Just How Settled is West Indies Cricket?
A story carried in the Trinidad Express newspaper dated 3 December 2014 noted, Team manager Sir Richie Richardson says the West Indies have moved beyond the recent controversial impasse with their union and board, and are fully focused on the upcoming Test series against South Africa.
Richardson is the latest to be elevated to the position of team manager and one can understand why, on a tour of South Africa he would want to reassure himself and perhaps South African cricketing authorities that all is now well with the team and everyone can expect the West Indian players to give of their best.
Incidentally, this is the same Richardson who captained the West Indies that played South Africa when the latter had just been allowed back into international cricket. He received some intense criticism for his comment after the team’s loss to the returning South Africans, something to the effect that it was just a game. Clearly he may well not have read CLR James’, Beyond A Boundary, or if he did, he may not have understood it at all.
The critical issue now is whether in fact the crisis, that came to a head in India recently and which has led to the financial status of the West Indies Cricket Board being called into question given India’s demand for compensation, us really over.
For some reason perhaps best known only to themselves the CARICOM Heads of Government have somehow convinced each other that they can do for cricket hat they cannot do for their respective countries.
CARICOM, an avowed toothless tiger, has failed to facilitate regional integration. The leaders have consistently agreed decisions only to ignore them when it comes to applying them to their respective countries. Yet it is these same leaders who, in their own wisdom and understanding, opted some years ago to create a Cricket Committee within the organization.
Over the years we have had the spectre of so-called interventions from PJ Patterson of Jamaica, Keith Mitchell of Grenada and of course our own Ralph Gonsalves, all well-meaning but incapable fop bringing West Indies cricket to a point where it is appropriately well managed.
Is it the business of the CARICOM leaders to intervene in West Indies cricket? If they cannot fix their respective countries and cannot work together for the collective well being of the peoples of the region we can home, the Caribbean, how are they to realistically address the problems of West Indies cricket?
The Caribbean political leaders who so anxiously want to address what they perceive to be the problems of West Indies cricket may well be among the dying generation who believe that the sport holds some significance for the peoples of the region beyond a contest of teams. The problem is whether they are aware that the Caribbean cricketers of today do not know, understand or care for anything of significance beyond the dollars that they now earn as professional players.
Caribbean politicians love the limelight and often get themselves in activities that allow them to be seen and heard. This is all the more the case where it involves something as popular as West Indies cricket.
Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this is what has been happening for some time in respect of they occasional forays into West Indies cricket?
Do they achieve anything that can be considered as serving the long-term interest of the sport in the region?
Unfortunately for the region’s political leaders today the peoples of the region no longer care whether Chris Gayle plays for the regional team. They understand the inconsistencies of his game. They care little for Dwayne Bravo or Kieron Pollard.
Have our Caribbean people not long since resigned themselves to the entertainment they get from the game whenever possible without attaching much significance to who is playing on the regional team?
Should the Indian cricket authorities insist on receipt of their pound of flesh for the ridiculous and highly irresponsible action of the players by walking out of a tour that was clearly a lucrative undertaking for the host, would the same political leaders intervene to find the required funds?
Indeed there is a fair chance of a ready end to the involvement of the politicians once India goes forward with their financial claims for compensation. The problem is no money.
In any event the WICB seems keen on political involvement only in times of crisis. Beyond that the members seem to value their independence and autonomy.
WICB & WIPA
It is interesting that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has indicated that the members have agreed a series of strategic options to address the situation with India. We will have to wait to see how the Indians would react to the overtures of the WICB.
What we have seen is the WICB essentially returning to the same players who were involved in the debacle in India. What does this mean?
Is anyone being sanctioned?
Are the players too important to the team that they cannot be disciplined?
Would the other players not feel decidedly empowered if those responsible for the crisis in India are allowed to get away with impunity?
Is this an indication that the WICB is itself prepared to should some of the responsibility for the crisis?
There are those who seem to think that the WICB should in fact should some of the responsibility or what transpired in India since the players were allowed to leave for the commencement of the tour without the contracts in their possession. Once they got their contracts and discovered the discrepancy between what they claim they were led to believe was an agreement and the reality of what was on the printed document one would have expected the WICB to take immediate steps to address the players’ concerns.
Why did the WICB not send someone to India to meet with the players and their WIPA representatives immediately upon receiving the first complaints and threats from the aggrieved individuals?
Why should the players have any level of confidence in the WICB given what they had seen in the contracts that were sent to them?
Indeed, it may be appropriate to ask why the players should have any confidence in WIPA after recognising that the latter did not pounce on the WICB immediately after the contracts were not what was allegedly agreed?
It is clear that Wavell Hind’s administration of WIPA has been pursuing a path that is significantly different from that taken by his predecessor, Dinanath Ramnarine. However it is also fair to assume that had Ramnarine been at the helm the team would not have gone to India without the printed contracts in their possession and the team may never have left the Caribbean without the discrepancies being addressed to the satisfaction of the players.
Is it possible that Hinds has allowed himself and his administration to get so close to the WICB that there is a dulling of the critical analytical skills re the negotiations for and on behalf of the players?
Richardson is quoted as saying …We are now focusing on the future which is here in South Africa. We’re here to play Test cricket, initially, and that is our focus. All the players are pretty much ready for the challenges we’re going to face.
The foregoing quotation may merely be good public relations on the part of the newly appointed team manager.
Have the players’ contracts been redone to reflect their concerns? If they have been redone then ought we to conclude that the WICB is admitting that it was the party that erred and therefore played a huge role in precipitating the crisis?
Could it be that the WICB is well aware that, as happened some time ago, some test playing nations would have little interest in a West Indies team that does not conclude the likes of Sammy, Bravo, Pollard etc., and would therefore seek release from agreed tours?
It would be great if all outstanding matters of contention have been settled and that the players can focus on playing the game as true professionals. However, the culture that has emerged in the WICB and in WIPA is such that Caribbean lovers of the sport of cricket may find themselves compelled to raise ever more questions in respect of the words of Richie Richardson.