The storm before the storm
A settlement has been ostensibly reached among the West Indies Cricket Board, the West Indies Players Association and the players. But the spectre of a US$42 million claim from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) still hovers over regional cricket. If the India board remains resolute in its demands, as indications are from BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel, it could prove calamitous for West Indies cricket.
No one will deny our players their rights, but there is a methodology for conducting such industrial affairs, and the cancellation of the tour midstream was scandalous. In any negotiations, strike action should be applied when all other options fail. And in this instance, we daresay, such was not the case, and India certainly not the place to wash Caribbean linen.
Though there has been an apparent resolution, problems in regional cricket appear always to be brewing. This is the first occasion where the main contention rested between the players and their own representative body.
We do not subscribe to suggestions in some quarters that the WICB suddenly become a colony of the International Cricket Council. But the absurdity that has played out over the past three weeks makes it understandable why some would recommend a foreign overseer, perhaps with matching cork hat, breeches and a whip. Indeed, we have already ceded much of our sovereignty to India, Australia and England in accepting the power shift in the ICC. But that is another matter and the plantation seems fully installed.
We get the impression that the WICB has lost control as administrators of regional cricket and its players, not only symbolically, but in real terms. And here is where there is a necessity to “partner” with WIPA for the benefit of all. Traditionally, negotiations with respect to salaries, incentives, profit shares, image rights, and the lot, appeared centred on those who made it into the West Indies senior team.
There is a move to become more embracing of greater numbers of cricketers and this is to be applauded. WIPA should perhaps reveal the numbers it actually represents, in terms of registered members, and where its own officials have been voted into office, those numbers should also be revealed.
Previous calls by West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo to the WICB for WIPA president Wavell Hinds not to represent their interests, as well as for his resignation, suggested that his was the voice of the majority. But if commentary on the ground from other regional players, such as the public statements of fast bowler Tino Best, is to be believed, Bravo’s request to WIPA came from a minority voice and deserved to be ignored. Where WIPA and the recent players’ divide was concerned, it seemed there was a breakdown in communication, and that is a matter which can be rectified with greater dialogue and demonstrated mutual respect.
But there is one major situation which continues to be sidestepped and which, if the WICB regains some of its lost intestinal fortitude, could redound to the benefit of West Indies cricket if implemented.
The logistics might not be easy to work out in a team sport such as cricket, but perhaps the WICB and WIPA should explore mechanisms by which moneys accruing to our international players are linked to their on-field performances. It is ironic that we have players squabbling over money in circumstances where they have been failures individually, and the West Indies team have languished at the bottom rungs of international cricket.
We note that lawyers representing the Indian tour deserters have been at pains to suggest that not to pick these failures in the future could be construed as victimization. It is left to the WICB to determine whether this lot can be trusted in the future or whether, based on the poor performances of the West Indies over the past 19 years, there is a need to invest in a different crop of players.
India’s status as cricket’s powerhouses seemed to have overwhelmed WICB president Dave Cameron during this latest crisis. He would have been aware of the repercussions of an aborted tour and sought damage control by proposing replacement players which the BCCI rejected. The BCCI had no standing with respect to that possible course of action. Perhaps, Mr Cameron should have been more determined with respect to those replacements and put the onus on the BCCI not to field a team against a revamped West Indies one. The WICB might not now be faced with a multimillion-dollar cloud.
But that is much conjecture. The reality is that our cricket is facing its most tumultuous period. Do we keep faith with the personalities at the centre of this confusion, or do we clean house? Whatever occurs over the next few weeks, saving and safeguarding West Indies cricket must take precedence over everything else.