COZIER ON CRICKET – Folly to spurn helping hand
THE International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) have jointly sent an unequivocal proposition to the two organisations responsible for the most critical aspects of West Indies cricket.Concerned by the rancorous, interminable bickering between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) that is largely responsible for the disintegration of what was the game’s most admired entity, the ICC and FICA offered their good offices to help settle the current disagreement over image and intellectual property rights.It was an unprecedented act of collaboration between two significant bodies that represent different interests. Such suggested involvement would not have been taken lightly for, as with all such umbrella groups, the autonomy of their individual members remains paramount.Yet they could read the signs.As the WICB and WIPA have been repeatedly, and publicly, at odds over a host of issues, West Indies cricket has increasingly become an international irrelevancy. As a cursory glance at any of the game’s websites and their omnipresent bloggers attest, it is a situation that genuinely troubles everyone.From acknowledged world champions just 15 years ago, they have slipped to near bottom, just above Bangladesh, in both Tests and One-Day Internationals.Where great players once proliferated, there are now none. Only the dependable Shivnarine Chanderpaul is fit to be rated among the current Top 10 among either batsmen or bowlers and he is nearing the end of his career. Only Kemar Roach, a beginner, and Darren Sammy, an irregular selection, can claim a Test bowling average of under 35 a wicket.More to the point, the triumphs that once filled West Indians with pride and the aura that rendered West Indies cricket so appealing that set schedules were adjusted to accommodate them are distant memories.Grounds once filled to capacity in confident expectation of another victory are now characterised by vast emptiness in the absence of once passionate fans disenchanted as much with the repeated defeats as with the WICB-WIPA wrangling.Previously the star attractions at cricketdom’s most famous venues, the West Indies now find themselves shunted to outposts such as Hobart in Australia and Chester-le-Street in England.They haven’t been placed at the MCG in Melbourne or the SCG in Sydney for their past two series in Australia, each of which was reduced to three Tests when once they were five, even six.Now, it was revealed last week, they will not play a Test at Lord’s during the short tour of England in 2012, the first time they will miss the acknowledged home of cricket since they were granted full status in 1928. They have to make do instead with Cardiff, in Wales.If the WICB and WIPA do not grasp where all this is leading, and the part their constant quarrelling has played in it, the ICC and FICA obviously do. Their intervention was an attempt to save West Indies cricket from itself.Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it has failed. WICB accepted their joint offer (“enthused” was the adjective it used); WIPA declined. The upshot was that, instead of the original intention, the matter triggered a public exchange between the two every bit as caustic as any of their several spats over recent years.As usual, none of their pertinent media statements over the past week had anything at all to do with raising the standard of the cricket or the cricketers under their influence.Giving the main reason for its decision, WIPA referred to its accord with the WICB, brokered by CARICOM and signed in New York late last year by its president and chief executive Dinanath Ramnarine and WICB president Julian Hunte.It noted that, under the agreement, there are “two special arbitrations which are due to be heard shortly before a panel of distinguished Caribbean jurists”.It declared that it was willing to accept the panel’s binding decision, “win or lose”, rather than the non-binding mediation of the ICC/FICA combination, pointing out that such attempted mediation last year under the former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, had come to nothing. The WICB’s position was that “it was clear that the arbitration was not progressing smoothly and that the relationship between WIPA and WICB remained strained on that matter”.If possible, that relationship became even more strained over the past week, for in between such points was much angry language. If it wasn’t before, it is now impossible to imagine it becoming less belligerent in the foreseeable future under the conflicting dispensations.How ironic that a genuine effort by cricket’s two most important organisations to alleviate such tension should have been so sadly transformed into the complete opposite.What next? we must wonder. • Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the Caribbean.