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Stand up for WI cricket

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Tony Becca, Gleaner Writer

Ricardo Powell is coming back and, in some ways, that could be good for West Indies cricket.

Writing in Thursday's Gleaner, Barbara Ellington, the lovely and charming editor of the newspaper's Lifestyle magazine, quoted the Jamaican cricketer now residing in Trinidad and Tobago as saying that he is returning to action.

"Something is missing from West Indies cricket, it's not getting better, we need to build it back, and I want to be part of putting it back," said the former Windies batsman.

Whether he can make it back into the West Indies team or not, the return of Powell should be good for West Indies cricket, and it should be good for the simple reason that whether he is in the West Indies team or not, West Indies cricket needs players like him.

It is players like Powell, players with his talent and his obvious class, players that attract the fans and test the skill of the bowlers or the batsmen, and especially so the young ones, that help to maintain the quality of West Indies cricket.

The truth is that Powell walked away too early, and his return should be welcomed.

In fact, the very announcement that he is coming back, may have done something positive for West Indies.

Although it should not be so, even though it does not have to be so, there is no question that the money in the game these days has affected West Indies cricket, and those who doubt that should listen to Powell.

After saying that his business can now pay his bills, the dashing batsman said, according to Ms Ellington, that at the height of his career, he too was playing for money.

Cricket for a better life

As far as I know, from the days of players like Learie Constantine, George Francis, and George Headley in the 1930s, through others such as Alfred Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin in the 1950s, Garry Sobers and Rohan Kanhai in the 1960s, and Viv Richards and Andy Roberts in the 1980s to the present generation, the vast majority of West Indies players came from the working class, and they all played the game for three simple reasons.

They played the game because they loved it, because of personal achievement, and most importantly, because success in the game led to a better life.

That is how it was, that is how it is, that is how it will be, and no one can change that.

In fact, to every man, or rather to almost every man, money is at the end of everything, people always want more, and the more the better.

What is important, and especially so in this day and age of professionalism in sport, is that cricket is no different from any other job in sport or out of sport, West Indies cricketers should understand that, and the West Indies Board should make sure that they understand that.

The West Indies players, on their own and through their players association, have never missed an opportunity to tell everyone that West Indies cricket is business, and big business at that.

Well, if that is so, and in many aspects it is so despite the presence of volunteer board members, the board, should remind the players that no sport, no business, can afford to pay out more than it earns, that the players are obligated to improve the performance of the team so that it can attract sponsors and spectators, and that they are expected to pay taxes.

The players should also be reminded that they are expected to follow, within reason, the instructions of the board, that they are expected to report on time for work, and that, among other things, the board, in its responsibility to keep the show going, is obligated to keep some of its money for investment - for keeping the clubs alive, for grooming young players, for coaching, and for organising competitions.

I support the right of the players to make money, and I support their right to ask for more money.

I do not, however, support their behaviour, through their association, of making demands and then threats at the start of every series, I do not support their attitude of expecting the board, and thus West Indies cricket, to jump at their every whim and fancy, I do not support the board backing away and playing second fiddle, sometimes third fiddle, to their other teams, and I do not support players finding excuses and turning up late, or not at all, for everything the board invites them to while being on their Ps and their Qs when dealing with their other teams.

Regardless of how much cricket they have been playing, the players love talking about the lack of training camps, about living together and bonding together when finding excuses for losses, and remembering that, I cannot support players, including the captain, turning up just in time for a Test match because of another commitment, and most importantly, and regardless of how much money they make elsewhere, I cannot support players showing little or no respect for the West Indies Board.

Without West Indies cricket, the players would hardly have developed to the stage where they are in demand, and certainly in the case of the IPL, based on its rules and regulations, the players cannot be contracted without the consent of the West Indies Board, without the board signing a "no objection" certificate.

That, however, does not seem to matter to some of the players, or indeed to the players' association, which is now threatening to take the board to court on behalf of a player who it claims lost money because he represented the West Indies when he should have been playing in the IPL.

And there is more than that.

Based on reports, West Indies players, at least one of them, have flatly refused to speak to the board and have told the board that any thing it wants to know about him it should ask the president of the players' association.

Disrespecting WI cricket

Based on a report in the Hindustan Times recently, when asked which is his favourite team, a player, a senior player, replied: "Of course, Trinidad and Tobago, it's my country. Mumbai Indians comes second, T & T comes first, and West Indies third." (Editor's note: The player has since apologised claiming a "misprint".)

The West Indies players, too many of them, want all they can get from West Indies cricket while treating West Indies cricket with disrespect.

In the interest of West Indies cricket, the time has come for the West Indies Board to lay down the rules and to stick by them.

If, for example, a player, even if he has been so encouraged by his association, refuses to sign a tour contract on time, or is too big to do his medical and/or his fitness test, he should not be selected.

Every player has a right to do what suits him best, and there should be no problem with that.

The West Indies Board, however, also has a right to do what suits West Indies cricket best, there should also be no problem with that, and if it does not do what it should do, if it does not select only those who it believes are loyal to West Indies cricket then, as Dinanath Ramnarine, the tough-talking president of the players association, loves to say, the board will be held responsible.