That's just not cricket, WICB
Recent West Indies cricket happenings are of the sort Alice would call curiouser and curiouser.
As usual, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), in its life mission to be neither fish nor fowl, has managed to antagonise every single West Indian not on that august body. There are those, me included, who would've supported WICB's dismissal of every single cricketer who walked off the Indian tour, embarrassed an entire region, exposed our already financially weak product to massive legal claims and firmly placed self before nation all in the quest to play a part in a Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone movie. Personally, as a non-cricketing expert, I would've gone further. I would've fired them as they crossed the boundary (figuratively); stopped paying their tour expenses; forced them to walk home (across land and sea); and then greeted them on arrival with orders declaring them persona non grata. To my mind, not since the infamous rebel tour of South Africa have we been so let down by our cricketing heroes.
Others, including my good friend, cricket legend Mikey Holding, with whom Ive had a lengthy and friendly argument both at long distance and when he visited home recently, take a different view. They blame WICB, with more than a little help from the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), for placing cricketers in such an untenable position with no apparent hope of even dialogue on the immediate horizon that the players were left with no choice. Eventually, we stopped arguing about the particular facts and elevated our argument to philosophy which is when his most powerful argument was put to me. He wrote:
I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments re, not just the three gentlemen sidetracked but many more that are still playing. But Gordon, I put it to you that most of the problems why our cricketers of today aren't as committed to our cricket lies at the feet of the WICB. I wouldn't be committed to working for these jokers who show no respect to their employees, squander what little money there is in the coffers, some of it (questionably) and walk around proudly answerable to no one and think they shouldn't have to. You were the one who pointed out to me, Gordon, that the youth of today are different to our time and we have to accept change. This is now not much more than a job to a lot of them, and that's a shame, but that's the fruit that we reap because of the seed we sew. I would bet my bottom dollar that if the board was to change its attitude and believe in it being a partnership and not a dictatorship, the commitment of most would change and we would have a better end product.
As Arsenio would say, things that make you go Hmmmmmmm ... . This should give even the strictest disciplinarian pause. To delve even more deeply into Mikeys philosophically brilliant, yet so simply expressed, view, its not the cricketers that need reform/rehabilitation but the cricket. Or, to express it even more pellucidly, the way we look at and administrate the cricket needs overhaul. So, Mikey is squarely in the no victimisation camp and is boiling over at the cavalier manner with which WICB has treated Messrs Bravo, Pollard and Sammy (subsequently reinstated as a substitute for an injured squad member).
So, what did WICB do? Did they fire the lot of them as I would've done? Did they implement a no victimisation policy? Neither! It chose not to choose. WICB fired some and included others (for the moment) in what appears an attempt to straddle the fence (lets hope it turns out to be a picket fence) and, by restricting the reaction to Trinidadians, to avoid any widespread backlash. In other words, they failed to implement a consistent policy, thereby seeming wishy-washy at best.
DARK AGE's APPROACH
This'll take us nowhere as results from South Africa are showing. Would a West Indies B team or the full Indian squad have performed any worse? Does performance or principle matter more at this point in time? Which has WICB plumped for? Because of its fence straddling gymnastics, nobody can answer with any degree of certainty.
Its time we stop this reactionary, Dark Ages approach to cricket administration. We must make some crucial policy decisions which can only be made by our political leaders or by referendum. One: do we want to continue with West Indies cricket? If no, the problem ends there. If yes, do we want to continue to play Test cricket? If yes, do we want to compete at world level or are we satisfied to be most teams beating stick? If we want to compete at world level in any type of cricket, we must understand and accept that the modern cricketer plays for family security from monetary compensation and incentives and NOT for country. Especially in the West Indies, there is no country named West Indies; no flag to fly; and no national anthem for which we can weep when its played.
So, a professional approach must be taken by everybody from WICB down. It has to begin with WICB's structure which encourages and promotes amateurism and insularity to the exclusion of professionalism. Mikey has long proposed that the WICB include only ONE representative from each regional country plus SIX independent directors being men and women of unquestionable integrity and stature in the Caribbean, plus a president and vice-president. The six independent directors would have to be appointed by CARICOM and their names published for regional comment before their appointments are finalised.
The six regional reps, president and vice-president should be subjected to rigorous due diligence before being confirmed in their posts. That would eliminate, for example, persons who receive adverse comment in investigative reports like that by Justice Lucky, who investigated the Digicel/Cable and Wireless sponsorship deal, from occupying any position of influence.
Then the restructuring must include WIPA, which appears to represent only current players, especially international players. WIPA needs to be more democratised and members should include retired as well as current players. The retired players should form the majority of the executive/board and only those with appropriate skill sets should be allowed to negotiate with the board. Also, the players themselves MUST be more involved. If cricket is to be a job, then employees MUST pay attention to their job parameters as they would if they were behind a desk in some tech-driven office. Training and playing is longer enough. Players must learn administration or employ people who do.
The watchword going forward must be professionalism. If cricket is to become like all other international sports so be it. But the approach from ALL participants must be strictly professional; governed by written contracts negotiated by professionals and concluded before they take effect; driven by due diligence and performance.
Professionalism means real partnership. Professionalism as partnership must be driven by total quality management which eschews any semblance of Bucky Massa or dictatorship. WICB must appreciate that, in today's world of commerce, management decisions are taken from the bottom up; not from the top down. Regular surveys of players views must be conducted and used to guide decision-making. On the other hand, players must understand that the WICB and its employers, the regions people, cant be disrespected. Respect from one breeds respect from and for all. Professionalism from the players means commitment and performance. No profession in the world, no matter how traditional, expects to be paid for non-performance.
Peace and Love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.