There wasn’t much of a honeymoon period for Richard Pybus. No sooner had he been announced as West Indies’ interim head coach – even before he had been announced, really – the criticism started to flow. And if that was, in part, due to an allegation that due process had not been followed in making the appointment – an allegation rejected by CWI – it was also down to his history.
Whether Pybus likes it or not, he brings baggage to the role. Yes, his experience, both as a coach and in the region, is undeniable. But so is the fact that he was at the centre of the dispute that saw West Indies abandon their 2014 tour of India. As a result, several prominent figures in Caribbean cricket are sceptical about him and seem unafraid to vocalise those views. And, as Peter Moores found in his second stint as England coach, such baggage can drag a man down pretty quickly if results don’t go his way.
One of the more vocal critics of Pybus’ appointment has been former captain Darren Sammy. He responded to a CWI press release that referred to Pybus as “the architect of the West Indies trifecta of 2016 World Cup titles” – the men’s World T20, the women’s World T20 and the Under-19 World Cup – by saying the teams won “in spite” of him, not because of him. And, when Jimmy Adams, West Indies’ director of cricket, drew up a shortlist for the interim coaching position, Pybus was a noticeable absentee from the list of 11 names.
All in all, it seems an oddly incendiary appointment, and a distraction West Indies could do without. But Pybus is having none of it. Talking to the media at the Kensington Oval on Sunday, he insisted the team were “focused, positive and motivated” and that there were no issues within the West Indies camp.
“Darren Sammy is entitled to his opinion,” he said. You’ll have to ask him about that. Criticism is part of the game, part of the tapestry and the drama around sport. We’ve just got to get on with the job really. I don’t really want to unpack the past.
“The team are very focused, positive and motivated. You guys will write your stories, create a bit of an angle and drama but, from my side, I’m not really worried about that. The guys are focused on the series coming up. There are no issues.
“I don’t want to sound too ‘zen’ but I’m really focused on the first day coming up and making sure we’re ready for it.”
Pybus did suggest, however, that some of the structures he had put in place during his tenure as director of cricket – not least broadening the base of the professional game – were starting to pay dividends.
“I’ve done three years as director of cricket and what’s in the results bank is in the results bank,” he said. “We put programmes in place. It’s fantastic to see some of these guys come through the programmes. It’s the coaches who work with them, the support staff around them, it’s the system which supports to ensure we deliver on-field excellence.
“It’s very much a work in progress. Nobody involved in cricket in the Caribbean can say we’re where we want to be; the region has been playing catch-up. But we’re starting to have the depth to support the players properly.
“There’s two sides to it. The players in the past would have criticised delivery and support and there may be some truth in that. On the other side the board would be saying ‘we’re doing our best’ and there’d be some truth in that, too.
“I don’t know about trifectas. It’s the players on the park who deliver but I was satisfied at the time with how the programmes supported players.”
He also hinted that the character of West Indies cricket, with teams selected from across a wide region and several different counties, lent itself to a certain amount of debate, discussion and disagreement.
“It’s the Caribbean,” he said. “You’ve got 16 countries. It’s not like England, Australia or South Africa. With the internal politics there’s always discussion. It really is a unique part of the world. Unless you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the region it’s difficult to understand quite how challenging it is. London to Birmingham is a couple of hours in the car; Antigua to Jamaica can be three days.”