Opinion: Caribbean cricket’s calypso collapse

It has long been predicted. Since the heady days of Sir Garfield Sobers, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Brian Lara faded from memory, people have said cricket in the West Indies is dying.

The reasons given are manifold. Often it is said that an increased love of basketball is the reason, others say that the lack of on field success is what has turned fans off. Even more people have said Test cricket is on its way out, using the evidence of the extremely popular Caribbean Premier League as proof that it is the format, not the sport that is the issue.

For the first time those fears are pretty close to reality. It is not the fans dedicating their time to the NBA that could bring about the end of West Indies cricket, instead it is money. Just four years ago the West Indies national team went on strike, and we are there again. This time the removal of labour came in the middle of a tour to India. This has upset Sanjay Patel, the BCCI general secretary. This is about as wise as jamming your thumb up a hibernating bears backside.

In a furious press release the BCCI said, “The WICB’s inability to resolve internal issues with its players and allowing the same to affect an ongoing bilateral series does not reflect well on any of those involved.” There is talk of them withdrawing from bilateral series with the West Indies, and much more pressing, there is mention of them seeking compensation.

ESPNCricinfo has said that this could be as much as $65million. The WICB’s total revenues in 2013 was $28million. There are customers of payday loan companies that are more solvent than the West Indies board right now. Their entire future rests on the capriciousness of the BCCI, an organisation that is pettier than recently divorcee.

It came to this as the relationship between the West Indies national squad and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) collapsed as a new Memorandum of Understanding attempted to redistribute some of the board’s revenue from the top of the player pool to those further down. This move was to try and increase professionalism in the sport, a worthy endeavour.

The issue has been that the players have felt that WIPA have not been representing their interests. The national squad proposed that the remainder of the India tour should take place under the old pay conditions but made their displeasure at the players association very clear. In a letter from Dwayne Bravo to the WIPA President, Wavell Hinds, the players state “we are disappointed with the lack of proper representation and the players are now forced to make this proposal without any details as to how this new purported agreement was even arrived at and by whom.”

This same letter goes on to say, “it is without question that we want to see West Indies cricket rise again and we are very committed to that process, but the way it is being done is most unfortunate and unacceptable.” Ultimately, this is a question as old as the Boston Tea Party. It is about having a lack representation. The players feel they have been removed from this process, and as the group whose work brings in the most money to the organisation you can understand why they feel aggrieved.

While all of this taking place an ODI was played out by a clearly disgruntled West Indies team. While the surroundings of the Dharamsala are beautiful, the Caribbean side’s fielding was not. As the world searched for information as to what was going on there was no word from the WICB for the majority of the game. Instead the only thing that we saw from one of their administrators was the board President, Dave Cameron, retweeting inspirational quotes.

When we did get a statement from the WICB it was full of apologies, lots and lots of them. So many that you it made you think they had worked out how screwed they were. The BCCI are upset, and justifiably so. They are not an easy organisation to feel sympathy for, yet in this instance they had every right to be filled with righteous indignation. The matches they had agreed to play, that TV companies and advertisers had forked out money for, were cancelled because the WICB couldn’t sort themselves out.

At one point people suggested that West Indies players could find themselves without IPL contracts. Sanjay Patel has made that clear that those deals are safe. The BCCI’s issue is with the board, and Patel has said “there is no question of stopping [West Indies players] from playing in the IPL.” This news will delight Chris Gayle’s jeweller.

You would hope that the BCCI would not bankrupt a fellow cricket board, that they will keep any compensation demand to a minimum. They don’t really need the cash. There is every chance they won’t see it this way and Caribbean cricket could calypso off into the sun set. Watch this space.

Peter Miller