Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Cricket drama off the field

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Here we go again. Déjà vu. West Indies players are once again disgruntled over money-related issues. Not so long ago, we were all a little tired of the never-ending battles between the combative Dinanath Ramnarine and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). At times, it appeared that the clash of egos between Ramnarine and Dr Ernest Hilaire were as much to blame as whatever issues they were attempting to sort out.

With the new president of the board, Dave Cameron, and a new man leading the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA), Wavell Hinds, on at least cordial terms, we had expected that those acrimonious days were well behind us. The cruel irony is that the very perception that they are close seems to be the major cause of the current impasse!

Darren Bravo's letter said Wavell's closeness with Dave Cameron seemed to have clouded his judgement. The issue this time is not so much the players' association versus the West Indies board. This time, it's the players versus the leadership of WIPA.

The players, led by ODI captain Bravo, are upset that the changes in the memorandum of understanding and the collective bargaining agreement will see them getting less money, and they are riled that this was done without their knowledge and approval. We need not concern ourselves with the breakdown in numbers in this article.

The West Indies players are seeing merely the bottom line. Will they stand to lose? Yes. Well, they will have none of it! The executive of WIPA is adamant that the players were aware of the impending changes from as far back as January at a well-attended meeting in Trinidad and Tobago. WIPA secretary, Wayne Lewis, told me publicly that the players were essentially being a little disingenuous by behaving as if the whole thing was new to them.

Disappointed with Leadership

So now the battle lines have been drawn, and there seems to be no amicable solution in sight. Bravo is calling on the leadership of WIPA to resign, stating that the players are "disappointed with the lack of proper representation". What makes this even more interesting is that it is well known in cricket circles that Bravo and Wavell Hinds had enjoyed a fairly close relationship.

I myself remember that when Bravo was an up-and-coming cricketer, Wavell Hinds was instrumental in getting him to come to Jamaica and play some games for Wavell's local club, Kensington, all in an effort to sharpen his game. This was prior to Bravo's first tour to England. For Bravo to now be coming out swinging against Hinds like this must be surprising to Wavell for more than one reason. It's probably quite hard on Bravo, too.

Team morale, we are told by Bravo, "is at an all-time low". Where this will end, nobody knows. The second one-day international is scheduled for Saturday, October 11. It is still unclear whether that match will even be played.

One high-ranking member of the WICB told me that the players were being very selfish. This same source told me that it was well explained to the players that the board was desperately trying to raise the standard of the game at the first-class level, hence the issuing of more than 100 contracts to players from the six territorial teams. He said the players were told that this would be the only way the West Indies could eventually compete with the top teams, and that, over the years, the senior players were well looked after while the rest of the players in the region had to make do with crumbs.

Obviously, the players touring India are not buying this. Like Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, they want their pound of flesh, come what may. In a way, you can't blame them. No one, no matter how well paid he or she is, is keen on a salary cut, especially as the players are saying here, a cut that they were not prepared for.

So yet again, West Indies cricket is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. It didn't stop the team from hammering India by 124 runs in the opening ODI. It may well have fired up the team, but before long, something has to give. It is clear that where West Indies cricket is concerned, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.