Over to the Ralphs

hitting out


If your name is Ralph, raise your hand. And rest assured that West Indies cricket would be saved from infighting by players with their union over a pay dispute.

Victimisation will also be ruled out.

This is no laughing matter. It would be true to say that two Ralphs are now the main spokesmen for West Indies cricket as the conservative West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), guided by legal advice, remains limited in public comments on the saga which unfolded following the aborted tour to India two weeks ago.

Prominent Barbadian lawyer Ralph Thorne Q.C., who is representing the West Indies players and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the vibrant Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have had a lot to say in the past few days as they seek to have the on-going impasse settled as quickly as possible.

Both Thorne and Gonsalves love cricket with a passion. So apart from their professional duties, they want to ensure that there is no backlash from the hurtful decision by Dwayne Bravo’s team to suddenly end the tour of India with still one match left in the One-Day International series. Lest we forget, a Twenty20 International and three Test matches were also to be played.

Once back in the Caribbean, we all waited anxiously for the repercussions. The WICB started the ball rolling by calling an emergency meeting of its directors in Barbados on October 21, while telling us that a media conference would follow.

But lo and behold, acting on legal advice, the media conference was cancelled and even an initiative to have key WICB officials speak on local cricket talk-show programmes the same evening was shelved.

At the back of the minds of the WICB lawyers would have been the fact that the working committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had decided to suspend all bilateral tours to West Indies and the likely BCCI’s claims for damages, we are told, if lodged, could be between US$40 million and US$65 million.

Then, with no prior announcement from the WICB, we found out last weekend that Thorne and other major players were having an emergency meeting in Jamaica on Sunday, October 26. Thorne represented the players who were on the West Indies team to India, with the exception of Marlon Samuels, who is not a member of the West Indies Players Association (WIPA).

The WICB then issued a release on Monday, describing it as a “joint WICB, WIPA and player representative statement” and perhaps more telling that the meeting was “cordial, positive and fruitful and discussions will continue in an effort to find a way forward”.

A further meeting was being held today at the Hyatt Hotel in Trinidad.

Early this morning, my sources in Port-of-Spain revealed that Dr. Gonsalves was set to be the chairman. Also confirmed to be in attendance were Dr Keith Mitchell, the Grenada Prime Minister; WICB president Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron and two of his directors from Trinidad & Tobago, as well as the WICB lawyer Luke Hamel-Smith, along with Thorne, Bravo and West Indies Test captain Denesh Ramdin. Hinds was expected to link by Skype from Kingston. The WIPA lawyer, Patrick Foster QC, was also listed to be involved in the meeting.

It was revealed as well that Thorne met with Bravo and another established West Indies ODI and Twenty20 player, Kieron Pollard, for roughly an hour at Piarco Airport last night and discussed what would be on the agenda before Pollard left for South Africa to take part in the T20 Ram Slam, which runs from November 2 to December 12 and will also feature four other West Indians in Bravo, Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy and Andre Russell.

As we all wish them well at the meeting, Thorne stressed in an interview on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation that “we need to seriously find resolution to this major crisis in West Indies cricket”.

“We have a mandate that is serious. I would say that we need to cross several bridges and I am hoping that we cross one of the bigger bridges tomorrow [Friday],” Thorne was quoted as saying.

Yet, as he spoke earlier in the week in separate interviews on the same station, the word victimisation was strongly on Thorne’s lips. He obviously wants the WICB to know that not one single player who was in the squad to India should be punished because of their actions, especially with a tour to South Africa due to start by late November and which includes three Tests, three T20Is and five ODIS.

The Test matches are slated for December 17-21, December 26-30 and January 2-6; the T20Is (January 9, 11 and 14) and ODIs (January 16, 18, 21, 25 and 28).

A report in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper stated that only Samuels of those who toured India recently, had been contacted by the West Indies selectors in relation to the tour to South Africa.

The report went on to list a number of players who were contacted. Prior to that newspaper report, word was being bandied around in certain circles in Barbados that players had received calls from a particular West Indies selector.

No one can fault the WICB for being proactive in the circumstances as all and sundry seek a resolution to the crisis.

It is understood that there were two items on the agenda for the Port-of-Spain meeting – a resolution of the impasse (centrally the contractual terms and conditions of the players) and the non-discrimination and non-victimisation of the players by the WICB.

In the midst of this saga, regional teams are preparing for the start of the first-class season on November 14, dubbed the WICB Professional Cricket League (PCL).

Understandably, the players are excited about this innovation even if they are ignorant of a two-page letter of reassurance reportedly sent by Cameron on October 20 to each of the 90 participating players.

Local officials say they are unaware of the letter in which Cameron talks of a “historic endeavour”, while underlining one of the biggest benefits for the regional players is a guaranteed “stable” income including the scope for growth based on performance.

“We are especially pleased that the PCL will allow you to pursue your passion in a truly professional environment on a day-to-day basis with your franchise while providing a stable income for you and your family. The PCL is a revolutionary introduction into the West Indian cricketing landscape which the WICB anticipates will transform West Indies first-class, List A and international cricket,” Cameron said.

No official name has yet been attached to the Barbados team but it is my understanding that they are likely to be called Barbados Pride and contracts are to be given to the players early next week.

It would be a tragedy if the current impasse halts the start of the PCL.

Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.

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