Part 1: Whither West Indies cricket?
The following is the first in a four-part series by Philip Nicholls, an attorney-at-law and former Barbados Cricket Association secretary and former president of the Pickwick Cricket Club.
WHEN I JOINED the board of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA), I was star-struck at the sporting immortals with whom I came into contact day by day. Like most West Indian boys, I had dreamt of that one day I would wear that maroon crest, an unrealistic dream my contemporaries would say and one that is clearly the province of a few as less than a 1000 have had that honour on over 80 years of endeavor.
The opportunity to serve on the board that was afforded to me by the then President of the BCA Captain Peter Short was one that I could hardly ignore and the resulting 17 years between 1988 and 2005 has left me with many happy memories from the friendships that I have forged. It is therefore with a sense of profound sadness that as the carnage that is now West Indies cricket gets worse, I feel compelled to make public my two cents’ worth. I could not imagine during those 17 years that I would prefer to attend at any sports bar to watch the English Premier League football because of disenchantment at the status of West Indies cricket.
Let me say at the outset that I hold no brief either for the players recently on tour in India, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) or the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). However, it was with amazement that I watched and listened as events unfolded during the recent fourth ODI between India and West Indies, as the players of the West Indies team announced that they were withdrawing their services. After all this was not a fete match gone sour because the food hadn’t arrived or the rum had gone missing. This was an international sanctioned game as part of a tour that many people would break up their night rest to watch.
To me as one who never came close it was beyond belief that men, some of whom many would argue are lucky to be playing for the West Indies, and one or two of whom are nearly if not already millionaires having been born at a time that their cricketing career coincides with the riches on offer at the IPL, were prepared to tell the world in the Barbadian parlance that they ‘done wid dat’ because they felt a big foot move by their ‘union’ took away what rumour has it they had no right to but were getting nevertheless.
When one thinks that Brian Lara, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Sir Curtly Ambrose Jeffrey Dujon, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and Sir Vivian Richards of recent vintage, all of whom would walk into this team never came close to the present day earnings that players make the mind boggles. Not to mention, Sir Garry Sobers, Sir Wes Hall or Sir Everton Weekes, as certainly in the case of the latter three, the per diem that today’s players now receive even on these short tours simply for getting out of bed adds up to more than was paid (a term I use loosely) to these giants of the sport for a tour that on average lasted four months and involved far more playing days than today’s tours.
For today’s players to disrespect the legacy that these great men and others have left West Indies cricket on the premise that you are being hard done by because of the loss of sponsorship money that is being redistributed to the next generation of cricketers really takes the proverbial cake. Yes times have changed and professionalism is the buzzword but to whom much is given much is expected especially the dispute is not with your employer but with your rep – in other words an internal one.
Can the players who left India, if reports be believed, because their conditions of service were so terrible that they were suffering so much stress clarify this? After all, they were being well paid to play cricket in a country and in so doing staying in hotels offering opulence that 99 per cent of Caribbean people would never see, far less experience, a country where their every whim was facilitated, where they were revered by all and where in addition to their salary and earnings from their wins they were already earning more per annum than any prime minister in the West Indies does.
The reality of the situation however loud and vociferous is the invective hurled at the WICB and WIPA by the players and the accusations from the Indian cricket authorities that the WICB was fully responsible for the withdrawal of the team, is that the players in India went on strike against their employer because they had a beef with their union or bargaining representative with respect to the reallocation of their share of the sponsorship money the board receives.
I am unsure if WIPA is a recognised trade union, but whether it is or not it has fought for, demanded and is now recognised by the WICB after many salvoes from its former leader, Dinanath Ramnarine, as the bargaining agent for first-class players in the West Indies, expanded recently to now to include the women’s team presently on tour of Australia.
Now who exactly WIPA represents is an interesting question as can be seen by the fall out now inevitably happening once the 15 are not subjected to the bullying culture that Kevin Piertersen describes was in existence in the England dressing room and which is part and parcel of all teams to be honest.
These recent revelations make one ask whether the players thought through the consequences of their actions and more pertinently did individuals seek personal professional advice as no group of 15 can be similarly affected by a supposedly collective decision? Has the wider John Public (other than those who use social media sites to spend all their time bashing the WICB) appreciated the consequences of the players’ actions? It appears not if one is to judge from comments being made in the public. Maybe now that reality has set as to the seriousness of their action in a truer picture of what exactly went on leading to the decision amongst those in India will emerge.