West Indies’ deepening crisis
In the recent past we have been hearing much about the intervention of the CARICOM in the impasse between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA). However, there seems that there is much more that the sporting public of the Caribbean are interested in knowing than has thus far been revealed to the region’s media.
In this Column we seek to address some of those issues.
CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket
We are aware that some years ago CARICOM established a Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket.
The Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Cricket is a body set up by the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government to address issues pertaining to the game.
We must therefore presume that the CARICOM remains caught up in its own inability to liberate cricket from itself, which is nothing short of the conundrum the organization itself faces.
Evidence suggests that CARICOM remains blinded by its own interpretation of what the game should mean to the peoples of the Caribbean to such an extent that the Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket operates as though the sport has not moved on.
Our contention here is that the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket is an unfortunate invention and is reflective the short-sightedness of the regional institution itself. Consequently, West Indies Cricket will remain underdeveloped at best given its continued operational modus.
In 2005 the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket intervened when there was a crisis between the WICB and WIPA over the arrangements made when the former had entered into an agreement with DIGICEL over the former team sponsor, Cable and Wireless. This crisis emerged when the team was involved in the tour of Australia.
Interestingly there was nothing that the two parties could not have worked out amongst themselves but their own eagerness to stand their respective ground led to an impasse that caused the just as eager CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket to intervene.
The year 2009 saw a strike undertaken by the players and the WICB stood its ground for some time. The latter organisation omitted some key players form its agreed international commitment including the Champions Trophy. Once more the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket intervened and an agreement was reached by all parties involved in the process.
In 2012 the WICB took its decision in respect of the changes made in Guyana and the impasse continued for a long time. The CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket again intervened.
Of course Gonsalves got involve din the process when Chris Gayle was left off the West Indies team and took credit for having resolved that issue with the support of former Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, and Gayle himself, whom he had gotten a private plane to transport from St Kitts and Nevis to a meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In the current situation regarding the case of the players insistence not to play any further in the series against India the Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket is claiming to intervene with Gonsalves being involved and proposing solutions with some level of confidence.
Few have taken the time to analyse the merits and demerits of the several interventions of the Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket. This is particularly important since for the most part it is the politicians who pat themselves son the back and, has always been the norm with Caribbean political leaders, never take the time to involve the region’s masses in their decision-making.
Perhaps it is the way they each behave in their respective countries that leave them committed to what may well be an integral part of the Caribbean’s political culture – authoritarianism.
CLR James’ book, Beyond A Boundary, sought to answer the important and insightful question, what do they of cricket know who only cricket know?
The question posed by James remains as relevant today as it did at the time of his writing. It is as relevant to the Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket as it is to the WICB, the WIPA and all those involved in the game in the Caribbean we call home.
We are fearful of chiding our leaders for fear of recrimination either directly or on the sly and they know, understand and thrive on this.
But when they are wrong they need to be told this.
The Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket does not understand what has been happening to the game of Cricket around the world and how it has impacted the ways of our players today. They do not have the slightest idea.
By and large the current political leaders involved in the Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket are still thinking of the sport as an important part of their own historical upbringing with a definitive role in the liberation of our peoples.
We argue here that today’s players on the West Indies Cricket team have no such pretensions. Their focus in the almighty dollar that opens the doors to a new way of life called professional sport where professionalism relates to amassing wealth and little else.
Indeed one may suggest that it is this attitude of the current elite core of the West Indies Cricket team that has led to the irresponsible decision to decide not to play any more during the tour of India.
Where was the professionalism?
Where was the consideration for the cause of the Indian Cricket authorities, BCCI?
Where was the consideration for the massive losses the BCCI would incur?
Where was the consideration for the image of the WICB?
Where was the consideration or legacy?
As the average West Indian cricket enthusiast as to their understanding of the reason for the termination of the tour of India and the response would readily come, money. The average Caribbean cricket enthusiast is clear that the focus of the elite core of our cricketers in the region is the income earning capacity now available.
Perhaps the aforementioned questions could be placed at the doorstep of the WICB as well.
The Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket may do well to take the time to understand what it is they ought to be addressing as opposed to their continuously reactive stance.
In spite of the intervention of the Caricom Prime Ministerial Sub Committee on Cricket the core issues remain and it is these that must be addressed.
Do the BCCI require compensation for losses incurred as a result of the sudden cancellation of the tour? Of course they do. They invested heavily in preparing for what should have been a financial harvest for them and this was cut short rather embarrassingly by the their West Indian counterparts and our players. Somebody must pay. Such intransigence cannot and must not go unpunished.
Had the shoes been on the feet of the WICB what would they have done?
Would the WICB not have demanded compensation from the BCCI?
Indeed we may suggest that had the WICB been in control the sport and our team would not have been where they are now.
The WICB is not in charge of the sport in the region and is likely to remain all the more so when the new franchises begin to take root and the professional league takes root. They have put nothing in place to show that they are prepared for the new challenges.
The players are not yet ready for the professionalism that has overtaken them. Many have rolled with the benefits and have begun to live the good life like so many international sport personalities who live large and forget that there is more to life that the dollar sign.
Caricom is itself a weak financial institution that is yet to prove its worth to the peoples of the Caribbean in the many areas under its ambit.
In the absence of any capacity to enforce its own decisions amongst it membership Caricom doe s not in any way seem posed to do anything more than mere talk for the WICB and the WIPA relative to the impasse with the BCCI.
Caricom certainly does not have any money and will not be able to even conceptualise asking the regional populace to fork up monies to aid in bailing out the WICB in the current impasse.
Now more than ever the peoples of the Caribbean can come to the realisation of just how much Caribbean leaders at the level of Caricom are in no way different from their positions and conduct at home, mere talkers.
Caricom remains the region’s biggest Talk Shop and little else.
In a letter to WICB president Dave Cameron, addressed to ‘Your Excellency’ and dated October 23, St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister Ralph Gonsalves specifies the “preemptory and premature termination” of the West Indies tour of India. While recognising the “sole judiciary authority of the WICB to address the mountain of difficulties at hand”, he recommended the urgent assembling of a three-member CARICOM group to help in finding “satisfactory ways out of the many-sided impasse”.
Gonsalves proposed that the group comprise Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne, who is also the current chairman of Caricom, Grenada’s prime minister Keith Mitchell and former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson. He cited the “profound interest in West Indies cricket” of Mitchell, a former Grenada player who has previously arbitrated in disputes between the two organisations, and Patterson’s “heroic historic engagements with West Indies cricket and the WICB [that] are legendary and productive”.
Patterson had headed a committee on the governance of West Indies cricket that presented its extensive report, widely referred to as the Patterson Report, to the WICB in October, 2007. He has since complained that its most critical points have never been implemented.
Gonsalves also put himself forward “to assist in any appropriate capacity”, noting that there were other qualified persons in both the public and private sectors who could be called on.
He noted that he had been “centrally involved”, along with former Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Baldwin Spencer and Patterson, in resolving “the celebrated standoff” between the WICB and former captain Chris Gayle in 2012. Gayle was not picked for West Indies for 15 months because of the dispute.
Gonsalves suggested four main subjects for discussion between the WICB and his projected CARICOM group.
Two concern the specific issue of the abandonment of the India tour. They are the resolution of the current dispute between the WICB, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and the players, and the settlement of the “many-sided tug-and-pull” between the WICB and the BCCI.
Two are more general. They would concentrate on the sustainable funding of West Indies cricket and the renewal of dialogue between the WICB and CARICOM’s prime ministerial sub-committee on cricket on “further possible reforms in the MANAGEMENT and administrative systems of WICB and West Indies cricket”.
Gonsalves expressed doubts that such “a huge and complicated matter” could be handled in an ad hoc manner or by the WICB alone.
“This is an extraordinary enterprise which takes us ‘beyond the boundary’,” he wrote. “The satisfactory and sustainable resolution of the composite problematic calls for exceptional leadership, a well-articulated strategic path and a bundle of wise and feasible tactical approaches.
“The ultimate goal is wrapped up in a process for the survival, consolidation and renaissance of West Indies cricket.”
West Indies cricket has been this way before.
CARICOM’s sub-committee on cricket, under prime minister Mitchell, brokered an end to a disagreement between the WICB and WIPA over players’ contracts when the Irish mobile phone company, Digicel, replaced Cable & Wireless, its main rival in the region, as sponsor. The row had threatened West Indies’ participation in a triangular ODI series in Australia in early 2005.
CARICOM again stepped in to secure a provisional agreement between the two sides that led to the 2009 strike for the home series against Bangladesh and the omission of the involved players from the subsequent Champions Trophy in South Africa. The accord allowed a full strength West Indies team to undertake a tour of three Tests and a triangular ODI series in Australia in 2009-10.
Caricom’s 32nd summit in St Kitts in 2011 mandated its cricket sub-committee to engage with WICB and WIPA while the two parties were involved in another one of their disputes.
In 2012, CARICOM was once more given the task of sorting out the controversy over the Guyana government’s replacement of the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) with an Interim MANAGEMENTCommittee. This issue has dragged on, causing scheduled Tests against Australia and New Zealand over the past three years to be shifted away from Guyana.