Part 3: Whither West Indies cricket?
The following is the third 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:
IT IS MY opinion that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) must be faulted for not appreciating that times had changed and that West Indies Players Association (WIPA) was being run differently than before.
I well remember during those early skirmishes between the two sending an email to the then president and chief executive officer of the WICB, urging him to grab the initiative presented and like a parent leading a child into adulthood with advice gained from experience, to assist WIPA as it transitioned from a fairly loose organisation into one that became the clearly representative for the majority of the players, who had to be seen as essential business partners in the new global business of cricket, by suggesting that help be sought from other players’ associations overseas.
It is interesting to see that the Federation of International Cricketers is seeing if they can be of any help in mediating the impasse and while I am in no way suggesting that I had the answer, I used to shake my head at the issues that became contentions issues that had been settled in other jurisdictions with vibrant sporting advisers, as I recall while attending a meeting of the International Bar Association in Argentina by delegates from India and South Africa who were amazed that issues such as image rights were a bug bear in the West Indies.
As the two organisations grew further apart over the years it is clear that WIPA became more militant in its outlook and demands of the WICB to an extent that both appeared now to be consumed solely with fighting one another and not realising that they needed each other to maximise the brand of West Indies cricket.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of 2004 or 2006 from all reports is a document that caused the WICB many problems. But as it was their document with the players’ questions must be asked as to the legal advice given to them to sign it.
It is all well and good entering an agreement with your players, but if you do so in a manner that cedes to the players the right not just to be consulted but the right to veto any change you make, you are asking for trouble. For after all, while you are recognised by the ICC as the body responsible for running the cricket your hands are tied behind your back.
My assumption that the WICB took legal advice before signing this MOU may be wrong, because it is hard to believe this when the board submitted to arbitration matters which even without an MOU that was clearly skewed in favour of the players, should not have been arbitrated and the inevitable losses lead to the hardening of the attitude from the chief cook and bottle washer at WIPA. But all good things have to come to an end and a new MOU was renegotiated after the Trinidad Courts said the previous one was not an agreement in perpetuity. Exit Mr Ramnarine.
Wavell Hinds’ elevation after years of being the titular No. 2 to Ramnarine clearly signalled a different approach. Not as combative as his predecessor, he espoused a philosophy of wherever possible working with the WICB. This may have seemed suspicious to some of the players and it is clear from the tone of the emails between Bravo and Hinds that there is some distrust at the new found friendship.
However, judging from the emails between Bravo and Hinds, it would appear that there was some suspicion as to his actions. After all, Hinds, the recently elected WICB president and the current WICB chief executive officer are Jamaicans, and while no one has reported seeing them hunkered down in Cuddy’s Bar in downtown Kingston or at their local cricket club Kensington (coincidentally mine while a student in Jamaica), it is inconceivable to expect one to believe there has not been more friendly chatter between them than between their respective predecessors.
But can the players now claim that Hinds has a conflict of interest in their protestations that they were duped? Is it not a fact that Ramnarine was a member both of the WICB board and the board of WIPA at the same time, a state of affairs that caused incredulity to my late dear friend Stephen Alleyne in one of our last cricketing conversations prior to his untimely death, but which was apparently not a conflict in their eyes?
It is my view that if the players are upset, dissatisfied and indeed disgusted with Hinds’ actions, then the proper course is for them to call a meeting of WIPA and see if the 15 or whatever is the number of players on the Indian tour who are entitled to and can attend and wish to do so can convince the more than one hundred others that some were misled. This would be a prerequisite to reopening negotiations with the WICB by WIPA.