BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – UWI Vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has described interim West Indies head coach, Richard Pybus’ perception of the now defunct high performance centre as “deeply troubling”, and says the Englishman failed to understand what was required to develop the modern West Indies player.
Sir Hilary, a leading regional academic who has written prolifically on West Indies cricket, charged that the HPC project was curtailed at a time when it was beginning to produce results and had ultimately denied young player access to a “treasure trove of knowledge”, especially from the legends of the game.
Cricket West Indies’ decision to close the HPC came during Pybus’s three-year tenure as Director of Cricket.
“He entered into this region at a time when we were developing our strategic response to our problem in the Caribbean and were getting results,” said Sir Hilary, a former Cricket West Indies director.
“We had just brought a young generation of cricketers who were benefiting from the power and pedagogy of the academy so his entry and representation of a negative attitude towards the project was deeply troubling.
“He came possessed with a view that young West Indian cricketers did not need to be exposed to the mind game in the way in which those persons such as the elders and the legends had indicated that they must.”
On the contrary, Sir Hilary argued that the mental aspect had been one of the main areas of concern at the time, pointing out that several former foreign West Indies coaches like Bennett King and John Dyson, had made similar assessments.
“One of the expressions that came out of that cohort (foreign coaches) was that young West Indian cricketers were not mentally ready for the international game … that we were very child-like in our performances on the field,” Sir Hilary explained.
“They could not understand the poor quality of our on-the-field behaviour, and they saw this as a result of the mental and intellectual decline of young men in the Caribbean and they were very clear about it.”
Pybus has been a controversial figure in the Caribbean every since his appointment as Director of Cricket in November 2013. He oversaw the contentious ‘West Indies first policy’ which required all players to feature in domestic tournaments in order to be eligible for international selection, and also presided over the closure of the UWI Cave Hill-based HPC.
Pybus stepped down from the post in 2017 only to return as high performance director the following year, charged with improving “high performance programmes and standards within franchise cricket”.
Last January, he was controversially appointed West Indies men’s head coach, following the departure of Australian Stuart Law.
Reiterating that the closure of the HPC was tantamount to “an act of vandalism”, Sir Hilary said the institution had provided the ideal environment for a West Indies global resurgence.
“For young men not to be given an environment where they could sit with the legends and have access to that knowledge,” Sir Hilary contended.
“To hear Wes Hall talking about bowling until the blood came through his boots because the West Indies must not lose this match, and to have access to that tremendous treasure trove of knowledge about how excellence was built up in the West Indies, and to deny the youngsters the environment in accessing that – accessing information, knowledge, legacy, to understand what is really at stake.
“I said it was an act of vandalism precisely because you tore down an institution that was there to guide the young people into the future.”