WI Cricket Fiasco continues unabated
It should not be long before we see individual cricket associations in the Caribbean seek to get the International Cricket Council (ICC) to recognise them as bona fide members in their own right.
Yes, we can expect that soon, very soon, Cricket associations in the Caribbean may try to exit the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and apply for individual membership of the ICC.
The most recent spat between the WICB and player, Darren Bravo, is but another critical piece of evidence of the sourness that exists within the organisation. It would get worse before it gets better.
This is not the first time that the WICB and a player or players have found themselves at variance. Understanding who is at fault is one thing. Agreeing to the underlying cause(s), the frequency of these conflicts and how to address them constitute another thing altogether.
Many seem anxious to blame the players whenever conflicts occur. But is this really the case?
In individual sport it is often said that the coach influences the athlete’s performance. In the case of cricket, like all team sports, individual skill competencies have to be woven together to facilitate the team’s performance. It is not just about the individual.
The coach has to work assiduously to match competencies and harness everyone’s potential to attain success.
In the past it was assumed that the Caribbean possessed such an abundance of cricketing talent that it seemed natural. One only had to go to the beach and move around any one of our islands and everywhere the boys were playing the game of cricket with as much gusto as the colonisers who once had the local blacks bowl to them for hours on end in the early days of the game in the region.
Once the West Indies got into the sport at the international level there was never a shortage of players ready and willing to learn and master the craft of the sport and indeed, excel at it. It appeared as though the players were simply oozing out of everywhere in the region and being snapped up to play English County Cricket as professionals.
The time came, almost inevitably, when the players developed well enough that they could be moulded into a tremendous machine that simply rolled over the opposition regardless of which part of the world they came from.
Thus we can point to outstanding greats in the game in all its aspects on the field – batting, bowling and fielding.
The 3Ws – Worrell, Weeks and Walcott – George Headley, Learie Constantine, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, Sonny Ramadhin, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Colin Croft, Roger Harper and of course, Brian Lara, all left an indelible mark on the game at the highest level of international cricket.
On many an occasion these players and their peers thrilled cricket enthusiasts everywhere with their immense love of the game and their commitment to excellence.
The decision at the Kerry Packer Series to utilise four genuine fast bowlers allowed the West Indies team to race ahead of all opponents to such an extent that the ICC and many of the sport’s enthusiasts began to speak of being cheated since test matches ended well inside the scheduled five days with increasing frequency.
Whilst the prowess of successive generations of West Indies cricketers stunned the world, it was not long before cricketing authorities turned on the players.
At the level of the ICC it began with limiting the number of bouncers a bowler could bowl in a single over. This was the only option to throw at the West Indians since they could not find a way to charge them for speeding.
In England rule changes came fast and furious limiting the number of overseas players a country could contract at any one time.
The reality was that the ICC and the English authorities had come to the realisation that despite the abundance of cricketing talent resident in the Caribbean the structure of the administration of the sport had not in any way changed. It had not kept pace with the advances of the players themselves. The offer of professional contract abroad served as an incentive to young players in the Caribbean.
Additionally, playing professional cricket in England allowed for the significant improvement in the way our players played the game. They matured into the sport and developed immense skill capabilities.
In a sense therefore English County Cricket may well have contributed more to the development of our players for decades than did the WICB at home.
It is the foregoing reality that compelled the English cricket authorities to take drastic measures in what they perceived to be in the best interest in the development of their own game. They had to allow their own players to blossom.
Cricket academies developed in the advanced cricketing nations while we languished in the Caribbean still expectant that good players would develop naturally.
Kerry Packer brought the light to the ICC regarding how cricket could be branded and marketed to facilitate enhanced revenues for all stakeholders.
Once the West Indies players were exposed to better pay it was only a matter of time that before they followed the lead of their test-playing counterparts and formed themselves into a sort of trade union. In the case of the West Indies the players created the West Indies Players Association. Deryck Murray was instrumental in the formation of WIPA.
Of course, the administrators, accustomed to the old colonial authoritarian approach to management could not readily grasp the significance of what was happening before their eyes, despite the fact that it was happening all around the cricketing world.
Not surprisingly, once the sport got into the sale of television rights and the One Day International then the 20/20 versions emerged, the players all enjoyed huge increases in annual income.
Today, players could become millionaires in a single calendar year.
With bigger pay packets available to them players do not necessarily have to play for their respective countries and certainly not for the West Indies cricket team. They could earn contracts in one country after another during any given year and earn significantly large sums of money.
The attraction of larger incomes also meant greater employment of agents to market the players and lawyers to defend them and their contracts. This changed the dynamics of West Indies cricket.
Players were no longer kids playing on the beach or fighting to represent their countries or make the West Indies team.
Sunil Narine, for example, burst on the cricketing scene in Trinidad and Tobago, failed to catch the eyes of the selectors but ended up with a million-dollar contract playing in the Indian Premier League. He was a millionaire in his country before ever being called up for selection to the regional side. That is an immense incentive to young Caribbean players going forward.
West Indies cricket has always suffered from decidedly poor administration. This has become so well known that we are the laughing stock of international cricket.
To many of the players, dating as far back as one could remember, the region’s cricket administrators have shown little respect for the rights of players selected to the regional team.
The really old players would speak about the lack of concern or their health and general well-being to the extent that injuries had to be addressed by the players themselves. Some played with injuries merely to stay on the team and earn a few dollars.
Even when revenues started to pour in from television rights and sponsorship deals the region’s administrators of the sport seemed satisfied with their own comfortable lifestyles leaving the players to their own devices. The latter, realising this took the lead.
It is therefore not surprising that we have had players at variance with the WICB over the years. The case of Desmond Haynes stands out and this went on for many years.
We have seen issues crop up on several different occasions involving many players.
Interestingly, the many cases brought to mediation involving the WIPA and the WICB under the tenure of Dinanath Ramnarine almost always ended up in the favour of the players. That must speak volumes of the poor quality leadership at the WICB and this, for a very long time.
We have recently witnessed the unholy conflicts between the WICB and coach Phil Simmons.
The case of Darren Bravo is but the latest conflict situation.
Bravo had his contract status cut, according to the WICB. The problem is that somehow the President of the WICB felt it necessary to explain to the media why this was done. As it turned out Bravo’s performance over the past two years, while not earthshattering was certainly much higher than all but one of the players on the current team. Additionally, he was one of the more outstanding players in the recently concluded series, not that any one of the players really deserve to be considered outstanding.
Bravo’s response was in the form of a tweet where he suggested that the President of the WICB has had his own share of failures but he has not resigned.
To the independent observer Bravo’s comment may well be accurate. Indeed, many critics in the Caribbean have been bothered by the poor leadership displayed by Cameron and the politicians have also been very caustic on occasions, to say the least.
Importantly, however, it may well be a case that Cameron has been given a taste of his own medicine but unable to deal with it. It was alright for him to appear to ‘trash’ Bravo but unacceptable for Bravo to respond in kind. As employer, he may well feel justified in having the law applied to the full against Bravo.
Once again, the player’s rights may be disrespected in the Cameron and WICB’s stance and we can expect this to go on for some time.
Other players have had their say in the past, including Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard. Dwayne Bravo has always been very outspoken and has been clear on making his own way rather than stay reliant on what many perceive to be a decadent institution dubbed the WICB.
Whatever the outcome of the current situation we are likely to find that increasingly, Caribbean cricketers, once they have matured in the game enough to attract clubs in different parts of the world, would readily opt for the financial security and stability that these contracts bring rather than allow themselves to be treated like children in an age of fast-paced change. The Caribbean and its image in the sport of cricket is not likely to change much. We would still be seen as possessive of an abundance of cricketing talent but we would remain pretty close to the dung heap of the sport’s history as a cricket team if only because we are afraid to admit the paucity of talented administrators of the game in our art of the world.