We had urged Wavel Hinds to step down as head of the West Indies cricketers union not because we believed that he made a bad deal with the managers of the game in the Caribbean. Rather, as the target of the disaffection of the region’s senior players over their pay contracts he is unlikely to be the best person to manage the healing of the schism in the West Indies Players Association (WIPA). There was a potentially credible case of conflict of interest given Mr Hinds’ WIPA posts and positions in the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA). But we also expected a show of maturity from the members of the West Indies team who were on tour of India; that they would put aside the distractions, get on with their matches on the sub-continent and resolve their dispute with their union when they returned to the Caribbean. The point is worth underlining: the players’ dispute is not with their employer, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), but rather with their trade union, WIPA. They dislike the contract WIPA negotiated.
Instead, in behaviour reeking of unprofessionalism, greed and thoughtlessnes - or, perhaps, bad advice - the elite players, led by their One Day International captain, Dwayne Bravo, walked out of the tour, effectively abrogating their contract with the WICB. In the process, they embarrassed the West Indies, inconvenienced their hosts and have caused significant short-term damage to the Caribbean.
But the ill-behaviour , properly used, can be turned to value for Caribbean cricket. The context of quarrel is important.
The first is the fact that WIPA is the legally recognised entity with which the WICB negotiates pay contracts for players, most of whom are members of the association. The parties reached a new agreement that would increase the value of retainer contracts for 30 players by between 15 and 25 per cent and match fees by 15 per cent.
However, WIPA agreed that another US$2.3 million in sponsors’ money that WICB used to pay out annually for senior selectees for rights to their images would be used instead to provide contracts to 90 players, 15 each from the six territorial teams that are to be part of the new franchise system for regional tournaments. We withhold our opinion on the concept of franchise teams, rather than old concept of squads of territorial nationals. Yet, it is obvious that broadening the base of professional players, rather than having narrow base of over-paid, under-performing, supposedly elite cricket, is potentially better for West Indies cricket.
For approximately two decades, since the dissolution of the great team of the 1980s, the West Indies have been the bottom of world cricket. Yet the region’s players have managed to stick-up the Board for, and received, higher and higher remuneration without their pay being linked to performance. Only a handful of players, those selected to the senior teams, benefited. That is unsustainable.
The WICB now has a valid, enforceable contract with WIPA. The board, therefore, as is rarely the case, starts from a strong position in negotiating with the players. And it has the moral high ground and sensible position. Skilfully and sensitively deployed, it has a potent weapon.
If Bravo and company fail to see the light, they should pay a price for this miscalculation. West Indies cricket can do better.