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Sports Minister willing to act as mediator in West Indies cricket dispute
Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley is anxious to see an urgent resolution of the crisis facing West Indies cricket and he’s prepared to help broker a deal if called upon to do so.
Describing the abrupt end of the Indian tour and the resulting strong retaliation from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as a “big issue that threatens all that we [the region] have actually built up in cricket”, Lashley today underscored the need for immediate intervention.
“I have a passion and a desire to have it fixed and to the extent that I can offer any help in that regard I am available. I am sure it is a burning issue that would be of concern and I am anxious to have this matter resolved,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Socerrex Forum being held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
West Indies players took the controversial decision to abandon the tour at the end of the fourth One Day International in Dharamsala last Friday, in protest of new contracts brokered by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) which the players claimed resulted in significant pay cuts for them.
In response, the BCCI served notice yesterday that it was contemplating a lawsuit to recoup losses estimated at $65 million for the cancellation of the last ODI, a lone Twenty20 International and three Test matches.
The Indian authorities have also threatened to suspend bilateral tours with the West Indies for possibly five years.
Lashley would not be drawn into any discussion over who was at fault, only insisting that the focus must now be on settling the matter.
“One of the key things of mediation is that you never take a position on who’s right, who’s wrong and I don’t think that is relevant right now,” he stressed. “The key thing is that it has happened and our role now is to fix it and move it beyond the point of being a stalemate.”
The Minister also stayed clear of saying how the disputing parties should proceed.
“Any advice that I am prepared to give would be based on if we are having a serious in-house discussion where we could give advice to the players, the West Indies Cricket Board and even the Indian Cricket Board as well. It is really beyond public speculation at this stage [and] we should probably avoid that,” he added.
Today, the President of the Barbados Football Association (BFA) Randy Harris also weighed in on the developments troubling West Indies cricket.
Also speaking to reporters at the international conference, he insisted that the players’ walkout would never happen in the football arena.
“We in football could never allow any of our teams to just pick up and leave a tournament, we would be banished,” Harris said, while noting that “as an employee it would be hard to continue working if out of the blue my salary was cut without any consultation”.
However, he suggested that top WICB officials should have immediately flown to India upon hearing the players’ threat to withdraw their services.
In fact, he said an attempt should still be made to get to India as soon as possible.
“I don’t know if there is a forum to speak to the principals of other top cricketing nations and sit down and really try to come to a solution. There are sides in all stories but the [international cricket fraternity] needs to know why this had to happen in the Caribbean and they have to be satisfied that this is not likely to happen in the near future,” the BFA president said.
However, he does not anticipate any spillover effect on the region’s football.
“Football has its specific regulations. When it comes to withdrawal for any reason, we don’t withdraw, we participate and then we deal with the issue,” he said.
Following an intense meeting at the Accra Beach Hotel yesterday, the WICB announced it would establish a task force to probe the circumstances that gave rise to the dramatic pullout by the senior West Indies cricketers from their tour of India.
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