10th May 2015
Overthrows – backing up strong returns
Earlier this week I circulated an editorial from Barbados Today (which you can read here) that took a firm line, urging the WICB to strictly enforce its ‘West Indies First’ policy – a sentiment I entirely endorse.
My former colleague on the Mason & Guests show in Barbados, Dr Don Marshall has responded with his own thoughts, arguing that the issue is not as simple as some might consider:
We miss your prescient and witty remarks on Talk Cricket here.
This article raises some of the key issues that Cricket Boards the world over face with the rise of franchise cricket coincident with liberal understandings of the right to truck and trade one’s skills and wares, to have a share in image and brand rights and so on.
Here the alchemy of patriotism and ensuring one’s financial future as a sportsperson often jar. It is read at times as having one’s cake and eating it. But the rhetoric is grandiose when not unfair.
Sustaining a tight-knit national cricket team calls for discernment and artifice given the navigation of duty and of career sustenance. So long as the cricketing authorities (read the Board) refuse to leave a window open for players to earn the available bounties possible, players will have anxieties over sustaining livelihoods well past 35 years old.
Two elements were missing in the rich discussion raised in the editorial: one is that Boards DO receive a substantial sum from franchises for its players via “no-objection certificates” – and this has added to the earnings required in recent years to develop the game and its administration and; two, for the most part, the marquee international players at most agree to play in two such franchise tournaments a year, some in their locally organized T20 brand.
Although only featuring 9 countries/regions the view that T20 threatens to undo the rudiments of orthodox cricket or that it is hurting the game in lower-ranked countries remains overblown. As for the specifics of the West Indies team and the difficulties of building a team in the face of, say, the lure of the IPL, this is a sordid self-affliction from which we struggle to overcome.
A ‘West Indies First policy’ has to be as nuanced as what is stated in the 2011-2015 Cricket Australia Strategic Report (See http://www.cricketaustralia.com.au/about/mission-and-values/our-strategy; also click on the Crawford and Carter Report).
The framers recognize that their cricketers are faced with much more choices to earn money other than remaining dependent on local first-class and Test cricket, given the sums available in county cricket in the UK, and T20 franchise leagues. Cricket Australia commits not just to better pay for its cricketers but a window for the IPL in at least alternating years.
The WICB makes no allowance for an IPL window, leaving the players to seek a NOC from the WICB if they are offered a contract by any of the competing Indian franchises.
The message is that they should accept that the offer of a retainer contract is an advance over what their cricketing forebears endured; and that in terms of estimation and worth, the said retainer, plus the contracts for each West Indies tour of duty together with the allowances result in a much better financial sum than what most cricket nations pay their players.
In these circumstances, the ‘West Indies First’ policy is inflexible, paternalistic and beckons conflict.
The comparison with Cricket Australia is stark and what is ironic is that it does not solely rely on the glue of nationalism, the pride of the ‘baggy green’ to hone a national team, but the WICB and others seem to expect a voguish patriotism to contain choices available to West Indian players.
In sum there is nothing unpatriotic, greedy or self-serving for a player in this age of television rights and super profits to pursue financial security.
For us supporters and administrators as custodians of the next generation of cricketers, it is about the perpetuation of the game, its uniqueness to the Caribbean and its legacy.
But in this line of work, the players also know too well the risks of injury or loss of form, and will understandably want to serve country and their livelihood in a way that beckons flexibility and compassion.
Don D. Marshall
P.S. We may as well stop vilifying players seeking to maximize their earnings. Certainly the charge does not extend to bargains made by Boards that relate to maximizing revenue rather than ensuring the interest of the team (e.g. back to back Test Matches; playing Test series in England from as early as May; arranging tours with minimal rest periods between assignments; starting Test cricket on Mondays etc).
Dr Don D. Marshall is an author, lecturer, political scientist and cultural analyst based at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. A passionate observer and supporter of Caribbean cricket, Don is a regular panelist and contributor to the Mason & Guests radio show.