I have read and listened to the myriad of exchanges between the parties (WICB, WIPA, BCCI & the WI squad) and the subsequent editorials and other articles from leading media houses and cricket experts and their respective apportionment of blame towards the respective parties. Indeed the common thread that runs through this entire sordid episode is that this matter should not have been allowed to degenerate to the eventual end result of an aborted tour. I will now seek to address some of the major issues at play here and my suggested steps for resolution of same:
1. Cricket Tours, fans & sponsors
Everyone has unanimously agreed that cricket tops everything and absolutely no situation should allow for the abrupt end to a tour such as this, barring weather, war or terrorist activities (WWT) that would put the safety and wellbeing of the players, fans and officials in jeopardy. For this, most of the parties above with the notable exception of the BCCI would have to accept some level of blame with the squad bearing the majority of such blame as it was their decision to play or not to play. Whether it was the WI team or any other team, this sort of decision should never be tolerated by any touring or home team ever again in the future. A clear line should be drawn in the sand. Fans and sponsors the world over should never be held to ransom by the whims and fancies of any player(s). The fans and sponsors make the players and the game and richly deserve their enjoyment. Today may be the WICB, tomorrow may be another Board. This must be nipped in the bud and not be allowed to be a precedent for anyone.
2. MOU/CBA-WIPA/WICB perspective
WIPA genuinely seemed to have thought that they had a mandate from their members in February and proceeded to negotiate and sign a legally binding 4 year MOU/CBA (2014-2018) contract with the WICB. The question of whether WIPA indeed had a mandate or not from the players is moot at this point as the contract is already in existence. They are the only representative union or body for the WI players and ought to be treated and respected as such. It is within that spirit that negotiations were conducted and concluded between the WICB and WIPA. The WICB were well within their right to refuse to speak with the players when their union had already signed a contract on their behalf. Whether the players agreed with or were informed about its contents or not prior to its signing is an internal matter for WIPA, they are legally bound by the terms and conditions of the MOU/CBA. The ball was in WIPA’s court to communicate the contents of this agreement to its members in a timely manner. It may very well be a situation where outside forces were fueling strife between the senior players and their union or a clear case of miscommunication or no opportunity for communication at all.
It is totally unacceptable that the players did not sign the tour contracts prior to embarking on the India tour. WIPA definitely dropped the ball there. There are several reasons mooted here for this sorry state of affairs: that this is the norm and has happened several times before, the players were at Champions League. Whatever the intent or reason for the non-signing, it was totally out of order. Not all of the players were at the Champions League, at least those that were not should have been briefed on the details of the MOU/CBA and the new tour contracts and their signed agreement obtained prior to their departure. Had those 8-10 players signed off on their tour contracts, surely this situation would not have arisen.
3. BCCI/WICB relationship
These 2 boards have a long, healthy and mutually beneficial relationship and this unwarranted action by the players has surely strained that relationship. The WICB has already issued an unequivocal apology to the BCCI and it is now left to the other culpable parties to issue similar apologies. All efforts should be made to have meaningful dialogue between these 2 boards aimed at healing this rift. Hopefully, the potential earnings from the substituted Sri Lanka tour would help to offset some of the losses that would have accrued from the aborted WI tour. This situation cries out for mature and prudent analysis and I trust that better sense will prevail and relations will eventually improve, the FTP will continue and be improved upon with more cricket being played to offset any losses and legal action placed on hold. Any sustained legal action could eventually involve WIPA and the players which the BCCI may not be inclined to pursue with the possibility that the poster boys for its IPL being threatened. The world needs a strong WI team on its stage for the sustainability of cricket for generations to come.
4. Implications of MOU/CBA
It is rather uncertain whether the senior players have had an ample opportunity to study or seek advices yet on the financial and other implications of the new agreement given that they have publicly stated that they have not yet seen it. How can you justifiably denounce a document that you have not even examined? This reeks of contradiction and/or outside interference as insinuated earlier. WIPA needs to summon its entire membership to a general meeting at the earliest possible opportunity to fully explain and ventilate all aspects of the current MOU/CBA and compare same with the previous MOU/CBA. Michael Holding had some very revealing statements to make about that document and these all need to be taken into context when discussing the new document. To its credit, the WICB had honored that agreement until its eventual termination regardless of how flawed and unfair it was perceived to be against the WICB, since it was a legally binding agreement that was tested several times in the judicial system. During that time, WIPA never came to the table to discuss but filed lawsuit after lawsuit.
-WI First Class players
Never before has the future of West Indies cricket looked better with the contracting of 105 players throughout the region and a professional run franchise league being administered regionally with all players earning decent salaries enough to make cricket a career rather than a favorite past time.
5. The Future
I agree with Tony Cozier that the storm clouds are beginning to lift. The worst has past us, let’s get up, dust ourselves off and move on. I think most of the players would have had some quality time to deliberate on their actions and have now realized the repercussions and the folly of same. Administrators would also have had their time to assess where things went wrong and take steps to ensure there is never a repeat of such situations. We need to immediately get into damage control mode. WIPA needs to get its house in order and have a SGM at its earliest opportunity. WICB needs to engage the BCCI in earnest dialogue on the way forward. The WICB needs to select its best team to tour SA and immediately short list its squad for the World Cup. The territorial franchises need to contract the first class players soonest.
It was really refreshing to hear Marlon Samuels publicly saying that this current WI team management was the best that he has ever worked with. Let’s put aside our differences and work towards the overall development of WI cricket.
We all trust that these steps would be taken post haste and the glory days of WI cricket in the 80s and the 90s would be returned sooner rather than later.
Raj Singh – Cricket enthusiast.
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