WIPA, Ramnarine at it again
West Indies cricket, once the best and the envy of the world, has been going through rough times in recent years, on and off the field, and despite some success in Australia recently, in spite of the promise of a brighter tomorrow and a fairly happy new year, nothing, it seems, has changed.
Thanks the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA), it's back to the battlefield - or so it appears.
Just before Christmas, the West Indies gave Australia a run for their money and almost won two Test matches.
That was great, the performance lifted the spirit of the fans, and although it did not lead to victory, the performance promised a better and a happier tomorrow.
In West Indies cricket these days, however, nothing lasts long, and just as the fans were enjoying the suggestion of a change, just as the wheels of success in West Indies cricket started to roll, WIPA stepped in, not with a bat, but with a spanner in its hands.
According to a release from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), after a home and away format last year with each team playing 12 matches, the regional four-day tournament will this year be played on a one-round format with each team playing only six matches.
A few days ago, on December 23 and just two weeks before the scheduled start of the tournament on January 8, WIPA, through its president, Dinanath Ramnarine, issued a statement saying that it disagreed with the change, that the change was not good for West Indies cricket, that there was no agreement between the board and WIPA re the change, and called for an urgent meeting to discuss the matter.
A few days later, Dr Ernest Hilaire, CEO of the board, defended the board's decision, and although I also believe that a longer tournament is in the best interest of West Indies cricket as far as the development of the players is concerned, although I do not agree with playing one round of matches (three matches) in one country at the same time, and although I do not agree, at this stage, with something like the use of a pink ball for day/night matches, I totally agree with him.
Apart from the fact that but for 1997 and last year, the regional four-day tournament has been played on a one-round basis every year since its inception in 1966, and therefore, nothing has really changed, according to Dr Hilaire, the board had discussed the format with WIPA, and although the two parties did not agree on the change, the board decided to go ahead.
The board decided to go ahead because of one reason.
With the tournament costing US$3.5 million last year, with the board deciding to increase the fees of the players and the officials, with the board, for whatever reason, short of money, and in the absence of sponsors, it was simply because of the lack of money.
There is no question about that.
As far as their belief that a longer tournament is in the best interest of West Indies cricket is concerned, WIPA, who earlier had presented a 15-point plan for the development of West Indies cricket to the board, is correct, and regardless of the importance of 'A' teams, women's cricket, and the high-performance centre, there is no question about that.
Regardless of what Dr Hilaire says, regardless of the importance of other things, West Indies cricket needs a long first-class tournament.
The best way forward for West Indies cricket is a longer tournament.
The important question, however, as asked by Dr Hilaire, is this: who is responsible for West Indies cricket, is it WIPA or is it the board?
While it is good for West Indies cricket that the board and WIPA get along, it seems that WIPA wants to run West Indies cricket, and as far as I am concerned, that should not and cannot be.
Lest we forget, the members of the board are voted in by the members of the fraternity - the members of the clubs in cricket.
The members of the fraternity start the process in each territory by voting for the executives in the clubs, the representatives of those executives in turn vote for their territorial board members, and they in turn vote for their two representatives to the West Indies board.
As far as the cricket fraternity is concerned, and also the fans, the WICB, not WIPA, runs cricket in the West Indies, and if the memorandum of understanding between the board and WIPA says that the two must agree, then something is wrong with it and needs to be changed.
If it does not change, WIPA has veto power, that should never be, and that cannot work.
On top of that, based on the attitude of WIPA, if WIPA has veto power over the board, West Indies cricket will continue to have problems.
In other words, there will always be a strike around the corner.
WIPA and Ramnarine, a former board member and currently a member of the Development Committee, waited until a few days before the tournament is scheduled to start to publish their objections and to publicly call for an urgent meeting, that is begging for a fight, and, sad to say, based on its history, that seems to be WIPA's style.
In other words, even though the calendar is tight, regardless of its effect on West Indies cricket, WIPA and Ramnarine are prepared to disrupt the tournament and therefore the plans of the board.
Dr Hilaire's argument that "it is a basic law of financial management that you spend what you have the capacity to earn", that the board is not blessed with a lot of money, and that having a tournament of 12 rounds at this time would be "courting financial disaster", is solid - no question about that.
In other words, apart from the fact that if the board was to follow Dr Hilaire's philosophy about spending what you have the capacity to earn it would not even stage the tournament, although a longer tournament would have been better for West Indies cricket, it was not possible this time around.
It is as simple as that.
To spend what you cannot earn is one thing; to spend what you do not have is disaster.
Like many around the region, however, WIPA is also asking who made the decision to have a one-round tournament, and that is a good question.
Hopefully, it was done by the board after consultation with the Cricket Committee, and not by Dr Hilaire without consultation with anyone.
As CEO, Dr Hilaire is in charge of everything to do with West Indies cricket, including filling its coffers.
Hopefully, common sense will prevail and that when it comes to cricket matters he will allow himself to be guided by those who know - by those who played the game and who form the Cricket Committee.