In the very first test played at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex, St Vincent and the Grenadines, 9 – 13 July 2009, the West Indies suffered an ignominious defeat, with Bangladesh winning only its second test in 60 matches since joining the list of test playing nations within the International Cricket Council (ICC).
While Bangladesh celebrates, regardless of the outcome of the next two matches in the series, the West Indian fans are particularly upset that the best team was not presented in the first match of the series and from all appearances, this is likely to be repeated in the second test, at least.
Recent decisions of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) must be troubling to the astute followers of the game in the region. The storm that led to the provision of an ‘almost West Indies’ cricket team to play Bangladesh in the first test in St Vincent and the Grenadines is but the latest in a series of faux pas that has come to characterise West Indies cricket.
Antigua and Barbuda boo boo
Earlier in the year the WICB agreed to host England here at home. The test match in Antigua and Barbuda had to be abandoned because the field, a problem since its construction, was deemed unfit for play.
The fact that in 2007 at the time of the Cricket World Cup, for which the facility in Antigua and Barbuda was originally built, a number of critical issues had emerged with the new ground, ought to have cajoled the WICB into paying special attention to it. This did not happen. In its usual cameo style, the WICB went ahead and left the local Cricket authorities to their own devices only to be embarrassed by the complete cancellation of a test match.
One would have expected that ‘heads would roll’ as a result of the colossal embarrassment. Suffice it to say that we moved over to the Antigua Recreation Ground, itself hastily prepared in a few days, and added one test match to the series. No one has as yet been a casualty of this embarrassing situation.
The WICB then agreed to an unplanned series against England in the United Kingdom in Spring, when the weather would have been colder than what is normally expected by our players in an away series and with the conditions favouring the English swing bowlers. We were humiliated.
The WICB found itself on the wrong side of the players who had been contracted to the Indian Premier League (IPL) where they have relatively lucrative contracts.
While some critics are anxious to point to the agreement to provide compensation to those players who had such contracts the reality is that their absence would have denied them the opportunity to be promoted to better pay in future IPL series. Perhaps to consider this would be to focus on the money side of things and this is anathema to the critics.
The fact is that the WICB revealed itself as completely inept in its agreement to the series in the United Kingdom.
The WICB’s series against India, which involved a four-match One-Day series with two matches each in Jamaica and St Lucia, was another major blunder on the part of the organisation.
The choice of nations was unfortunate. While Jamaica does have some Indians in its population, their numbers do not in any way match the likes of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.
The WICB therefore could not have expected to see large crowds in attendance at the matches played in Jamaica and St Lucia, especially in the time of the year at which these were scheduled. It must be assumed therefore that the WICB does not appeal sufficiently committed to a planning process that best suits the region.
Then there is the Bangladesh series currently in progress. Here again, the countries with the largest Indian populations are not included in the test itinerary. There is therefore little hope that the WICB would be expecting large gate receipts for the test matches in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Dominica.
It must also be a sign of madness that the Cricket Boards of the aforementioned three countries would have accepted the test matches involving the West Indies and Bangladesh.
While Chanderpaul remains the most consistent of our cricketers there is no member of the team that is considered sufficiently attractive in his display of the sport to be a crowd-puller.
During the first test match in St Vincent and the Grenadines the crowds must have driven a dagger in the hearts of those in authority and even the media would have had a field-day trying to stomach the weak attendance. Perhaps this best explains why most of the discussion on each of the days of play focused more on the WIPA-WICB impasse than on the match being covered.
West Indian cricket fans everywhere have lamented the decision by the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) to have their members withhold their ‘labour’ in the current series against Bangladesh. The fans speak of the colossal embarrassment that the situation has caused to West Indies cricket. They are very concerned about the poor image of the region in this regard. It does however seem unfortunate that far too many of our so-called loyal cricket fans are unwilling to get at the facts before casting aspersions. Many do not wish to know the facts. It is enough for them to know that the West Indies is not playing its best team.
One of the criticisms levelled at the WIPA is that the organisation appears to wait until the West Indies is about to start a new series to take action. But which trade union does not seek out the most appropriate time to engage in industrial action? Do we not have the same situation with LIAT employees? The general idea about industrial action is that it be taken when it is most likely to have the desired impact. In the case of the WIPA the most critical opportunity presents itself whenever there is a series pending.
Anyone involved in industrial relations would understand that there are several courses of action open to the trade unions. They may choose to ‘work to rule’ or engage in ‘wildcat strikes’ or go to arbitration, or withhold their labour. The WIPA chose to withhold their labour.
While the WICB has been quick to select an entirely new team for the Bangladesh series one notes that the ‘spunk’ shown this time around may well have come about because the series involves the lowest ranked test playing nation and we were of the view that any team we choose would defeat them. The fact that the West Indies suffered a humiliating defeat at Arno Vale, St Vincent and the Grenadines, where no real crowd ever attended, reveals the fact that there is not the depth in our cricket that we believe exists. It is for this reason that it is being suggested here that had it been Australia or South Africa against whom we were playing the WICB would have settled with the WIPA instead of seeking the current option.
Many critics of the WIPA action have allowed themselves to be too readily blinded by their own emotional attachment to West Indies cricket. They are fed up of seeing the team lose and so, in their own anger, they anxiously chide the players and the WIPA for not allowing the team an obvious opportunity to win so that they would have something to celebrate. The stance of the critics appears to have little to do with the realities of the situation.
West Indies cricket loyalists were also against the West Indies players when they turned their backs on the then West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) to join the Kerry Packer initiative. Back then many were hoping that the regular West Indies team that toured India and which revealed the likes of Malcolm Marshall to the world, would have done well enough to leave the Kerry Packer players out in the cold. These same critics said nothing in support of Alvin Kallicharan when the powerful cadre of West Indian cricketers came out of the series and returned to the traditional fold, marginalising the young cricketer who had been originally retained as captain of the team that remained loyal to the WICBC.
Few of our traditionalists seem to recall that it is out of the experience of the Packer initiative that the WIPA was born. Now, unfortunately, some of the very founding fathers of WIPA appear to have allowed themselves to be caught up in being critical of the organisation.
At the time of the return of the Packer grouping to the traditional fold astute analysts of the game in the region understood only too well that the players had bonded themselves into a very powerful unit to such an extent that it was virtually impossible for the WICBC and any appointed team management to wrest control of the team in any series.
It is amazing therefore to hear comments from the likes of Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Michael Holding and Clive Lloyd, to name a few, in respect of the behaviour of players today. They may well have forgotten their own conduct on and off the field of play. The critics of the WIPA seem to have forgotten this component of West Indies cricket.
It is amazing that many of those who have been critical of the action taken by WIPA on behalf of the West Indies players have failed to make the necessary parallel with themselves sin their own work situations and as members of trade unions in their respective countries.
There are not many workers today who would readily accede to a payment by performance agreement. They know their won realities and would therefore not be anxious to have their performance so closely monitored that their salaries would be tagged to it, yet they would want to demand that the West Indian cricketers be so tied.