London: Viv Richards has expressed his sympathy towards suspended coach Phil Simmons after describing the West Indies Cricket Board as "rotten".
Vivian Richards and Phil Simmons
The WICB last month took the drastic step to bar Simmons from the tour of Sri Lanka following his public criticism of selection.
Simmons claimed he was blocked from picking all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard for the one-day international leg of the tour, despite support from chairman of selectors Clive Lloyd.
Bravo and Pollard have not played an ODI since last October's controversial series against India - when Bravo was captain of the squad which prematurely pulled out of the tour amid a pay dispute with the WICB.
"I always have a sympathy for any individual who is up against an establishment who have been a little iffy at times," Richards told Press Association Sport.
"I would have certain sympathies for him."
Simmons took over as coach earlier this year, overseeing a 1-1 draw against England in his first Test series in charge, but has since seen the West Indies fail to qualify for the Champions Trophy for the first time.
Richards agreed the absence of key players had contributed to that but, while the 63-year-old has lamented the WICB's role, he is wary of isolating it as the root of the problem.
Richards famously never lost a Test series as West Indies captain but suggested that all-conquering team of the 1980s encountered the same sort of off-field problems as the current team.
"When you have a board that have had various issues off the field - it is pretty hard to deal with," he said. "I would have had the same sort of problems - it's just some rotten administration.
"The team that we had then, being a good team on the field and so talented, even though we had those issues off the field - winning I think helped to eradicate all that stuff. That's not happening today."
Last week another former Windies captain, Garfield Sobers, lamented the decline of Caribbean cricket during an emotional speech.
Sobers questioned the loyalty of modern players in an era where the riches of the Indian Premier League have been embraced before the West Indies team.
"Sometimes guys make decisions for themselves," Richards said. "Making those decisions - you stick by them, I guess."
Despite West Indian cricket being held back by a myriad of issues, Richards remains hopeful the world-beating years of the 1970s and 1980s can be rediscovered.
Richards believes the WICB must finally take charge of that.
He rubbished calls for the island nations that make up the team to break away on their own and called on the governing body to make some tough decisions.
"I get people (saying it's time to break away from the WICB), but maybe that's because of the frustration that people feel," Richards, a proud Antiguan who still lives on an island famed for its 365 beaches, said.
"People are frustrated. They are the people who remember the wonderful times and they want to rekindle that sort of spirit.
"Seeing some of the things that have played out is frustrating and I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I still believe we can be a united force in order for us to compete - as long as the folks who administer can be united.
"That would send such a huge message which I think would filter, hopefully, to the right places.
"It is going to take a lot of hard work. There are a lot of decisions that need to be taken - positive decisions.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to say what I think was made famous by Jesse Jackson over the years: 'Keep hope alive'."