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FAZEER MOHAMMED: WICB a victim of itself


FAZEER MOHAMMED

FAZEER MOHAMMED: WICB a victim of itself

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CAN the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) be saved from itself?

It was just seven short days ago that the issue of retainer contracts, and the rejection of those offers by three prominent players, threatened to divert attention from the regional side’s first Test match victory for 21 months.

Now, with the West Indies preparing for their opening match of the One-Day International tri-nation series against Sri Lanka in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, the women taking on their Indian hosts in the second encounter of an ODI series today, and the opening round of regional first-class fixtures for the new season underway, the WICB has still managed to bungle its way into the spotlight.

There is an added twist to the developing story on the retainer contracts, based on information provided by WICB director Conde Riley on Andrew Mason’s radio programme last Tuesday, yet even that matter has been left to simmer on a back burner while the new source of contention – charging a fee to release players for T20 franchise tournaments – is now boiling over to the extent of attracting international ridicule from the board’s counterparts in South Africa and Australia.

Without wasting precious space going over the specifics, it is not an entirely unreasonable proposal by the WICB given the long-established realities of Caribbean cricket. 

With small economies, the dominance of the Indian Premier League over the past eight years during what would usually be the prime international home season, and the loss of so many experienced and talented players to franchise cricket to the detriment of regional competitions, there can be little argument to the contention that the West Indies have suffered more than any other member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in the game’s present environment.

So seeking some form of compensation for the loss of so much lucrative talent that germinated, developed and eventually flourished in these parts is hardly an outlandish endeavour, assuming that the intention was to channel all revenue towards the regional game and nurturing the next generation to serve West Indies and world cricket with distinction.

According to a WICB release last Tuesday, “a portion of these funds derived from these release fees (20 per cent of the player’s contracted fee) will also go back to the clubs and franchises/territories in recognition of the role they played in developing the player and as an incentive for them to continuously expose new cricket talent.” 

In the presenting its case, the regional organisation argued that it was necessary to “seek a balance to ensure that there is fair and adequate compensation for the investment made in players . . . an investment from which another (ICC) full member is benefiting”.

However, this rationale was only explained after information leaked out that Kieron Pollard was being denied a no-objection certificate (NOC) pending payment of the new fee to participate in the Ram Slam tournament in South Africa for the Cape Cobras franchise. In subsequently granting the NOC to the all-rounder without any conditions attached, the WICB was essentially conceding that it had got the entire process wrong.

Confirmation that it was jumping the gun on the issue came from Haroon Lorgat, chief executive of Cricket South Africa, and a spokesperson for Cricket Australia. As reported by ESPNcricinfo, Lorgat explained that the fee proposal was first tabled by the WICB at the last month’s ICC meeting in Cape Town.

“It was a WICB proposal, but not supported by any other member at that time,” he said. “I was quite surprised by the approach of the WICB because we had discussed this concept in a very preliminary way.”

Clearly he has a lot to learn about the WICB’s modus operandi. 

Typically, the Cricket Australia response was more direct. 

“This matter was briefly discussed and rejected by member board CEO’s at the recent ICC chief executives’ meeting in Cape Town,” a CA spokesperson was reported as saying.

Even as the WICB was being hung out to dry by its fellow ICC members, Riley was in full spin cycle mode over the dirty laundry from the rejected retainer contracts and, more specifically, the reports that batsman Darren Bravo was offered one in the lower “C” category.

Denying any victimisation or sinister motive, he explained that the categorisation of players was based simply on performance over a specific time-frame and could be easily verified. This begged the obvious question therefore as to why, if the process was so transparent, the category breakdown and supporting statistics were not made public by the WICB and why its communications manager, Carole Beckford, declined a request by the Newsday newspaper of Trinidad and Tobago for that information?

But this is what happens when organisations become a law unto themselves, answerable to no one. Arrogance is inevitable, incompetence a by-product . . . and West Indies cricket will continue to pay a very heavy price.

 

Fazeer Mohammed is a regional cricket journalist and broadcaster who has been covering the game at all levels since 1987.

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