Tony Becca: Going, going, and may be almost gone
West Indies cricket, the envy of the world for decades past because of its exiting and brilliant batsmen, fast and furious fast bowlers, and its acrobatic fielders, and undisputed champions of the world for 19 years up to 1995, is now at rock bottom and looks like getting deeper and deeper.
In fact, based on the events of this week, and after all that have gone on in the past 15 or 20 years, a good bet is that the West Indies days are numbered.
Top eight teams
Although it is common knowledge that the West Indies have lost 80 of 132 Test matches while winning only 14 against the top eight teams since losing 5-0 to England in 2000 and 5-0 to Australia in 2000-1, and have failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy while Bangladesh have done so, cricket, results on the field, have nothing to do with it, not really.
The problem which threatens to explode and blow West Indies to the four corners of the earth is money, pure and simply money.
The West Indies are set to participate in the World Twenty20 tournament in March in India, but once again, as happened so many times in the recent past, including the 2014 Test tour of India, the squad of players, led by captain Daren Sammy, wrote the board, demanding more money for the services.
In a nutshell, that's what the players want, more money.
The players, led by Sammy, want double the match fee, 50 per cent of sponsorship money, and 100 per cent of any prize-money won. On top of that, they don't want to deal with the West Indies Players' Association whatsoever.
The board seems adamant that it will not pay. According to the board, it cannot pay. It is as simple as that. The board, if needs be, will select a new team for the tournament.
The players claim they are losing money, that they are losing as much as 85 per cent of their money, and that they cannot afford that, even if some of that money is going to subsidise the salaries of contracted Caribbean first-class players for the newly formed Professional Cricket League.
The West Indies players, it seems, cannot afford to subsidise Caribbean first-class players, not even for the suffering first-class players to go from getting nothing to getting something.
The West Indies players, however, would be comfortable if they were to be, as they are now, subsidised by the cricket world from the money earned by the money-spinners elsewhere in the world.
Is it right for the non-West Indies player to run around in the sun day after day for days at a time and then sit down and twiddle his thumbs, with nothing to do or eat, just looking on from the outside?
No, it is not right, it was never right, and it can never be right.
The West Indies Cricket Board has made many mistakes in their time, but this is not one. This is one to produce for West Indies cricket. This is one to ensure that what is happening now never happens again. This is one for West Indies cricket.
According to merit
West Indies cricket is not the West Indies team alone. It is the West Indies teams and West Indies cricketers, all West Indian cricketers. And every penny belongs to the West Indies - to be added up, divided up fairly and equitably, and to be distributed to the players according to merit and on value to the team.
The West Indies players have been on so many strikes, it has not been funny. Some have gone ahead, and some have been short-lived. Almost after every one of them there have been court cases, all sorts of meetings, all sorts of plans, and all sorts of MOUs and understandings.
There have also been all kinds of pay structures agreed on.
After 2014 and the Indian embarrassment, there were all kind of calls for all kinds of meetings, for all kinds of take-overs, and there were meetings involving prime ministers, Dave Cameron and board members, players, lawyers, and players association members.
Finding a vision
There were mediations and arbitrations at which there were ICC representatives, FICA representatives, WICB members, WIPA members, and accountants, at which the players and the board discussed their responsibilities along with finding a vision of West Indies cricket.
The meetings, all of them, one or the other, agreed and decided on all categories of remuneration, on player compensation re West Indies, international, franchise, or first-class levels, incentive payments, down to injury payments, and with the help and agreement of ICC and FICA.at that, according to the board.
All this was done from May, and then suddenly, two few weeks before the deadline, comes another storm.
"I am sending this as captain of the West Indies T20 side as a collective representative of the 15-man squad selected for the upcoming T20 World Cup," said Sammy.
And then he proceeded to say that WIPA does not represent the players, that the money is not what the players had expected, that they wanted it doubled at least, and he made it clear, in his first letter, that the players would not accept the current offer.
"If you don't agree to the above, would you consider that this matter goes to mediation for a settlement?" said Sammy.
Michael Muirhead, CEO of the board, replied, politely, "If we should not hear from any player by February 14, we will presume that you have refused selection."
The West Indies payment structure was changed in 2014, partly by the ICC because of the money they decided to share around: 25 per cent of ICC cricket money guaranteed from the player pool per year, 53 per cent to international players, 47 per cent to 90 contracted first-class players, at the end of four years fund assessed and any excess will be paid to international players only.
For all fees retainers, Test match fees, ODI fees, T20 fees, ICC, events, practice matches, captains fees, and per diems fees will be paid separately, worked out with WICB, WIPA, FICA, and ICC, who added on US$1,000 per day of cricket for each player who is not on a senior contract for the use of their image rights.
According to the board, the retainer fees were increased in 2013 from US$5,000 to US$160,000 to most of the top players in the T20 league.
Additionally, the windows are left open for Indian Premier League and Big Bash League twice a year. It is now possible for top West Indies players to earn, according the board, US$315,000 per year ($155,000 from WICB and $160,000 from CPL).
West Indies cricket has so much money and no more, and they can pay only what they can afford to pay. The cricket has to be supported, and other players have to be looked after.
Why, for example, wait from May until now to deal with these things? Money is money, and it is important, no doubt about it. There are times, however, when some things are more important, when one can do with a little less for the benefit of a brother or a sister.
If this tour beaks up again, it may be the end of West Indies cricket. Trinidad and Tobago have already whispered the idea to members of the ICC, and Richard Pybus, West Indies director of cricket, has already said, just recently, "A split can't be discounted in 10 years."