Players should have been sent home, says Fray
The fallout from Bermuda's relegation to Division Four of the World Cricket League has only just begun.
Allan Douglas, the acting coach on the ill-fated tour, who was removed from his position as second vice-president of the Bermuda Cricket Board late last week, will not be the last head to roll.
Other officials and several players are also expected to be punished in the near future for what Lloyd Fray, the BCB president, said was conduct that should have seen some members of the squad sent home early from Malaysia.
It is distinctly possible that this will mean the end of certain players' international careers, and has already led to the dismissal of one long-serving team official. Fray would not be drawn on the exact nature of the punishments to be handed out until the Board had completed its discussions on the matter.
“I can safely say some players should have been sent home,” he said. “That's my feeling and I think that's the feeling of most of the Board as well. We are part of the ICC, we have a duty to uphold that standard [of conduct] and we failed. We failed on and off the field.”
That failure, and the issues highlighted in the report — compiled by Nyon Steede, the BCB's first vice-president, Neil Speight, BCB chief executive, and Arnold Manders, the national coach — will drive “fundamental change” in the way the game is run, and played, on the Island.
In the short-term the focus will move to younger players, with members of the under-19s been brought into the senior squad and exposed to international cricket earlier than may have been the case previously. If that means a painful few years on the world stage, that is something Fray is willing to accept.
“In my mind this is a very crucial stage for us,” Fray said. “We're are now at a rebuilding stage whether we accepted it or not. So, with rebuilding there's got to be fundamental change.
“Playing for your country is an honour, that's the part that we've got to get back to.
“For the next few years it's concentrating on our youth and when you look at the senior team, pulling guys in from the under-19s is key. Getting them the exposure now is what should be happening and making sure that we have this continual circle, so we have players filtering in.”
Fray said that red flags were raised for him about the Malaysia tour even before the players returned to the Island, and that he believed the poor conduct off the field had directly led to the poor performances on it. Still, while removing Douglas “wasn't an easy decision” the Board felt it was the right one.
It will not be the last hard decision the Board makes in the coming days.
“Bermuda in my mind, with that team, should never have been relegated,” Fray said. “They should have at least maintained their position in Division Three. But, what I consider to be poor conduct impacted performance tremendously, and so the decisions that you saw with regards to the stand-in coach [Douglas] and being a Board member, I took that very, very seriously, and the Board did as well.
“It is not the only decision, there are more decisions to be made, but we did need to start internally. So, we start with the Board and then there will be players and then management and it's those things that we are looking to make decisions on in the very near future.”
There have been suggestions that Douglas's selection as coach was not universally popular with some senior members of the squad, and that this may have contributed to the issues that arose. Fray though dismissed that notion, and said that a lack of communication and a failure to take action over incidents of bad behaviour had caused a disintegration in team morale.
“I didn't get a sense that there was any real big issue with Allan going,” Fray said. “What was decided before Allan left, in a meeting with Neil [Speight] and Arnold [Manders], there was a process to be followed and that included constant communication, which unfortunately didn't happen, between Arnold and Allan, and I think that led to a lot of this as well.
“But, in terms of going out, the players, from what I understand, were not too moved by having Allan as coach. I think it was just when they got there, there were things that took place in terms of behaviours and unprofessional attitudes that in my mind wasn't dealt with appropriately.”
Team morale is also believed to have been hurt by the increasingly negative approach to games by team officials, and squad members have described a poisonous atmosphere existing within a divided dressing room. The final defeat to the United States is understood to have been the ultimate result of a dysfunctional tour.
In the past players have been punished for indiscretions, have returned to the national team, and have been punished again. Fray believes that the relatively small group of players that Bermuda has been forced to rely on for its national team has created an unhealthy sense of security.
“When you have players in a small pool they feel they can get away with certain things because they are needed,” he said. “That can't be the case. I do believe that has happened in the past, where some things were tolerated a bit, but it's not going to happen going forward, it can't.”
Fray's long-term goal is to expand the player pool and to be in a position for the Board to be able to hold players accountable. To do that he believes there must be financial incentives for the players, alongside a player contract that provides the Board with means to fine players should they not behave in a professional manner.
“If you really want accountability there's got to be some incentive,” he said. “It's all about delivery on performance, and that also encompasses behaviour. So, you have players on the world stage who are being fined if they act in a certain manner. We can't have individuals high-jacking the sport.”