Can WICB close the door?

In a recent interview (Monday 25 April 2011) on the Line and Length Network the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) sought to offer listeners an explanation of what appears to be the organisation’s latest strategy to fashion its development thrust. However, the more one listened to the CEO the more one got the distinct impression that he was sending a signal to one or more of the older and more experienced players in the Caribbean. As the old people would say, he appeared to be speaking to more than the sports enthusiasts.
One got the impression from the interview that under its current dispensation the WICB is not prepared to allow any single player to hold the team to ransom. The team is not to be built around any single individual.
Analysts of cricket in the region are not at all certain that the Board is prepared to tell all about the current situation and what may well have impacted the timing of the statements of the CEO of the WICB.
Given the fact that Chris Gayle has recently launched a scathing attack on the WICB in relation to his absence from the team in the current series against Pakistan and being involved in the Indian Premier league instead.
In an AFP article emerging out of St Lucia on 21 April 2011, it was stated,
Chris Gayle claimed yesterday he had been frozen out by the West Indies Cricket Board and was left with no option but to choose the money-spinning IPL over national team duty.
The former captain said he was forced to accept an offer to play for the Royal Challengers Bangalore because he was not sure about his place in the West Indies team, following his axing for the opening matches of Pakistan’s tour.
Initially one got the impression that Gayle had received permission from the WICB to participate in the IPL. However the article noted, They begrudgingly gave him a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to participate in the IPL.
That Gayle was able to declare, apparently without fear of contradiction, that he was axed from the opening matches of the current series. Thus while the WICB is apparently frothing at Gayle’s action he has not problem delivering his own version of the story. The article stated,
He said after getting injured during the World Cup, he paid all expenses for medical treatment in Britain before returning home to Jamaica, where he took it upon himself to commence a rehabilitation programme with his personal trainer.
Gayle is then quoted as follows:
A group of players were selected for a training camp in Barbados, and I never got a call, nobody spoke to me, and I decided to leave it alone…
I continued my training programme, and I came to find out via the media that a Twenty20 squad was announced, and a One-day International squad was announced, and I was stunned when I saw a big headline in the newspapers, ‘Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul dropped’.
There must be something radically wrong when the WICB treats a former captain who is still playing for the team in this way.  We have however been this way before. The case of the treatment meted out to Desmond Haynes (though not a matter of personal physical injury) remains perhaps the most vivid example of the modus operandi of an organisation that seems not to understand its role and responsibilities.
The WICB has often been high-handed in its modus, recycling players when it deems necessary and virtually casting aside others deemed unworthy for one reason or another, leaving the region’s cricket enthusiasts to ponder the Board’s reasoning, if ne may call it that.
One is forced to revisit the comments of the CEO in light of the hard-hitting comments by Gayle in the interview being discussed here. One may well ask whether the comments of the CEO can be considered a veiled response to Chris Gayle and a warning to other experienced players who may be harbouring similar ideas about their own position in the team.
Some may want to suggest that the WICB is finally attempting to close the door after the horse has bolted. The comments of the CEO may well be a signal that the WICB is now prepared to leave the horses that have bolted outside of the stable, focusing instead on those who have remained inside and those that are up for consideration as potential for the future.
Some critics have made comments about the way in which several former players and team captains have been able to stand up to the WICB and, in some cases, lead the organisation by the nose.
While many have singled out Brian Lara for special mention in the recent past there is little doubt that there were scores of players, including former captains, who have had their own way while representing the West Indies. The Board has been unable to put a cap on things for several years and may well be seizing the opportunity to do so now that there are several young players around and over whom they have some measure of control.
Consideration may also need to be given to the fact that with the President and the CEO both from St Lucia, the appointment of a St Lucian as team captain may well allow for a window of opportunity for the leadership to now exercise the control that the WICB has always lacked.
WICB and the welfare of the players
Many former and current players have been more than a little uncomfortable about the way in which the WICB has conducted itself in relation to the players.  Many players have remained embarrassed at the WICB’s seeming lack of concern or the welfare of its players.
Wes Hall today walks with a distinctive limp that stemmed from an injury incurred while playing for the West Indies. At the time of his injury the Board, then called the West Indies Cricket Board of Control, did nothing for the welfare of the players.
The intervention of Kerry Packer changed things for our players and the Mighty Sparrow captured the situation in calypso.
Not so long ago Dwayne Bravo was out of competitive cricket for a considerable period. When asked about the situation he indicated that he had to take care of himself. He was the one who had to look after his medical well being and so he did. Now we are hearing the same thing from Chris Gayle. According to the AFP article,
Gayle said he was puzzled because no WICB official had actually called to check-up on him.
He felt the least they could have done was to call him to the training camp at the West Indies High Performance Centre in Bridgetown, and assess his fitness before making a decision about the team.
“The only communication I have had with anyone connected with the WICB was when I sent a text message to (team physio) CJ Clark, and gave him an update about how I was doing,” he said.
“I told him I was feeling good, the progress I was making, I was running, I was in the gym, and working. His only response was that he would send a fitness programme, which I did not receive until the IPL offer had presented itself.”
It is truly amazing that while the CEO seems prepared to venture into what the organisation plans for the future in respect of its seeming anxiety to exercise control he shied away from addressing the important issue of the well being of the very players, old, new and those with potential lying in wait.
One is not at all certain about the expectations of the WICB relative to the continued reaction of players to its approach to their well being.
While the WICB and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) have been at loggerheads for years the fact that players can today speak of having to look after themselves when injuries occur leaves much to be desired.
In comparison the players in the USA’s NBA are well insured by their respective teams to such an extent that they are often hesitant to even represent their own countries. Adonal Foyle is a case in point.
Some years ago the St Vincent and the Grenadines Basketball Federation sought to include Adonal Foyle on a national representative team in an important regional competition that served as a qualifier for international competitions. The local Federation was informed that the team’s (Golden State Warriors) insurance did not cover Foyle while playing outside the NBA and hence, should he be injured while representing St Vincent and the Grenadine she was on his own. The result was that Foyle was unavailable to represent his country since there was no possibility of the Federation being able to address the matter of covering him adequately.
We have seen the situation with Rodney ‘Chang’ Jack. He got injured while representing St Vincent and the Grenadine sin football and ended up being unable to return to his former self. His career essentially ended prematurely as a result. There is no way that he received compensation commensurate with what he would have had if he was injured while playing for his European professional team.
The future
The old people say, one hand doh clap. In the matter before us this means that neither the WICB nor the players can operate alone. They are two sides of the same coin. They are leading the sport of cricket in the Caribbean and unless they work on resolving their differences the future would see an exacerbation of the conflict that has come to characterise their relationship over the years.
The two groupings have now opted for the industrial relations approach in the old style mode of operation. Consideration may well be given to adopting a round table approach to management where everyone is recognised as having a contribution to make to the overall decision-making process and well being of the organisation. Sharing decision-making may even lead to agreement on profit-sharing and ultimately to greater levels of commitment by all to the organisation and its development.
Veiled threats mean little more than a heightening of the antagonisms between both parties.
The availability of many more options than hitherto for our players around the world especially given the numerous 20-over competitions with lucrative funding springing up virtually everywhere may well mean that our best players are increasingly likely to look outside the region to earn a living from the plying of their profession. This will be the case for each generation of good players once their potential is realised internationally. This would therefore that we are left with mediocrity, whatever the generation of players.