On 17 October 2014 the BBC online newspaper carried the following:
West Indies: Confusion reigns over tour of India
The West Indies’ tour of India is shrouded in confusion after conflicting statements from the teams’ boards.
India’s board said it was “shocked and extremely disappointed” after being told by its counterpart that West Indies would be leaving the tour after Friday’s fourth one-day international.
But the West Indies’ board has denied making a decision to pull out.
To many avid followers of the sport around the world the news came as no surprise since there was some hesitancy on the part of the players on the West Indies team when the first One Day International was about to be played.
To many it simply appeared that the tour was in jeopardy and that once more West Indies cricket would be a major international embarrassment, an example to the world of just how not to do things.
Unfortunately for the West Indies Cricket Board the series was being played against India and the latter would not be prepared to just roll over and play dead, as the saying goes.
In September the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding and the combined bargaining agreement. It was not long after this that the players began raising their extreme dissatisfaction with the agreement citing significant pay-cuts that were unacceptable to them.
Speaking on behalf of the players on the tour that was summarily called off recently, Bravo claimed that the players were not appropriately apprised of the agreement and insisted that the matter be urgently addressed.
Indeed, Bravo, the captain of the One Day team, called for the immediate resignation of the head of WIPA, Jamaican former West Indies player, Wavell Hinds.
It also appears that the players had become so incensed with their perception of the WIPA leadership that they wanted the entire executive to step down and in the interim allow the players to engage the WICB directly.
The WICB, seemingly satisfied with the Memorandum of Understanding and the combined bargaining agreement, insisted for its part that it was holding on to what was agreed and would engage only the WIPA, not the players.
As the West Indies captain, Bravo, and his Indian counterpart completed the toss in India for the 4th One Day International, the former told commentator, Ian Bishop, that it was time to make a decision. The players did. They would not take any further part in the tour of India.
Interestingly, the body that controls cricket in India, BCCI, was reported as being shocked at the decision of the WICB to cancel the tour. On the other hand the WICB initially appeared to have denied that it had engaged in any such action.
The truth is now in the open. The West Indies tour of India has been called off and now the BCCI is taking the matter to the International Cricket Council and is seeking legal recourse to recoup its projected massive losses.
For many years the West Indies players have been at something of a disadvantage with the WICB, formerly the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC). The advent of the Kerry Packer Cricket Series ushered in a new era in the sport at the international level and for the first time West Indies players were in a position to negotiate salaries. WIPA emerged as the bargaining agency for the West Indies players thereafter.
During the years when Deryck Murray led the WIPA the latter and the WICB must have had contentious issues to address but they never seemed to have reached the level of acrimony that seemed to have become so pervasive in the recent past.
The hard line pursued by Dinanath Ramnarine as head of WIPA saw a period of turbulence that featured in the media with great regularity.
It must be of immense significance though that in the vast majority of disputes between the WICB and WIPA during the Ramnarine era the latter emerged victorious. This is enough to suggest that the WICB was either ill advised for the most art or they were simply not well prepared. One would hate to think that they thought so little of the players that they simply did not seem anxious to take them seriously.
There is then something of a legacy for the WIPA in respect of its dealings with the WICB enough to leave the players confident that they do need to be mindful of what is happening around them at all times.
Embarrassing & shameful
The decision to cancel the tour of India leaves the WICB and WIPA the laughing stock of the international sporting community.
Many pundits of sport are today wondering what it is with West Indies cricket that has allowed things to be so sour, embarrassing the peoples of the region to the point of unbelievable shame.
Cricketers are today fairly well paid by the standards of their earlier counterparts.
Over the years the WIPA fought for and procured a pay scale that can readily be compared with their cricketing counterpartys around the world.
It is perhaps more than a little unfortunate that in the Caribbean many people tend to find the players over paid if only because we seem anxious to want them to be engaged under a payment by results scheme rather than on the professional standards of the game today. Happily the hands of the clock cannot be turned back in this particular matter and it is what it is.
To have cancelled a tour of India in these times is extremely embarrassing whatever about the issues at hand.
India has given rise to a significant growth-spurt in the sport of cricket and the entire cricketing fraternity around the world have been major beneficiaries.
The introduction of the International Premier League (IPL) and other attractive forms of the game has added immense appeal and value to the sport in India and around the world.
Revenues from international cricket matches are immense not only at the level of the television rights but also by way of gate receipts. It is this fact that has forced the BCCI to contemplate legal action against the WICB.
The WICB has almost always been strapped for cash and it is highly unlikely that it can afford anything remotely close to the huge figures that are currently being bandied about as BCCI compensation. Too large a fine would certainly leave the organisation decidedly bankrupt.
At a meeting at the Accra Beach Hotel in Barbados on Tuesday last the Board appeared to have finally grasped the severity of the situation. The WICB leadership has apparently agreed a few positions that they will take to the BCCI. The issue is really whether the BCCI would be willing to listen to the WICB’s attempt at saving face. The damage has already been done and the BCCI is ready to move on.
There are many who would readily chide the West Indies cricketers for the embarrassment and that may be a correct stance from several vantage points. But the players are cast here in the role of workers and if there is a dispute with their bargaining agents one would expect that the WICB ought not to have been made to pay for it and certainly not in this manner where the losses are expected to significantly outweigh any gains that could possibly accrue.
Trade unionists would argue however that workers (in this case the West Indies cricketers) must always seek to take industrial action when the situation offers them the best opportunity to push employers on the back foot to the point that they would yield to the workers’ demands.
It should be noted that the players have an agency in WIPA that is their official bargaining unit. If there is an issue over an agreement between the WIPA and the WICB, the matter has to be carefully handled.
As it is the players are arguing that the WIPA did not do full disclosure with them regarding an agreement on their behalf with the WICB. The evidence also seems to be pointing to this reality and if that is the case then WIPA must shoulder its share of the blame. But that is not the Board’s fault. The dispute is therefore initially between the players and their own bargaining agent. For the players, while engaged in a tour of India to insist to the WICB that they want to negotiate on their own behalf could only mean a renegotiation since there is an already signed one in existence.
That the players demanded the resignation of Wavell Hinds and his executive at the helm of WIPA really should have nothing to do with the WICB or the cancellation of the tour of India since that may well constitute a breach of contract under the existing agreement.
Unfortunately for the WICB the cancellation of the tour also means for them a serious breach of contract with the BCCI on the one hand and the ICC on the other, each of which could prove immensely costly.
The players may well have acted rashly even if they may feel, perhaps with some measure of justification that the WIPA leadership acted without their full consent. Similarly, the WICB’s insistence to adopt what appeared to be a hands-off stance when the players were articulating their case may also have allowed for the escalation of the latter’s grievance, leaving them to think themselves being left out in the cold.
One can expect the impasse to continue for some time while the BCCI and the ICC contemplate an appropriate course of action against the WICB and West Indies cricket. The contentious issues can have a very serious and debilitating impact on the future of the sport in the region. Already the BCCI is claiming that India’s tour of the West Indies next year is in suspense. The same may well be said about the plans for the regional team to play series abroad and the WICB’s plans to allow for the commencement of the professional league in the Caribbean next year.
CLR James may well be turning in his grave as the current dispensation in West Indies cricket continues to challenge what he once considered a very rich legacy where love of the game and its embodiment of the aspirations of our Caribbean people mattered most.
On 17 October 2014 the BBC online newspaper carried the following: