HOT-HEADED CRICKETERS OVER-REACT

I understand senior West Indies players are upset but they should take a deep breath and remember who and where they are.

In an intemperate open letter, purportedly written to Dave Cameron “on behalf of the West Indies team” by Dwayne Bravo, Bravo is reported by ESPNCricinfo as informing Dave Cameron that WIPA no longer represents the players; the WIPA Board should resign; and WICB should “intervene”.

There seems to be an anxiety evident in the published letters “on behalf” of the players to throw out the baby with the bathwater and create a vacuum at WIPA. Since nature abhors a vacuum, I wonder who’s waiting in the wings to fill any such void.

And as we fight one another
for the power and the glory
Jah kingdom goes to waste…”

Bravo can’t possibly represent “the West Indies team” a creature in constant flux. He can’t represent players currently in India while these players are WIPA members represented by WIPA no matter how unhappy anybody is with terms negotiated by WIPA. That’s not the way to respond to disappointment in negotiated results. WICB isn’t going to negotiate with individual players or different representatives for different cliques. That’s chaos.

We de people want fi know
just where we’re going.
Right now we hands are tied;
tied behind we back while certain people
if and buttin’.
Where do we stand?

Bravo and whoever his advisors are need to face reality. WIPA is an incorporated body under the 1995 Trinidad and Tobago Companies Act. As shareholders/members, players are subject to WIPA Bylaws including the following:

“7.1    Any member may withdraw from membership by giving fourteen days notice to the directors in writing to that effect...”

Until such time as members formally withdraw from WIPA, they must act in furtherance of the company’s overall purposes and not undermine those purposes. The Bylaws further provide:

7.3    If any member…..conducts himself in a way which in the opinion of the   directors is or may be injurious to the Company the directors may… reprimand, fine or suspend any such member or call on him to resign.

Hopefully, Bravo’s adviser(s) read these provisions before permitting him to go off half cocked and publish his writing to the WICB as follows “it is our view…. the WIPA Board needs to…resign. We wish to formerly (sic) advise you that WIPA has no authority to speak on our behalf….”

That’s an unambiguous attempt to undermine WIPA’s authority with the “employer” with which WIPA is negotiating on behalf of ALL players. It’s done while Bravo et al are still WIPA members who haven’t followed the processes required to withdraw from WIPA. It’s a dagger to the heart of WICB/Players’ relations to act in this hot-headed manner. Bravo, or his adviser(s), should stop; look; listen; before deciding how to encourage WIPA to address their legitimate concerns.

We have too far to go
not to really know
just how we’re getting there
and if we getting anywhere.
We have too much to change
not to know the range
of possibility
and changeability
.”

In 1976, during the infamous State of Emergency, Ernie Smith, having lost a friend in the firestorm, wrote and recorded the inspirational Jah Kingdom Gone to waste. The song was banned from the airwaves during the Emergency and Ernie was hounded politically until he was forced into exile.

The players accuse WIPA of disingenuousness by claiming they agreed to the pay cuts. The February AGM minutes support the players but they’re being equally disingenuous in issuing blanket denials when they DID agree in principle but asked for assurances that they wouldn’t lose significantly. This smacks of wanting to eat cakes and have them too.

The final MOU’s pay cuts were unconscionable; unrealistic; and unjustifiable. But everybody involved in this escalating war of words needs to recognize West Indies cricket should be paramount before personal vendettas or objectives. A solution to West Indies cricket’s perennial problem namely lack of developmental thinking must be found.

That this has spiralled out of control is emphasized by the rumour reported on radio just before my deadline that WICB called off the Indian tour. But my sources tell me this was a players’ over-reaction to Dave Cameron’s disappointing reply to their intemperate letter (the players say they won’t play after Friday’s game) which was conveyed by e-mail to WICB (foolishly copied to BCCI). Subsequently, WICB denied calling off the tour and BCCI has retaliated by saying it could consider refusing players IPL contracts. Somebody’s grand scheming is beginning to unravel.

The root of this problem lies in WIPA’s blinkered early focus on seeking benefits only for “senior” players which led to a feeling of entitlement to sponsorship funds which isn’t borne out in any official documentation. The way forward must lie in the creation of a wider base of potential stars for the long term sustainability of West Indies cricket. How this is done must involve the input of every player.

Cogitate on these points:

  1. Under the existing payment regime, the disparity in payments to internationals versus regionals is also unconscionable.
  2. Consider the following:
  • Internationals are paid in several ways (all sums quoted in US$)
  • Retainer contracts ranging in value from $80k to $120k
  • Match fees: $5k for Tests; $2k for ODIs; $1.5k for T20s
  • Sponsorship fees;
  • A guarantee of 25% of WICB’s share of money distributed by ICC for global events (50 Over World Cup; T20 World Cup; Champions Trophy). If the distribution to WICB was say, $8M, then, BEFORE A BALL IS BOWLED, the 15 players selected would share $2M based on seniority;
  • West Indian internationals without retainer contracts may have opted not to sign in order to earn much more in the IPL or the Big Bash or both.
  • In an ICC global event year, a West Indies international could ostensibly earn between $400k and $500k
  • None of these payments are performance linked hence West Indies haven’t won the 50 over World Cup since 1979. What incentive does the current bunch have to do well when even if they finish DFL (dead last) they’re guaranteed 25% of the money received by WICB?
  • Regional players are paid match fees for each match played during the first class season: $1,300 for an entire 4 day match and $700 for a 1 day match. Nothing more.
  1. In other cricket jurisdictions, all cricketers are paid from a common player payment pool funded from a percentage of their Board’s annual revenue (usually from 25 to 28%). True, the annual revenue of these Boards is probably 5 to 6 times higher than WICB’s so they can offer more lucrative retainer contracts to all players making it easier to sell the idea that any additional earnings should be performance-based.
  2. The MOU which WIPA/WICB signed seeks to replicate the “developed world” model. It includes other new concepts which reflect a move towards additional earning opportunities for players based on performance.
  3. These transformational payment concepts have come at the expense of previously “guaranteed” payments to internationals. But, it could be argued, that’s a necessary casualty of the fight to take WI cricket from mediocrity to meritocracy.
  4. In all this, the Caribbean’s economic reality cannot be overlooked. There’s no vibrant sports rights market to drive TV revenues for the rights to West Indies home series. The WICB is heavily subsidized and forever operating on overdrafts and other forms of debt.
  5. The new MOU is a means to an end. It’s not a guarantee of West Indies cricket’s future success but it’s an attempt to recognize that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results hasn’t worked.

Yes, Wavell Hinds cocked up the process by which this MOU should’ve been negotiated and agreed. But this is the first real opportunity to transform West Indies cricket since 1995. If we don’t stop this silly public spectacle resembling a playground scuffle with non-participatory schoolboys forming a ring and shouting excitedly “Fight! Fight!” we’ll live to regret it when future West Indies teams are relegated to playing only with Bangladesh and New Zealand. Be careful. The future is now.

Peace and Love

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