On the Eve of the Strike

10th October 2014

The Mason & Guests Show

Fighting fires and bursting watersheds

Tuesday night’s show was due to be an in depth discussion with Sir Andy Roberts about the suspension of Sunil Narine for throwing. We also had a prerecorded interview with Dennis Freedman from Can’t Bowl, Can’t Throw in which he spoke about the chucking furore; looked ahead to Australia’s away series to Pakistan in UAE; as well as touching upon the release of Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography. You can listen to our discussion, with very many thanks to Dennis, here:

https://soundcloud.com/cant-bowl-cant-throw/dennis-appears-on-barbados-radio

Half an hour before I left home to go to the VoB studio I got a call from Andrew. Less than 24 hours before West Indies’ first ODI v India the players were threatening to go on strike. It was going to be an entirely different show…

AM: “Trouble in the camp. Hayden Gill writes that a potential strike by West Indies is looming, less then 3 weeks after the WI Cricket Board and Players’ Association signed that MOU. What are we having in West Indies cricket? I spoke to the Secretary of WIPA today, Wayne Lewis who’s a regular contributor to this programme. He was completely tight-lipped. And there’s not a lot coming from President Dave Cameron. It’s a very serious situation. In fact, I’m hearing there’s a possibility that there may not be any cricket tomorrow. We’ll be following the story on ‘Mason and Guests’. Barry Wilkinson of the Line and Length Network is on the line. Good evening to you, Barry.”

BW: “Good evening, Andrew.”

AM: “And we’ve got Orville Higgins of KLAS Sport Radio up in Jamaica as well.”

OH: “How you doing, Andrew?”

AM: “Barry, this story – what’s going on? Could you give us the latest?”

BW: “So much has happened in the last 24-48 hours in West Indies cricket. The very latest is that the WI team did not train today, they did not have any practice session and the captain, Dwayne Bravo did not attend the pre-match press conference which is mandatory. He has sent a letter written to WIPA President Wavell Hinds, and I will read you the main grouses that the players have.

(You can read Bravo’s letter in full here. Hinds’ response has subsequently emerged, and you can read that here).

These grouses are:

1. There was little or no legal advice sought in negotiating the purported new MOU between the WICB and WIPA.

2. There was little or no industrial relations advice sought during the negotiations of the purported new MOU.

3. None of the players were consulted during and after the negotiations of this purported new MOU which was a process that has been commonplace between previous WIPA representatives and the players. This was completely ignored.

4. Players were never given the opportunity to consider the document which is the MOU and approve it before it was signed which is consistent with past practice.

5. The first time any agreement was seen by the players was a match tour contract with the new fee structure significantly different from what they received in the past. This was only given to us in India.

6. The players still have not seen this purported MOU between WICB and WIPA which you have signed.

7. The players’ rights which have been protected through many negotiations and arbitration have been given away for nothing.

8. Questions raised by WIPA Board members were ignored.

9. The WIPA Board never approved the purported MOU before it was signed.

10. WIPA is reportedly receiving in addition to the 3% of all player earnings a sum of USD$500,000 annually from the WICB once this new agreement is made.

That letter has been written to WIPA’s President, Wavell Hinds from the Captain, Dwayne Bravo and, he says, on behalf of all of the WI players who are in India. I can also tell you, Andrew that I understand that the WI players’ fees have been decreased by 75%. I also understand that there’s no compensation for the use of their intellectual property rights. I also further understand that the ICC fees which are usually given to the players have been decreased by close to a 100%. I understand the figure is 90%. These are the things that the players are very unhappy about and have more or less agreed not to play tomorrow unless Wavell Hinds can respond within 24 hours. There is time to iron out differences, but I don’t know how much can and will be done within the next 11-12 hours.”

AM: “Orville, what are you hearing? Did you get a chance to talk to the President of the WICB?”

OH: “I did speak to him this morning. He said at this stage he doesn’t think it necessary to get involved. He says WIPA has signed off on this document and the players should take up their grouses not with him but with WIPA.”

BW: “Andrew, one of the main cruxes of this matter is that before it was WIPA versus the WICB. Now it’s WIPA and WICB versus the players. This is what is telling. Now it’s a different situation.”

AM: “Orville, did you speak to anyone at WIPA?”

OH: “Yes, but that person did not want me to put them into the public. What is interesting is that not only are the President and Wavell Hinds both from Jamaica, but they are both from the same club in Jamaica. Both are with Kensington Cricket Club. I’ve heard whisperings that these two are very good friends and that between them they’ve come to an agreement that is not in the best interests of the players. WICB executives I have spoken to have said that the players have got to understand that yes, they may lose out initially but the WICB has said it will increase retainer contracts and increase match fees, even if image rights and sponsorship money is decreased. They feel the WI players are being a little unreasonable and selfish and aren’t too keen on looking after the grassroots players.”

AM: “Do you think they are selfish?”

OH: “I can see it both ways. If in the middle of the month my boss told me: ‘Listen, what you expected to get you will no longer get because we’re going to give it to less fortunate members of staff’, I would not be pleased about that at all. I don’t want to hear my salary’s been cut. But when I asked the WICB about that, why the suddenness, they said there was a massive meeting in January that most senior players were at and they were told then that there’d be cuts coming and explanation of what the cuts would be like. And there was mass approval for the move then. The Board members are saying they find it a little surprising that the players are now pretending as though they didn’t know that there were salary changes coming that they’d agreed.”

AM: “Barry, I understand that MS Dhoni is getting involved and the BCCI may be looking to get the difference in money. Can you shed any light on that?”

BW: “I’ve only heard that as a rumour. But I can tell you that the BCCI are aware of the entire scenario and they are trying to help solve the issue.”

AM: “Do you think cricket will be on tomorrow, Orville?”

OH: “I think so. I would be 60-40 towards cricket being played. Despite the players being disgruntled, I think they like cricket enough and wouldn’t want to let people down.”

AM: “Is there any truth that Cameron and Hinds are on their way to India?”

OH: “No, no. The President is still here.”

AM: “Thanks, Orville, I know you’ve got to go. Barry, do you think we’ll have some cricket tomorrow?”

BW: “It’s a hard one. A lot could happen in the next 11 hours and a lot done to pacify the players. I think the BCCI are very powerful and they stand to lose the most if the tour does not continue with a strong WI team. We’re talking about millions of dollars in gate receipts and TV rights. They’ll do whatever is possible to get the WI team out there tomorrow, although I don’t think the tour should go on at this stage for a number of reasons. The players won’t be mentally prepared against a very strong Indian team. In addition, there’s the big hullaboo about Sunil Narine being banned – I don’t know if Sulieman Benn has reached India yet – and they haven’t practiced today. It’s a poor way to prepare for an ODI.”

AM: “Well, thank you for coming through on the show, Barry. We’ve been joined in the studio by Noel Lynch, the former Barbados Minister of Tourism. Noel, your reaction to this? What is going on?”

NL: “I continue to be concerned about the future of WI cricket. It seems to lurch from one crisis to another every other day. We are dealing with a failed enterprise, that’s taken a business approach to solving our problems rather than a cricketing approach. For an institution that has provided us with so much of our socio-cultural development, and in many instances economic as well, why is it we are always in crisis? Why have we such a bad commercial approach? We’ve left the handling to not the most competent people. Whether or not we play tomorrow is a very serious matter. I’m not as convinced as Orville. I’d say 20-80 that they’ll play tomorrow.”

AM: “Pearson Bovell?”

PB: “Good night to the listeners. There’s not a good corporate governance structure. Things are done in a haphazard way. They need to have a strategic plan, short, medium and long-term. Once they’ve been developed and rolled out you need to have a system which looks at what you’re trying to achieve, what resources you have, how you’re going to get there and have interim analysis of where you are at. It sounds as though WIPA have gone ahead without a proper plan. I take seriously any allegation that WIPA did not seek proper advice in doing something as serious as an MOU. The Board has washed its hands and said ‘it’s not us.'”

AM: “Well, we’re trying to get this story as it happens. There’s a statement now from the WICB. We’re going to go to Antigua to Imran Khan, the Marketing Manager. Hello, good evening, Imran.”

IK: “Good evening, Andrew. The WICB, in light of what you’ve discussed, has just released a statement and I’m happy to read it to you:

The West Indies Cricket Board has been advised that a number of players forming the West Indies One Day International squad currently in India, and scheduled to play five ODIs, commencing with the first ODI tomorrow, Wednesday October 8, have expressed concerns to WIPA on a number of issues relating to the CBA/MOU recently signed by WICB and WIPA.

It has also come to the WICB’s attention that the some of the players could withdraw their services for the first ODI. The WICB deeply regrets this apparent eventuality, especially in light of the tedious and substantial work which went into the good faith negotiations to arrive at the new, historic CBA/MOU.

The WICB apologises to the fans, the BCCI and all other stakeholders should the first ODI be disrupted as a result of player action. The WICB is making every effort to ensure that it fulfills all its commitments and that cricket is played.

The WICB further thanks the BCCI, the host board, for their understanding and pleads with fans to exercise calm and patience. The Board trusts that a reasoned approach is taken and that the interest of cricket is served. The Board will make further announcements as may be necessary.”

AM: “Your reaction, Noel?”

NL: “(Laughing) Some of what is alleged doesn’t speak to me of planned, sensible and serious business action in how you form an MOU.”

AM: “Imran, where is the President of the WICB? I hear he may be on his way to India.”

Ik: “My information is that he is in Jamaica. We’re hopeful that cricket will be played as scheduled, but the situation as it stands at the moment occasioned the need for the statement I’ve just read. While we’re hopeful, there’s every possibility that the match tomorrow may not come off. That’s a realistic possibility. It’s regretable and unfortunate. It’s all in the hands of the players at the moment. We hope that they’ll take to the field.”

AM: “Thanks, Imran. David, you’ve been quiet on this.”

DO: “Noel’s been amused, but I just want to weep. A year ago WI were in India for that Tendulkar circus and they played the part of the clowns. Well, the WI cricket team has thrown another custard pie tonight. WIPA and the WICB hasn’t just got egg on its face, its got custard pie as well. This is a disaster. This is an embarrassment for WI cricket. It makes them look silly to the outside world – there’s infighting again. This is a terrible tragedy. We should have seen this coming from looking at the papers in the last couple of days – we heard the report they didn’t train, and didn’t question it. We just thought they’re up to some other silliness again. But there were reasons why. They didn’t attend a press conference. Dwayne Bravo didn’t play in either warm-up match; we had the foolishness of Coach, Stuart Williams playing in the last warm-up match yesterday, and the captain’s not there. It comes down to communication and money. The new regional 4-day system has been put into operation, but there’s no sponsorship for it and they’re having to pay all these players and have them on contract – where’s the money coming from? Clearly, it’s been agreed it’s coming from the WI Test and ODI team players’ pockets and they’re finding out about it now, and they don’t like it. Whether or not this is right or wrong for the bigger picture of WI cricket is something to discuss elsewhere – but it should have been discussed before this with the players. They should have known that this is part of the deal, that this is about the whole of WI cricket, not just the Test players, in the refinancing of WI cricket throughout the region. And the Test team have now stuck a bomb under the whole restructuring, the Pybus Report and everything. This could be a disaster of incredible magnitude for WI cricket.”

AM: “Dr Don Marshall has joined us on the line. Good evening, Don.”

DM: “This is a shock to me. I’m particularly interested in the WI Player Association. WIPA has become an elite organisation under Wavell Hinds. This is acutely embarrassing to him and WIPA. Can you imagine the worker’s representative body trade union acting on behalf of the workers, and not consulting them? Absolutely disgraceful. If they had got that side of the equation correct, we wouldn’t be having this discussion on the radio right now. The brouhaha would have happened before they left for India. I have a lot of respect for Wavell Hinds, so I’m going to wait for his explanation of what happened relative to the role WIPA played and keeping the players up to speed. But at the moment it doesn’t look good for WIPA.”

NL: “I want to hear Wavell Hinds explanation. I can’t believe anybody could engage in a process like that with all these things left open. I don’t believe it.”

PB: “David mentioned there seems to be a reduction of fees to accommodate the new structure for what I call the ‘4-day madness’. I’ve been a lone voice in the wilderness against having a player structure where players can play for territories that are not of their own national interest in a draft situation. Regional cricketing supremacy is based on nationhood. Barbados is its own sovereign nation with its own national anthem, and flag and so on. I have no problem with the commercial aspect, but can you imagine Wayne Rooney playing in the European Championship for France? These are nations. It’s not like English counties. We had the draft yesterday where the regional teams turned round and chose their own players. It made a mockery.”

DM: “I don’t want to get into speculation, but if what’s been suggested by Dwayne Bravo’s letter is right it would be really shocking. As David said, the only thing to do is shed tears.”

DO: “Don, you said you don’t want to speculate, but clearly something has gone really badly wrong at the very least on a communication level. It must undermine the faith the international players have in Wavell Hinds and his administration. Surely, this must make his position totally untenable? How can he possibly go on as the head of WIPA?”

DM: “We need to wait and see. I think he’s been an effective communicator, and has handled himself well in the past. But we have to wait and see if that was all fanciful.”

AM: “Well, we’re going to Jamaica now to talk to Billy Heaven, who is the President of the Jamaica Cricket Association and a WICB director. All this must shock you?”

BH: “Good evening. I’m speaking in my capacity as President of the JCA, and not a representative of the WICB. This is unique. Usually in a union/employer situation it’s normally a strike against the employer. This appears to be a strike against the union. Therefore, a new dynamic and skill will be needed to wriggle out of it. There’s a confidence issue here. How can the employees now relate to their union? And how will the relationship continue into the future? We need some damage control. We can’t afford to go through this yet again. And we can’t hold the WICB responsible, although it will be impacted in a serious way.”

NL: “The letter suggests there was no consultation between the players in India and WIPA in relation to the MOU. That flouts the tenets of good management. The glaring gap is one of communication between Wavell Hinds and WI’s most prominent players. That’s a source of serious concern. It’s total madness. If what Bravo is saying is correct there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way WIPA consulted their own players. A memorandum of understanding is not a contract. It simply says that ‘I endeavour to put things in place, and use my best offices to do things.’ It’s not a binding contract enforcible in law. But if it is of such import that the players are willing to withdraw their services, then WI has lurched into another crisis. We need an intervention of people outside the cricketing arena to solve many of the issues we are dealing with. If we are going to restore the fiscal stability as an immediate priority, strengthen the competitiveness of this enterprise, and look to growth prospects in terms of securing stability, we need bigger and better heads coming in to solve the problems. We have marketing problems, we have accounting problems, we have broadcast problems – we’ve got a multiplicity of problems. And WI cricket has been the basis for the socio-cultural development of many aspects of our nations.”

BH: “You’re right. When you look at the institutions that remain in the West Indies there’s really only the University of West Indies and cricket. These are the two that stand out. For any organisation to do well it requires a particular skill-set, and that is a management skill-set. Without it you are unsuitable to administer cricket because it’s about management, marketing, technology, finance, accounts and negotiation.”

AM: “David Oram has been scanning the internet and has got some more information.”

DO: “We’re trying to keep up with the story as it develops. A report has emerged while we’ve been talking from the Bangalore Mirror in India, who are obviously much closer to the news than we are. They are reporting that according to sources from within the WI team that ‘the problem is that the union is not backing the players’. And ‘the union and Wavell Hinds have given tacit support to a financial position taken by the WICB’, that position being the slashing of the players’ fees by over 75%. They are unhappy about what the WICB has done, but WIPA has supported it. Apparently, Clive Lloyd is sympathetic to the players’ case and is believed to be negotiating between the two warring parties. The unfolding fracas is forcing the BCCI to evaluate its position towards the WICB. They have said, ‘we have nothing to do with their problems, but we have not been reassured by the visiting team management.’ If the WICB’s relationship with the BCCI and Indian cricket is damaged, well…”

AM: “Unbelievable. Billy, your reaction?”

BH: “It has far reaching implications. We have to change. Change is part of the process. What is happening is very damaging and embarrassing and is going to impact WI cricket in general. WI cricket belongs to the people. We should all be trying to represent the interests of everybody. If the relationship between the BCCI and WICB is impaired that’s going to take some mending.”

AM: “Should any blame be apportioned to the WICB?”

BH: “If the unions representing the workers come to me the employer and negotiate a position and agree an MOU I don’t know how as an employer I’m going to take responsibility. The union should go back to the employee and inform them of what they are negotiating. ‘This is what I’m offered. This is what I’m agreeing to. Are you guys in agreement with this? Yea or neigh?’ And then it’s signed. These are fundamentals – but I don’t know how it went.”

NL: “It was described as unprecedented and a watershed moment.”

DO: “Well, the watershed has burst.”

AM: “Billy, do you believe Wavell Hinds should resign?”

BH: “I can’t comment on that. The constituents he represents should make that call. The only way out of this situation that I can see is if the WICB are prepared to reopen talks with WIPA. But time is not on our hands.”

AM: “Could this be the end of WIPA?”

BH: “I don’t believe so. Even if they have to make changes. Representation in the modern era is important. But the conduct of that representation and communication is important. They’ve really damaged the relationship and it needs to be fixed.”

AM: “Billy, I want to thank you and hope this matter can be resolved. I know Vinode Mamchan, the chief cricket writer for the Trinidad Guardian, is in India – we’re going to try and reach him before the end of the show. But first we’ll go Around the World in 2‘ with David.”

AM: “I’m hearing that the game is on. That’s pretty good news. Let’s go directly to India and talk to Vinode. How are you, sir?”

VM: “Good morning, Andrew.”

AM: “What’s the latest coming out of India?”

VM: “Just before I went to bed last night I got information from close to the team that the game would be on because they held an emergency meeting late into the night. I was in conversation with WICB President, Dave Cameron and as you called this morning, Andrew to give me my wake up call, which I know that you like to do, I saw a message from the President that according to him the match is still off. That’s the information he has. As he understands, as of 2am this morning, India time, the match is still off.”

AM: “What’s the reaction like in India? I’m hearing that the BCCI are getting involved. What is it like with this development?”

VM: “It has not caused much of a stir because the players were still meeting late into the night. There was no guarantee that the match was on or off, but I don’t think people have been taking it too seriously. As a matter of the fact, it’s been very low key here, like when Bangladesh came to the Caribbean.”

AM: “Have you spoken to any of the management there in India?”

VM: “I’ve not been able to get through to them, they’ve not been responding at all. But I have a source within the team, and that source is telling me that the match is on. It’s a situation where we can only wait and see, because I’m getting a puzzling response from the WICB President.”

AM: “What time is it now in India?”

VM: “It’s 5am.”

AM: “5am in the morning? Well, I’m sorry to have gotten you up out of your bed so early, Vinode. I know you like to sleep late! But your final words, from what you are hearing, is that the game is on tomorrow?”

VM: “This is what I’m hearing. The game is on as far I know, with the guarantee that the situation will be revisited with the MOU and everything else. The players are apparently very unhappy with their circumstances.”

AM: “Well, we’re going to leave it there because our time is up. It was very good to speak to Vinode live in India. ‘Mason and Guests’ is driven of course by serious discussion and we get the stories as they unfold. Gentlemen, I think it’s been a wonderful show. Thanks to you for coming: Noel Lynch the former Minister of Tourism; it’s always a pleasure to have in the studio Pearson Bovell; and my fire officer, David Oram. I’m Andrew Mason. Here’s hoping for a brighter tomorrow. Good night!”

David Oram

David Oram is the resident ‘statto’, and sometime presenter of ‘Mason & Guests’ – Voice of Barbados’ weekly cricket talk show, the leading cricket radio show in the West Indies – hosted by the Caribbean’s principal  radio commentator, Andrew Mason. You can tweet me at DavidOram@colblimp1983.

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3 thoughts on “On the Eve of the Strike

  1. realthog

    It’s almost beyond belief, under the circumstances, that the Windies then went out and hammered India. Far be it for an outsider to judge, but it does seem that someone needs to pick up the WI cricket establishment by the throat and give it a good shake. I’ve known mom and pop stores with cleverer ideas about personnel management than the WICB seems capable of.

    Is wot I think.

    Reply
  2. David Oram Post author

    Totally agree with you. Typical Windies! They continually defy any logical understanding – both on and off the field! Richard Pybus is trying to give them that ‘shake’ – time will tell if it bears any fruit.

    Reply

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