Orville Higgins | Senior cricketers absent too frequently for 'personal reasons'
It is happening with alarming frequency in recent times. A few years ago, cricketer Andre Russell opted out of a three-match 20-20 international series against Pakistan, citing "personal reasons." Darren Bravo had withdrawn from a tour of South Africa a few years ago and had also left a tour of New Zealand for "personal reasons." Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard are not on the current tour of New Zealand because of "personal reasons." Others, like Chris Gayle, have also opted not to play at different times for "personal reasons." Am I the only person who is taking this "personal-reasons" issue personal?
I grew up at a time when every cricketer's dream was to play for the West Indies. Times are changing. We all have to accept that, but seeing more and more cricketers opting to miss a tour or a game because of these personal reasons is rubbing me the wrong way. It is never the young rookie who is asking for time off for these personal reasons; it is always the well-established senior 20-20 pros. Well, not quite. Some years ago Runako Morton, God bless his soul, wanted to leave a tour because of the death of his grandmother. It turned out that one was alive, and the other had died many years back. Morton didn't get the memo then. Rather than this elaborate excuse, he merely could have cited personal reasons and left it at that!
DO NOT WANT TO PLAY
Isn't it clear what's happening? These 20-20 stalwarts really do not want to play, or, more accurately, they only want to play when it's convenient to them. Once or twice, we have seen players withdrawing from games or tours for personal reasons and then end up playing elsewhere. Their personal reasons were too strong for them to play for the West Indies, but not too strong for them to play elsewhere!
It is worrying that there seems to be precious little the West Indies board can do. The players who draw for the personal-reasons line are usually not on central retainer contracts. This means the board doesn't 'own' them and, therefore, there is nothing legally binding that can prevent them from choosing when they play and when they don't. Can the board take action against these players for pulling out because of the spate of personal reasons excuses? If so, what action can they take? The West Indies board may well have their hands tied. If you refuse to pick these players who opt out of tours whenever they feel like, the critics will come down hard on the selectors for not selecting their best team. But surely it must be a logistical issue, and not just cricket, to pick a player and then have to replace him because he announces at the ninth hour that he can't play for personal reasons.
Maybe the selectors should also run with this line. Maybe Courtney Browne and his team should simply leave out some of these players whenever they wish to be selected. When they ask the reason for their omission, Courtney Browne should come to a press conference and with a straight face just announce that he can't pick these players for personal reasons! Now that would be interesting. A few months ago, I was on radio telling anybody who would listen that the real reason why the players don't want to play for the West Indies was not because of the much maligned president, Dave Cameron. He simply has taken over at a time when 20-20 is at its peak and the players are so much in demand. The players don't want to resign because under International Cricket Council rules, they would have to sit out a two-year span. So they play when they want, stay relevant, and then drop the "personal reasons" line whenever it is convenient.
Is there an 'anything-goes' culture that has permeated the West Indies setup? Something has to give. Management needs to start getting "personal" with those who continue to abandon West Indies cricket for "personal reasons."
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