“West Indies cricket,” claims Jamaican Ray Ford, “is being badly led.” And he intends to do something about it - run to lead it himself. ‘But how can he burrow in?’ some might ask.
“That’s not my immediate concern,” says Ford. “It’s all about getting people to believe in my gameplan for getting West Indies cricket competitive again,” he says.
“Look, there are losses, and there are losses. And if I were a stakeholder-fan in either South Africa or in England, or in Pakistan cricket, or in New Zealand, I would not feel bad,” says Ford. “Because those were ‘good losses’ (in the just concluded T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman), where the losing sides fought to the death.”
“But of the West Indies losing that last game to Australia? Now that’s a loss that nobody who roots for, or who loves West Indies cricket, should take,” says the man who has been watching West Indies cricket for the last 59 years. “Of course, you play the game to win. But you don’t always have to win, in order to make your people feel proud. People can be comfortable with a serious ‘fight-to-the-death’ effort. But not with one fraught with overt hilarity.”
“Cricket West Indies (CWI) leadership of-late,” muses Ford, “has been making some undisguised bad judgment decisions. And our cricket is being denuded by them. This is intolerable to many in the Caribbean, including myself. And as the venerable former Barbados and West Indies fast bowler Richard ‘Prof’ Edwards suggested late last week: ‘In light of such a catastrophic failure (referring to the West Indies quick exit from the current T20 World Cup), major changes are needed, perhaps even with the leadership of the unit’! And it’s my intention, to bring about these major changes.”
But who is this Ray Ford? And what might he be about?
Ford - a mechanical engineer by trade - worked in industry and government for over 33 years, first in petrochemical plant maintenance and then in project management capacities. Allied to that work experience, is his academic training - an MBA in Distribution/ International Business, from Michigan State University, and a Master of Science in Programme and Project Management from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “But the things that really qualify me to lead CWI,” Ford suggests, “are my passion for, and a selfless vision of, reviving West Indies cricket.”
And broadly speaking, what might be Ray Ford’s gameplan?
“First, I’d like to get a lot more youth throughout the Caribbean playing cricket. I’ve never been to India, but I’ve read of their youngsters - as we’d say in Jamaica - ‘sowing cricket’ on weekends, and playing it, within more structured cricket programmes in their schools. To go along with that, I’ll be aiming to re-energise club cricket, and the intra-regional long-format cricket game in the Caribbean.”
“Recently,” says Ford, “I heard one CWI operative talking about making the Caribbean region a (quote): ‘coach-centric’ one. In addition, I just heard another, arguiing for another T20 cricket league in the region. To me, those two uttering(s) if actualised, would be taking West Indies cricket in the wrong direction.”
“Good cricketers,” believes Ford, “have to be ‘grown’ through good old-fashioned competitive cricket from when they are youngsters. They cannot be ‘manufactured’ in some primarily ‘coach-centric’ environment. And that’s the thing. I see people running West Indies cricket these days, as lacking in strategic vision.”
‘But you have not served at any level in a cricket administration’, some might say.
“That’s true. But that in of itself, could be an advantage,” he contends. “Because West Indies cricket has for too long, been doing business the same way. And by some who might be at the helm for too long, and who might have become complacent in position, and lethargic in thought.”
“Besides,” reasons Ford, “coming in not as outsider, but from the outside, I’d have no horses to trade, and no favours to owe.”
And what would be one of his first moves if elected CWI president?
“In addition to the above, I think CWI is getting too little bang, from spending too many bucks. And so, I’d be looking at our cost and overhead structures. Besides, my gut feeling is that West Indies cricket is top-heavy. Secondly, there are two other things which concern me.”
“First, that this year, CWI has lost two big-time regional sponsors. Is it that corporate Caribbean is loathed to identify itself with a losing outfit? Secondly, that among the feature writers on ESPNcricinfo, there’s none from the Caribbean. Is it that we’re now incapable of writing our own stories?
And what took Ford so long to step up to the plate and to offer his services to West Indies cricket?
“Well as you know, we Caribbean people tend to defer to ‘big-name’ people - for one, people who have been successful say, on our cricket field. But they are the ones in my opinion, who have not stepped up to the plate. I have given them all the time in the world, and they haven’t come forward and raised their hands. How much more time do they need? And at 70 years old, how much more time might I have? Besides, I’m as academically trained as anybody else who might be contesting for the post.”
“If not now?” Ford asks, “then when? And if not me? Then who?”
—Ray Ford is a freelance cricket journalist