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Who to blame?


Mike King

Who to blame?

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West Indies’ cricket has entered a dark and scary phase with a “wild cat” strike that has brought an abrupt end to the tour of India.

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has said it was left with no option but to “discontinue” the tour of India after the players had informed the board through the team management that they would be returning to the Caribbean.

Before any fingers are pointed at the WICB or the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), it has to be said that the pullout is not good for cricket or for player relations within cricket.

The reason for the dispute was the memorandum of understanding and the combined bargaining agreement signed between WIPA and WICB in September. Bravo, acting as the player representative, had claimed that WIPA president and chief executive Wavell Hinds had kept the players in the dark over the memorandum of understanding (MOU), which he signed without their consent.

The first question is, should the West Indies players who really have more of an issue with their union, WIPA, than with the WICB, have opted out of the tour in midstream? Every effort should have been to complete the tour; it should not have come to this.

It is worrying that the players did not know exactly what was in the MOU until they got to India. Why weren’t all the players e-mailed the MOU?

At the end of the day, the WICB is ultimately responsible for all matters pertaining to cricket in the Caribbean and should have been more proactive in dealing with this issue.

On the eve of the first ODI in Kochi, Bravo warned that if Hinds did not cooperate and respond to the questions raised by the players, a strike or a pullout from the tour could not be ruled out.

Though Hinds responded eventually, Bravo continued to insist that he should step down as chief executive and president, and even asked the WICB not to communicate with WIPA till a solution was found.

However, WICB president Dave Cameron sent an email to Bravo saying the board would only engage with WIPA, adhering to the MOU signed in September.

That development led to the West Indian players taking the extreme step of pulling out of the tour.

In other words, Cameron, his CEO Michael Muirhead, and the other top brass of the WICB from the outset should have been on the first plane to India and meeting with Bravo instead of playing hardball.

There are no winners here. The WICB was indecisive and allowed things to fester while Bravo sometimes appeared to be more of a bully than a mediator.

It is ironic that Bravo, who has always given more priority to the Indian Premier League (IPL) than to West Indies cricket, is now the chief spokesman for players’ rights.

Signing off a deal without the major players knowing its contents is not keeping with best practices, but examination of the contents indicates that under the new deal, monies were filtering further down the line.

Tino Best has contended that senior players should be prepared to make a small package to allow others to benefit.

“If we are in a position as senior West Indies players to help the small fish, we should do it. At the end of the day, no one is losing,” he said.

The BCCI, which is now asking for US $65 000 in compensation from the WICB,  is not to blame here. It is running a business, not a charity. If your company won a contract and worked on a project and spent money on it, wouldn’t you demand compensation if it was abruptly withdrawn? What about the man hours, the event organisation, tickets, etc? Even having a new team Sri Lanka involves a huge amount of logistics.

Although Bravo has repeatedly stated that the players stood to have a 90 per cent cut in their overall payment, Cameron differed with such a view. He said the new agreement rewarded the performers substantially so the players stood to gain more. “One of the major benefits of this structure is that players’ compensation is based on players earning a percentage of WICB revenue; so that we are engaged in a true partnership – where WICB benefits financially, the players will also benefit.”

So what happens next? This strike will have major repercussions for all and sundry. It will drive away sponsors and affect the WICB’s credibility with the other ICC full members while the international careers of Bravo and some of the protesters is bound to be at the crossroads. When the dust has settled and that may not be any time soon, there is bound to be a residue of bad blood and it will not be no surprise if Bravo’s tenure as captain of the one-day side, is at an end.

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