Peace in our Time

1st November 2014

Patrolling the Boundary  – a view from the outfield

‘And here is the paper!’

So, according to the reports, the war is over. And yet, after such a bruising conflict, there are still a multitude of battles being fought.

Officially, so I understand, things are going to gradually move forward on a positive footing, with a level of mutual understanding and an adult approach. It’s never too late to turn over a new leaf in West Indies cricket!

Whatever the public face of the detente may be, there is no doubt that simmering antagonisms will persist, and distrust, even open hostility will occur. Trust has been fractured, and the sense in some quarters, especially within the WICB, that the culprits have got off ‘scot-free’ will undermine future dealings, and selections.

And the striking players themselves know it, and will be on the look out for any intimation of prejudice against them in the coming months. Woe betide the selectors if they don’t pick Dwayne Bravo in ODI cricket for any reason other than a string of noughts!

‘Victimisation’, we are told, will not exist. I’ve not yet heard anyone say the same about ill-will. And there’s a lot of it about. Oddly, I think the side which will feel most hard done by, and still scrapping to land a late punch after the bell, is the WICB. They are surely shaking hands with their erstwhile opponents with their molars grinding audibly, their teeth being so strongly gritted.

While some commentators in the Caribbean have lent support, and therefore credence to the striking players’ stand, most observers (and they have generally been the more mature cricket analysts) have been appalled by their actions.

Dwayne Bravo and his acolytes brought shame, embarrassment and contempt upon the proud people of the Caribbean, and made the West Indies appear ridiculous in the eyes of the outside cricket world. If I may adapt an analogy I’ve used before – the WICB were stupid enough to give the WIPA a gun; the WIPA were crass enough to load the thing with bullets; but only Bravo’s brigands were idiotic enough to wave the weapon around and pull the trigger.

When the great veteran commentator and broadcaster, Reds Perreira announced the armistice on Voice of Barbados radio today, you could sense in his voice, not relief, but anguish. He is one of the many senior cricket cognoscenti who feels Bravo is a bandit leader, and that he and his gang should have been rode out of town, or rounded up and horsewhipped. The notion that Bravo and his greedy agitators may this very minute be being lauded by some people in the region as heroic is faintly nauseous.

Yes, they were being denied up to 75% of their current fees. (Which were being unacceptably promised back in vague forms of ‘alternative’ payments).

Yes, this was an attempt by the WICB in collusion with the WIPA to clawback monetary allowances foolishly made to the international players in previous negotiations with WIPA when under the shrewd and financially astute leadership of Dinanath Ramnarine.

Yes, this was a large pay cut that no one would sensibly agree to in their terms and conditions of employment (but don’t believe the insinuation that WI one-day international cricketers are lowly paid – in the region they are apparently in the top 2% of wage earners, and generally take home more than Caribbean Prime Ministers).

Yes, the WIPA was negligent in not being certain that the ODI players fully understood what the MOU/CBA (or ‘purported new MOU’ as Bravo insisted on calling it in his missives to Wavell Hinds and Dave Cameron) meant to them in real terms. (Not an easy thing if they weren’t listening, or a little too dim to understand – but the onus was on the WIPA to make them understand).

And the onus was also on the WICB to make those players understand the new contract agreement before the Indian tour got underway – and let’s not be sidetracked by the idea that they couldn’t convey that message with the players being spread far and wide at the CLT20, or in training camps or elsewhere. Everybody managed to get their messages across quite clearly and unambiguously as soon as the proverbial began hitting the ventilating unit.

The WICB is guilty of the charges of high-handedness, arrogance, neglect and immense stupidity – especially in their refusal to intervene and negotiate with the ODI players at Dwayne Bravo’s request when Wavell Hinds was being intransigent. (Although I was interested to hear Roland Butcher in interview on Line & Length today suggest that previous contract agreements actively prohibit the WICB from engaging directly with the players, rather than through their representative union, the WIPA. Therefore, what they were being asked to do by Bravo would have been a breach of existing contractual conditions. I hadn’t heard or read this elsewhere before during this dispute, and while not conclusive, it does draw an interesting sidebar and context to the unfolding of events).

The WIPA is guilty of naivety and more importantly the charge of deception (whether intended or otherwise) and failure to represent the interest of all its members. It may have represented the interests of the majority of its members, the 200 or so grassroots professionals, but it neglected the very players who counted at this time, and were the visible face of the union, and the West Indies – the international ODI cricket team.

There are probably other charges that can be leveled at the two authorities. I’m sure they’d be numerous. But they weren’t found with the deadly weapon in their hand.

The striking ODI players are guilty of attempted manslaughter. They fired the gun, and in the process may have wounded West Indies cricket sufficiently to kill it. ESPN Cricinfo’s George Dobell suggested that they probably didn’t realise quite what they were doing, and in fact were pretty ‘thick’. But that isn’t a good enough defense.

The first objection to my condemnation of the players from their defenders would probably be that ‘they didn’t call the tour off’. They would cite the BCCI’s timeline as evidence: the WICB had flagged up to the BCCI early doors that the off-field issues may mean that the tour could come to a halt.  Therefore, so the argument goes, they knew that they may have to cancel the tour. Utter nonsense.

Alerting the BCCI to the dispute does not equate to a warning that they would cancel the tour. It was an admission that they could no longer account for the players actions – they could not guarantee the players’ continued participation in the tour for those players were liable to take matters into their own hands. Even if they had, as mentioned, had to ‘recall the team’ that did not mean the tour was over. It only meant the tour would be over if either the WICB was unable/unwilling to send replacements, or the BCCI was unable/unwilling to accept them. If, as reported, the BCCI refused alternative players, they, the BCCI are in effect more culpable for the tour’s cancellation than the WICB.

But the key statement is there in that BCCI timeline, which quotes Sir Richie Richardson as saying the following:

“The current West Indies players have decided that they will not participate any further in this tour”.

In my understanding of the English language that seems rather unequivocal. But then perhaps I’m ‘thick’ too. Should West Indies have played on under Clive Lloyd, with Sir Curtly and Sir Richie, and Stuart Williams (who did after all deputise for Dwayne Bravo in the second warm up match)? I’m sure the WICB’s excellent media relations officer, Philip Spooner would’ve been delighted to represent his country in its hour of need. And there’s always a few backroom boys with a bit of spare kit who can make up the numbers.

Utter nonsense again, of course. But unless you are suggesting that was a realistic alternative, then it is inescapable that either the players called off the tour by refusing to play, or the BCCI called off the tour by refusing to accept a replacement team. If the WICB was not able or declined to offer replacements, then you might be able to say they were the ones who halted the tour. But if that is the case, someone, for example the BCCI, should come out and say it.

But no one has. And it remains unconfirmed that the BCCI did indeed refuse the WICB to supply a second string team – which as I’ve noted before has far wider implications. If the BCCI really said ‘no, we don’t accept a team of Jonathan Carter, Miguel Cummins, Assad Fudadin, Chadwick Walton etc’ is that any more permissable than saying ‘no MCC, we don’t accept Basil D’Oliveira as part of your touring party’?

As I say, the battles will wage on. The next for the WICB to fight will be the one over damages with the BCCI. In the same edition today of Line & Length, Barbados cricket analyst Andrew Sealey suggested that the BCCI has already made it clear through unofficial channels that part of their reparations will be to have the head of Dave Cameron neatly presented to them on a platter. This is not the first time that the vengeful, malevolent BCCI have demanded the resignation or sacking of another cricket Board’s democratically elected leader, just to show how powerful and supreme they are. Behold, the great and mighty BCCI – prostrate yourself before their omnipotence!

Meanwhile, the WICB may also have to face further penalties from the ICC, possibly in the form of some sort of international suspension. We shall see.

At the moment, all West Indies cricket is really in a position to do is keeping waving the white flag of surrender and hope for the best.

But there may well still be a bullet out there with their name on it.

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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2 thoughts on “Peace in our Time

  1. Michael Oram

    Very interesting.A lot could depend on whether the WICB offered to send an alternate touring party and it was turned down by the BCCI.If that happened, it could be argued that the BCCI themselves called off the tour. Will we ever know the real truth?

    Reply
  2. Rajiv M

    Interesting argument about the BCCI having to take responsibility for the current mess.

    Cricket tours are not conducted in the manner the WICB apparently suggested as remedy. Agreeing to a nameless second-string bunch is not a solution that any self-respecting host Board could have accepted, nor would it have been practically possible to execute in the middle of a tour with fixed dates and venues. Visas take time to arrange because the BCCI has no power to arrange or guarantee visas. There is no guarantee the fresh batch of touring players would have been guaranteed entry, and why should the BCCI have agree to the headache of that process.?

    There is also the commercial side of the equation. I imagine the BCCI would have been given a list of the original touring players in writing, and I expect the contract was finalized with these players broadly in mind. Sponsors come on board keeping in view the drawing power of star players, and there is generally a good-faith side to contracts that these concerns will be honored. Barring injuries and acts of God, touring parties generally stick to the list of players they have committed for the above reasons. Otherwise why do Boards bother shortlisting players for a tour and convey the same to the host nation?

    Sending players who were not under contract is the real mistake here, and what ensued was wholly foreseeable and not an act of God. I doubt the WICB will be dumb enough to try this argument in court.

    Reply

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