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Part 4 – Whither West Indies cricket?

Philip Nicholls

Part 4 – Whither West Indies cricket?

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The following is the fourth and final part in a series by Philip Nicholls, an attorney-at-law and former Barbados Cricket Association secretary and former president of the Pickwick Cricket Club:

THE West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has been and continues to be lax on the question of its corporate governance.

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard, both while on the Barbados Cricket Association board and indeed as an interested member of the public, claims that players have left for tours without receiving or signing contracts.

I can think of no other reputable sporting organisation in the international field that would allow this situation to occur time and time again.

The failure of the WICB to do so in my view opens the real possibility that as there was change to what the players were accustomed to that without these contracts signed then the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) could not be in force whether or not the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) had agreed to the new terms.

Some persons have told me they don’t agree but I would ask what is the point of singing new contracts for every tour even when you have an MOU. Surely this is needed even more when the MOU makes significant changes. And what of the players who are not members of WIPA?

In my view, this is where the players missed a trick, which if any bothered to take legal advice would probably have led to a different result.

Having been allowed to start the tour without a signed contract even though your representative has signed a new MOU that seeks to make if not radical changes but significant changes  to your pay structure, it is arguable that no  contract under the new terms exists.

However, that does not mean that you have no contract with the board, as legally it would be considered that as there has been a course of dealing that governs the relationship between the parties over a period of time, the old contract which you are arguing so stridently for must apply did in fact apply.

So what was the strike for? The folly of the action is that the players get no payment at all, whereas if they had remained they would have had to been paid under the old structure. So was the action a sensible one or were there other players in the background with a different agenda?

What of the future?

1. The players need to sort themselves out within WIPA.

2. The West Indies Cricket Board needs to put its house in order from a perspective of governance. Too many reports have been commissioned and jettisoned on the functioning of the WICB but nothing has changed. Surely it is time that the present manner of elections for directors to serve on the board needs a revamp. Two directors elected from each of the six constituent members has  reached its sell by date. Many issues demanding attention in today’s world which require of directors of a company to act with sole regard to the interest of their company can well see that duty compromised by your duty to your regional board. 

It also needs to take urgent human resource advice. Wrong as the players may have been, there were rumblings that something serious was happening  and the situation was clearly not diffused by the statements of the president which while making sense to a reasoned audience poured fuel on the fire of suspicion in the breast of some of the players as to what had gone on re the negotiations.  

3. Now that the magnitude of the damages claim by the Indian board is apparent and it appears that an appeal has been made for assistance in paying this to the Government the time may be here when the same Governments will have to insist on changes to how the WICB is elected and indeed how it is run in return for assistance either financially in settling the claim or diplomatically in having it resolved.

 4. The WICB must now seek immediately to repair relations with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which has been fractured by the abandonment. The assistance of regional governments will probably be a necessity because there is clearly anger on the part of the Indian board to the president of the WICB.

It seems strange when all evidence is that the players refused to play when it has not been denied that the offer for a replacement team was refused that the Indian board continues to insist that the WICB pulled out of the tour. It is my view that this is in keeping with their obvious desire to keep some of the star attractions in the IPL who were some of the players who came home insulated from responsibility.  

5. Reference has come into the public domain of a Hyatt accord agreed to in Trinidad at a meeting of the respective parties, their advisors and two Caribbean politicians. No one who was not present can seek to speak with any certainty what was agreed and or said but the buzz word coming out of non-victimisation of the players for their actions could long run lead to as many problems , may be not as financially catastrophic as the Players withdrawal.

While everyone will hope and wish for our best team to be on the field some degree of flexibility must be allowed to selectors who while guided by ability and indeed performance must in making judgment calls on selection use other criteria in judging what is best. How long therefore must the status quo remain without allegations of victimisation.

Hopefully our cricket survives but much work on and off the field lies ahead.