One time too many
ON THE BOUNDARY Tony Becca
Ever since that day in June 1950 when they trounced England at Lord's to win the second Test and then went on to win their first series in England, the West Indies have been lauded, by almost every man, as every man's second favourite team of cricketers.
Right around the world, they were known as Calypso Cricketers. Their fleet-footed batsmen danced down the pitch in search of the ball, or they rocked back and hooked. Their giant fast bowlers raced in from the boundary's edge to release thunderbolt deliveries, and their nimble fielders raced across the field, jumping and diving in gay abandon.
They were the game's naturals, the people's favourite.
In 1975, they were known as the "Happy Hookers" before dropping it to become the greatest team in the world and to become the envy of all and sundry. Cricket, by then, was not cricket unless it was played the West Indian way for all to enjoy.
Batting was not batting unless it was as exciting and as intoxicating as it was when Worrell, Weekes, and Walcott batted, or when Sobers and Kanhai, Rowe and Kallicharran, Richards, and Lara batted. Fast bowling was not bowling unless the ball was sent flying by the likes of Gilchrist, Hall, and Griffith, Roberts, Holding, Garner, and Croft, Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh, and Patterson.
So it was until 1995 when Australia attempted to take over. Despite losing their way, the people, however, never gave up. They still wanted to see the West Indies in action; they still wanted to see Cricket, Lovely Cricket.
That, however, was not to be. Victories were few and far between, and defeats were the order of the day.
All over the world, however, people were saying that cricket would never be the same without a strong West Indies team in the mix, and the worse things became, the more they said it.
What was bad about it was that the players believed it. WIPA believed it, the board believed it, and the people also believed it. They went from one day to another quarrelling with each other, threatening to strike, going on strike, playing second elevens, and all in all destroying West Indies cricket.
'everybody was right'
Not one of them found it prudent to seek a solution because everybody was right, and nobody was wrong, or so it seemed.
Even those times when some effort was made to put things right, it all ended up in a mess. The people called on to put things right were mostly politicians. They often saw things in favour of the players, and most times, the players left smelling nice and rosy.
That was West Indies cricket, and that is West Indies cricket. In the eyes of the people, the players are always right, or mostly always right.
A board with no money has most times been forced to pay the players more and more money, and in recent years, for less and less performance.
West Indies cricket was heading down a one-way street to disaster.
West Indies cricket has always been about money.
Remember 1949 when Worrell, Weekes, and Walcott called for money to go to India and when Weekes and Walcott backed off in the nick of time? Remember 1950 when Headley asked for more money to tour England and when Strebor Roberts asked, "What price Headley?" And remember 1957 when Valentine asked for money to play for Jamaica?
Remember also the Packer Series of 1977 the West Indies Rebel team of 1983, and remember the stand-off in London in 1998?
They were all about money, and whether they were right or not, it never got to this stage. The players had respect for their board, and for their international partners.
Whatever it was, but for a little pride and a little integrity from all concerned, and but for a little principle and a little decency from all involved, West Indies cricket would have suffered enormously from those same self-inflicted blows.
Thank God West Indies cricket survived to bloom beautifully and magnificently.
West Indies cricket, however, continued to believe in its own publicity, and it carried on as if it was invincible. On many occasions, it tempted the fates.
This time, the board, right or wrong, saw an opportunity to put things right. It made a deal for money with India, England, and the ICC. It entered a deal with its players to give up some of their pay so that that they could try and put West Indies cricket on a better footing than it was before by paying regionally contracted players and supporting the regional franchise players.
It was a historic moment in West Indies cricket, or so it was said, and so it was believed.
The deal, however, was apparently struck in hell.
The board, apparently, took more than the players had agreed to give up. The players, despite an earlier agreement after another impasse, went to India without a contract, and the rest is history.
The players, WIPA, and the board are all guilty for the embarrassment that followed, some because of greed, some of because of hiding the facts of the agreement, and some because of fancy footwork. The board, as the head of cricket in the West Indies, also failed to act as it should have when it was asked so to do.
Where will it end? No one knows. One thing is certain: Someone, or everyone, is not telling the truth, and except India thank the West Indies for bailing them out against South Africa recently and for supporting them during the ICC take-over, the West Indies will be left in the cold, owing India money, living with no tours against India, possibly suspended by the ICC and removed from next year's World Cup, and left without its much-talked-about cricket franchise.
The West Indies stand to lose some US$25 million for a tour by India in 2016, and unless they can beg forgiveness, they stand to lose not only US$65 million in fines for aborting the tour, but also some US$75 million for three other tours involving India by 2019.
And what of the task force? It seems a glorious waste of time. I hope, however, that it will be unbiased, and that unlike the Patterson Report, its efforts will see the light of day.
The hope, most of all, is that this will not end up as business as usual.