After the armistice, Spanish flu?

2nd November 2014

Quick Singles  

A one-stop WI Rumshop round-up of Caribbean cricket comment, news & views

‘Bless you’

It wasn’t quite 11am on the eleventh of the eleventh, but the hostilities officially ceased and the ‘war talks’ broke down in the early hours of 1/11. Nelson? Perhaps dear old Shep is hopping from foot to foot somewhere at a celestial square leg position. Certainly, there are a great many Caribbean cricket folk who are currently hopping mad at the latest developments, from their own vantage points.

So the shelling has stopped, and the rumble of gunfire has quelled. But is West Indies cricket yet to face a fatal pandemic of epic proportions? Will it ever recover from the life-threatening blight that may be about to sweep through these shores?

The newspapers and websites here in the Caribbean have, on the whole, been happy to carry pictures of a smiling President Cameron, looking as pleased with himself as Mr Chamberlain after stepping off a return flight from Munich in 1938. No gun boat diplomacy here. This was an unqualified umbrella-carrying, slip-of-paper-fluttering success!

Covering the story, the Trinidad Express reported that while Cameron may, or may not be, personally pleased at the outcome of the negotiations, he had his own message of appeasement: “We have a modality for the way forward” he announced.

Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the Caribbean’s equivalent of a UN peacekeeper, was equally impressed by the ‘modalities’: “We have the framework and the modalities for the resolution of the issues”.

So there we have it. All the mods – but no cons.

Further in the report, Roger Seepersad disclosed that the WICB will be seeking governmental assistance in the current crisis – by asking Caricom to meet the financial cost of the BCCI’s claim.

Well, if they are going to bankrupt West Indies cricket, why not bankrupt the Caribbean economy as well? But then again, perhaps the columns will tally and the books be squared away if Caricom is successful in its on-going claim for slavery reparations from Europe? Maybe the simplest thing all round would be if the European Union immediately wrote a blank cheque made payable to the BCCI?

The Trinidad Guardian reported the details of the truce, and profiled the three men who will make up the Task Force to address the collapse of good relations with the BCCI.

Barbados’ Nation’s Sunday Sun, hailed the ending of the impasse, and reported that the players had “patched up their differences with WIPA”, adding that “the players hope that this crisis now becomes the opportunity to establish good relations between the WICB, the players and the Caribbean public.” Charming ‘forgive and forget’ sentiments. Let’s hope the BCCI are similarly forgiving and forget the bill of USD$42m that they presented to the WICB on Friday.

In the same paper, Mac Fingall was not so cheerful about the outcome:

“All three parties have been found guilty of poor judgement, lack of respect for each other, insensitivity, and most of all causing monumental global embarrassment to the region, the wider Caribbean, the various diasporas where Caribbean people reside, and even to all black people worldwide… this must be recorded as one of the worst handled sporting disputes ever.”

He went on to say that the players “made arguably the most damaging decision ever in sports history”; but he is “confident that the politicians who have volunteered and the lawyer who has been retained to help “save our future”, will achieve their goal. They will use skill and tact which are foreign to the WICB, WIPA and the West Indies players.” I hope he is right.

Tony Cozier, in his syndicated Nation article, which appears in many Caribbean newspapers, and is carried by ESPN Cricinfo, recapped the issues up to now. He pointed out that the tone of BCCI’s demand letter made it clear that they held Dave Cameron personally responsible for the tour’s abandonment:

“The terminology is pertinent. It wasn’t that the players withdrew but that Cameron, fiddling on the other side of the globe while the flames were engulfing the tour, pulled them out.”

Tony seems here to be endorsing the ‘Cameron cancelled the tour’ lobby. He may be right, but I wish he had a little more to say about the actions of the striking players.

He goes on to refer to Dr Rudi Webster’s article this week which suggested that the WICB “should immediately commit itself to a structural adjustment programme somewhat similar to those designed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for countries that are performing poorly and experiencing serious financial, organisational and leadership problems. Failure to do so will result in a repetition of the behaviour patterns that have plagued West Indies cricket for years.”

Substituting the ICC for the IMF, Cozier does admit that “with its connotations of neo-colonialism” such a notion might not be “readily embraced”. Having said that, if the WICB is already at the mercy of the BCCI, might it not be better off seeking sanctuary and safe haven with the ICC? They may be a little more inclined to clemency.

While Tony Cozier was reluctant to point a finger at the striking players, Sir Ronald Saunders in The Barbados Advocate was less shy:

“There are obvious protracted and troubling differences between the West Indian cricketers and the WICB. But, whatever those differences are, the manner of resolving them should not have been a public walk out of a tour of India before the television cameras of the cricketing world.”

But Sir Ronald does not hold the players solely responsible:

“The blame must be shared by the WICB. The festering sore of West Indian cricket administration has not been cured despite many attempts to do so.”

The upshot of the cancellation of the Indian tour is, he feels, not just about cricket, but international relations:

“Calamity has overtaken West Indian cricket. Governments will have to step in to resolve, through diplomatic means, the major financial problem that the players’ abandonment of the tour of India has created. The resolution will require employing the most credible high-level West Indians to secure the Indian government’s intervention with the BCCI to work out an arrangement that will not kill West Indian cricket.”

Also in the Advocate, John Blackman regrets the fact that Caribbean governments have not taken over the governance of cricket in the region before now.

Despite the end to the impasse, questions are still being asked. Tony Becca, in the Jamaica Gleaner posited the following:

“There are four things, however, which should be explained, especially as things should be done properly if things are to work effectively. Why, for example, did Denesh Ramdin, the Test captain, not deal with the issue, why were the players beside Bravo when he announced the end of the tour at the toss, where was the WICB president during all this, and who really called off the tour?”

Becca also queried the involvement of the WICB’s Director of Cricket, Richard Pybus:

“From all reports, the BCCI was first contacted with news of a cancellation of the tour by Richard Pybus, an employee of the WICB… Pybus is not a West Indian, he is not a member of the WICB, he is employed by the WICB to do a specific job and, as such, he had no right to act above his weight, not even if he was told to do so. Probably, however, he was given the impression that he is invaluable to West Indies cricket and, as such, has the right, or the authority, to take onto himself powers which are reserved for the president.”

While Tony Becca called into question Richard Pybus’ motives, Garfield Robinson defended those of WIPA President, Wavell Hinds. Colin Croft, meanwhile questioned the level of trust in leadership in the West Indies in more general terms:

“Our present lot are mostly coined and considered as parochial, provincial, insular and selfish.”

I think he is right.

Overcoming that may yet prove to be the Caribbean’s biggest obstacle.

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.



3 thoughts on “After the armistice, Spanish flu?

  1. Don Marshall

    Greetings David Oram. I recognise that you wish Tony Cozier to step away from the information and discoveries behind who cancelled the tour and speak to the players’ threats of strikes. I humbly submit that the information that Cozier has been sharing over the last two or three stories of this Indian tour never was at the disposal of many journalists and commentators. The diplomatic comment that “every party is to blame” has been on offer for quite some time David with the players coming in for their share of blame. Based on the information in Cozier’s articles and the latest letter written by the BCCI to the Board threatening legal action in now 12 days, it is clear that the WICB cancelled the tour over players’ threats to strike. This puts a totally different spin to things as we quickly recognise that what transpired amounted to an industrial relations dispute that was poorly handled by the WICB. What is disturbing is that when the players threatened to withdraw their labour for the first ODI over terms of their contracts, the Board’s response was to threaten to cancel the entire tour. And as the demands from the players softened to one where they requested an audience with a WICB representative, Cameron dithered and delayed responding to the BCCI who took it upon itself to act as an intermediary to ensure the players’ request could be met – and to ascertain itself what were the WICB intentions for the remainder of the tour.

    This egalitarian share of the blame diverts from questions of accountability and obligations Cameron and the WICB had with the BCCI for this Indian tour. One other thing. It is standard industrial relations practice that if you as an employer are served notice that X organisation no longer represent a set of workers, and that they desire to meet with you, you as an employer are under obligation to so acknowledge and agree on a time to meet. This idea of a renegade group of players aborting a tour for more money is incendiary reporting geared to black-eye the squad as villains for only receiving contracts while in India and thereafter refusing to accept a shocking 70% cut in their expected income.

    Don Marshall (Dr.)

    1. David Oram Post author

      Greetings Don, and many thanks for taking the time to read and reply to my blog.

      I share your admiration for Tony Cozier, but he is not alone among the senior commentators and writers in the region who have sources at their ‘disposal’. I have had contact with others who share Tony’s privileged position as senior analysts, but who have a far more admonishing position towards the players. I have also widely read the newspaper and online coverage of the strike throughout the region, and they carry a mixture of outright condemnation and understanding of the players’ position. There are many views out there.

      Tony, myself, yourself and others are all entitled to their position and interpretation of the events. I strongly contest with you that the WICB cancelled the tour, and have directly addressed the ‘who’ and the ‘when’ in my recent blog pieces.

      Private feedback from within the player group itself (and publicly by Marlon Samuels) has highlighted divisions between the strike position taken by the ODI tour party. It was not a unanimous decision, despite presenting a united front.

      I am not attempting to black-eye anybody, merely expressing my own personal views in a pubic forum. I am not a journalist or reporter, am not in any way remunerated for writing (or broadcasting) my opinions, therefore I am not ‘reporting’ matters, whether or not those views are incendiary (which I refute).

      This is a grave state of affairs that thousands, maybe millions feel passionately about – and I share that passion, which is reflected in my writing. If my views provoke comment, debate, reaction etc then I am pleased. I take it as a compliment that my views as a mere blogger (with their limited distribution and readership) could in any way, by anybody, have a genuine impact. If I were writing as a representative of a public media organ, or online outlet I may be more circumspect – but I hope I would not. I don’t know – I have the freedom to express my views which is the joy of blogging.

      As I say, it’s all about opinions. I thoroughly respect yours, and thank you again for sharing it here on this blog.


  2. Don Marshall

    Greetings again. I was asked to explain what I mean by `incendiary reporting’. Well take David Oram’s analogy on November 1st:

    ” 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.” (extracted from Cameron’s `Peace in our Time’ blog)

    To say the least, this is overblown stuff, pardon the pun.

    I imagine Frank Worrell’s refusal to accept a place on the West Indies tour to India many years ago was construed by some back then as a failure to represent the people of the Caribbean. He did refuse to tour for he considered the salary a totally unsatisfactory one. What might have been read as an act of mercenary selfishness then, is today read as a stoic act of defiance on behalf of many cricketers. Bravo and the squad may have updated the struggle for respectability. I am sure the indignity of leaving for tours not knowing what one’s terms and conditions are will come to an end. I have not been shamed by their actions; but by the WICB’s cavalier manner throughout the Indian tour.

    Don Marshall


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