cricket, one of the suggestions I would very much like to see formalized would be for there to be at least two official A Team Tours each year. Specifically to ICC top-five ranked countries such as Australia, England, India, New Zealand, and South Africa. The Selected A Teams should also be comprised mainly of U25-aged players. Thse who are on the fringes of West Indies Test, ODI, and T20 selection.

There should also be a reestablishment of Centers of Excellence throughout the region. Historic venues such as Guyana’s Bourda and Antigua’s ARG should be used as Excellence Development Centres for specific disciplines, batting, bowling both pace and spin, ground fielding, throwing, catching, and of course, also wicket-keeping.

Finally, about Cricket Tourism, there is the low-hanging fruit of hundreds of thousands of cricket-interested individuals who are part of the estimated seven million plus Caribbean Diaspora. They should be pursued as primary targets for any cricket tourism initiatives. Independence celebration activities staged by Caribbean country communities in Canada, England, and the US, should include Crciet Nostalgia Evenings featuring the specific country’s greatest, still alive, former players. Concrete efforts should also be made to invite British and North American school and club teams to visit the Caribbean on tours during their cricket offseason September to November and March to May periods.

Cricket West Indies would also be very well advised to consider appointing Fan Engagement and Tourism Liason Officers in London, Toronto, Western Canada, as well as the US cities of Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and New York, Such recruited individuals would be tasked with working with the respective Tourism Boards to facilitate the full engagement of Diaspora based fans in West Indies cricket tourism development initiatives.

Those then would be my four top-line suggestions, which I would have liked to be considered during the Symposium. It will be very interesting to see what specific initiatives the Symposium will produce.





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