West Indies cricket: major success in 2016 but stormy seas ahead
West Indies cricket is indeed unique. Last week the euphoria of winning multiple championships on the world stage had hardly abated when the perennial disagreement between the players and the board that has plagued the game in the region for decades raised its ugly head again.
In fact within a few minutes after the West Indies defeated England in sensational fashion in the finals of the ICC T20 tournament India, West Indies captain Darren Sammy sank his teeth into the wound in the full view of the world. But all is not lost, something positive can be salvaged from the chaos. We hope.
While accepting the ICC T20 trophy, Sammy said the West Indies team felt disrespected by the WICB; he lamented the challenges new manager Rawle Lewis had when he was obtaining their uniforms; he praised the support that the team received from the political leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), support that was not forthcoming from the WICB, and he said in India it was the West Indies against the world and that included their own bosses, the West Indies Cricket Board.
After the Sammy bombshell, a number of Caribbean publications were of the view that Sammy picked the wrong spot, the wrong time to address his team's grievances.
"However real, or otherwise, may have been the issues, Darren Sammy chose the wrong time, the wrong forum, and the wrong occasion to address them", opined the Jamaica Gleaner in an editorial. But we share the view of Antiguan cricket legend, Sir Viv Richards: Sammy was speaking from his heart.
"I don't think Sammy would be a liar. I think Sammy is as honest as they come so it is going to be quite interesting, going forward, to see and to hear exactly what comes from the board," Richards, told the Observer newspaper in Antigua last week Wednesday.
But the most severe criticism of the WICB after the ICC T20 tournament came from former captain and all-rounder Dwayne Bravo who described the WICB as the most unprofessional board in the cricketing world.
Speaking on CNC3 television in Trinidad via Skype from Mumbai, Bravo said the board is made up of "very small-minded people, especially the president."
Reacting to the Sammy criticism Dominican Emmanuel Nanthan, the WICB vice president, responded by slamming Sammy for what he called "irrelevant, demeaning, insulting, and unfortunate" comments.
He said the players' aimed at spoiling what was a "tremendous achievement for the Caribbean civilization" and while the players complained of being underpaid for their participation in the ICC T20 World Cup, they were making huge amounts in the imminent regional tournament.
"So the players complained that for the World Cup, their fees went down maybe by US$20,000 or thereabout. But they did not say that the week before they got the World Cup contract, all of them signed contracts for the regional competition, where their fees went up by US$80,000, $140,000, $145,000, and $75,000. They did not say that," said Nanthan to the Caribbean Media Corporation.
Earlier, the WICB, in a release, had described Sammy's comments as "inappropriate" and promised an investigation and to take necessary action.
So the war between players and their board that started decades ago continues without an end in sight. That current quarrel is even more ridiculous than the dispute over contracts that erupted in 2004 when the WIPA pulled its members out of a tour to Australia because, according to the union, some clauses in players' contracts "represent an attempt to exploit players for commercial purposes."
Another dispute soon followed between DIGICEL and Cable and Wireless concerning the sponsorship of the team as opposed to the endorsement of certain players. Since then, hostility between the board and the players has flared up at the beginning of every tour, both in the Caribbean and abroad. In 2009, just before the commencement of the first Test Match against Bangladesh, the WIPA announced a boycott of the match because of unsettled disagreements over contracts. Why are they doing this to West Indian cricket?
But someone should advise the warring parties in the current confrontation that they are tampering with much more than the sport of cricket. We should remind them that C.L.R James, the West Indian philosopher, has eloquently argued that cricketers, and administrators of cricket are ignorant of the history of the region if they believe cricket is merely the hitting of a hard red or white ball with a piece of wood. "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" James asked in "Beyond a Boundary", one of the most important books written by a West Indian on the social history of the region
Some readers are probably of the view that we are overreacting to the current crisis. We do not agree. A number of top Caribbean cricket administrators believe that West Indies cricket is "in some danger" and that was "putting it mildly". We conclude that West Indies cricket, like CARICOM, is currently under threat. Our hope is that the Caribbean can use the recent success of the men and women an Under 19 teams as a springboard into solving the problems that has confronted the game in the West Indies; we must use the occasion to build a stable and secure platform for future West Indies teams to excel.