Tony Becca | Back in the fold, but for how long?
After years of infighting that led to quarrels, strikes, stand-offs, and eventually, the gradual erosion of the once mighty West Indies team, Cricket West Indies and the West Indies Players Association have finally come to an agreement, an amnesty, to save West Indies cricket, or so it appears.
It has been agreed, in principle, that players no longer need to participate in domestic regional tournaments in order to represent the West Indies, especially in the shorter versions of the game, and that means players like Christopher Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, and Kieron Pollard can now represent the West Indies again.
The move also means that players like Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy, who once ‘dissed’ the administration with his harsh comments, Lendl Simmons, and André Russell, and Nicholas Pooran are available for selection.
The ‘prodigal sons’ also include Darren Bravo, whose return came rather surprisingly and easily.
This move, with all its window-dressing, looks like a retreat by Dave Cameron and his men, and it looks like a desperate attempt to get the best team in the bid to qualify for the World Cup.
Whether this move will continue after the World Cup will get them automatic, or any qualification, or will make the West Indies strong again, however, only time will tell.
A few things are certain, however: it should make the atmosphere around West Indies cricket more pleasant; it should make the ODI and the T20 teams that much stronger; it will be good for the young players in the team as far as their development and their confidence are concerned; and it will leave the top players free to earn their money wherever they want to, wherever they can, and still be available for the West Indies.
And in today’s world, that is good, really good, especially for the players, especially for the spectators, and especially for those who believe that everything today is better than everything from yesterday.
In terms of the development of West Indies cricket, however, Cricket West Indies will have to be very, very careful from here on, and they will have to plan well, very well, if despite the new freedom for the top players, and the promise of brighter days in the future, the move is not to affect the development of West Indies cricket adversely.
Cricket West Indies has been guilty of many wrongs in the past, including in the recent past, and among them is its attitude towards the players.
For years, the players’ main grouse has been for more money. Cricket West Indies, however, probably because of its financial situation and its inability to pay more, resisted the players’ demand until eventually, they both went their different ways.
The blame was divided. Some felt that the players had a just cause, and some felt that the administrators simply could not do any better and had to make a stand in the interest of West Indies cricket.
The simple truth is that the whole thing was probably handled badly, and in the end, backfired.
On one hand, Cricket West Indies had no money, yet on one hand it was spending money left, right, and centre. It was paying foreign coaches and foreign CEOs. The team was travelling around with an entourage almost as big as the team itself, and its staff was moving around the islands doing what local associations used to do whenever a series was on.
Although Phil Simmonds was unceremoniously fired, Cricket West Indies did some good, no doubt about that, including finding money for first-class cricketers and a longer cricket season, but their business is West Indies cricket, to lead West Indies cricket, and with the decline of the team, with the absence of so many players for so long due to internal quarrels, some of them of a personal nature, Cricket West Indies must take the bulk of the blame for the gradual decline of West Indies cricket.
No one knows what West Indies cricket could have been had the likes of Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, and Sunil Narine, Marlon Samuels, Lendl; Simmons, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell, and Samuel Badree, plus Nicholas Pooran and Darren Bravo played regularly in domestic cricket and helped in the development of the young players in the region, the young players who were left to swim or sink without a guiding hand in international cricket.
The question now is this: What will Cricket West Indies do with these players, with Gayle, Pollard, Sammy and company?
Will it allow them to represent the West Indies without them playing in any or part of the domestic competitions?
If it does do that, how will the selection process work, and how will a young player move on? How will they be selected?
Also, will the young players still be allowed to play among themselves, without players who they can emulate, and then, if they are lucky, be selected to take on the best in international cricket?
Cricket West Indies is responsible for cricket in the West Indies. It is responsible for the development of cricket in the West Indies, and while the decision to give freedom to the top players to earn money is good and laudable, Cricket West Indies must plan well in order to protect West Indies cricket and its youngsters.
It cannot be a free-for-all. The returning players, the top players, and the top players to come, must be made to understand that with all their right to earn, they also have a responsibility to West Indies cricket.
Cricket West Indies and the West Indies Players Association must come up with a sort of compromise, which includes playing sometimes in domestic competitions, and once that compromise has been reached, it is respected by all.
A new contract will shortly be signed, and one hopes that whatever is done, and however it is done, West Indies cricket is protected; the way in which a player can represent the West Indies will be clearly and simply set out the player will not be allowed to come in, represent the West Indies at international events only when it suits him and then go about his business and that the player will be respected by everyone.
The attraction of money will always, or most times, trump loyalty, and that is why Cricket West Indies needs structures, structures that work, and structures that are followed by all from top to bottom.