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Jamaica, West Indies cricket at the edge

Published:Sunday | April 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Tony Becca

Tony Becca, Contributor

Once again the question must be asked, what is happening to West Indies cricket, or rather, to cricket in the West Indies? Every day, it appears, cricket in the West Indies inches closer and closer to the grave.

On Tuesday, there was a report that the West Indies Cricket Board had bowed to the West Indies Players Association, and on Wednesday came the news that the top local club competition, scheduled to have started yesterday, had been postponed due to a lack of sponsorship.

Jamaica's cricket, the cricket in the champion territory of the region, is in trouble. And it is in trouble not only because of the failings of its leaders at both the club and national levels.

Jamaica's cricket is in trouble also because the fans and the business sector have virtually abandoned it.

Cricket has lost its appeal to many, and that is being reflected in the support of the fans and the business sector.

On top of that, historically Jamaica's cricket is linked with West Indies cricket, and there is no doubt that the failure of the West Indies to perform, that but for one or two, the failure of West Indies cricket to produce players of real quality, and in terms of success, that the long drought which the team has been experiencing, has affected the support for cricket in Jamaica.

No difference

And the success of Jamaica in regional tournaments makes no difference. The failure of the West Indies team has been such that many fans, local and regional, compare Jamaica's success to that of a one-eyed man in a blind man's country.

On top of that is the long, continuous fight between the West Indies board and the West Indies Players Association.

In fact, as far as I am concerned, the decision of the WICB to bow to the Players Association strengthens not only that opinion but also underlines the belief that the WICB, like many others in the region, is weak.

To be truthful, by its action, the WICB is contributing to the present state of West Indies cricket. By giving this money to the Players Association the board is encouraging a behaviour that continues to shackle West Indies cricket.

In recent years, the top West Indies players, led by the Players Association, have withdrawn their services from West Indies cricket a number of times, the board, in its effort to make peace, has paid a whole lot of money to the same players who withdrew their services and who, in doing so, cost the board a lot of money, and last week, the board did the same thing all over again.

It paid the players nearly half a million US dollars in an effort to keep them quiet.

Last year, for those who do not remember, the players went on strike for the home series against Bangladesh, there were doubts about the players agreeing to go on the tour to Australia, and the board, represented by president, Dr Julian Hunte, and the Players Association represented by president Dinanath Ramnarine, met in New York last July and worked out a deal.

According to the board's chief executive officer, Dr Ernest Hilaire, the Board agreed to pay the players US$450,000 as total payment for previous deals which were unsettled and in return, the sheet would be wiped clean and the players would make themselves available for the series in Australia.

The players did go to Australia.

Apparently, however, WIPA had said the money should be given to the association who would distribute it to the players.

The board, however, said no.

According to the board, it was not the Association's money. It was, according to the board, the players' money paid to them by the board and, therefore, the board should pay the players directly.

On top of that, and according to the board, there were players on the Association's list who the board believed did not deserve to be on it and should not be on it.

Those were players who, according to the board, had not suffered any previous financial loss or inconvenience through the tardiness of the board and, more important, the list also included players who went on strike during the Bangladesh series.

According to the board, the Association shared US$300,000 of the board's money among 17 players and, for no reason at all, kept US$150,000 for itself.

Why did the board pay the money, and why did the board pay the money to the association despite their belief that the claims were not justified and that even if it was justified it should go directly to the players?

Settling matters

According to Dr Hilaire, the board agreed, once again, to pay the money "in the interest of settling matters and starting over with WIPA again and with a clean sheet".

To me, however, in doing so the board demonstrated, for the umpteenth time, its weakness and its incompetence as the body elected to run West Indies cricket.

Once again, and just before the start of series or a tournament, WIPA came out firing. It threatened to take legal action by April 16, and instead of standing up and fighting for West Indies cricket, instead of letting the association go to court, the board has again bowed, earlier this time.

The board members obviously do not believe it, but nothing will change. It will be the same thing next time. In other words, the board buckled once again, and in doing so, failed West Indies cricket.

One of the reasons Jamaica's cricket is in trouble is that it has no money.

As far as West Indies cricket is concerned, it is in trouble mainly because the board is weak, because the board is answerable to no one, probably because it is not coming from their pockets, because it spends the people's money carelessly, and because, in terms of the quality of its members, it is woefully short.

Cricket in Jamaica and in the West Indies needs to take stock of itself, and when it comes to the support of fans and sponsors, especially so in Jamaica.

It hurts to even contemplate this, but it appears the king is quickly becoming the pauper, and that in an effort to prevent the slide, West Indies cricket, once the best in the world, needs help form outside.

Cricket in the West Indies, and particularly so in Jamaica, needs the help of people who are smart enough to look at it and after seeing the support - the participation, the number of spectators at matches, and the number of sponsors - decide if it has the support to go where those who love it and where those in charge want it to go.

Cricket in the West Indies, and particularly so in Jamaica, needs the help of people who, after seeing everything and balancing everything, are big enough to say that even if you want to stay in the big leagues, West Indies cricket, Jamaica cricket, cannot afford, financially, to match the rest of the world.

In other words, as it is in any business, neither Jamaica nor West Indies cricket can afford to spend more than what it makes, to pay its workers, its players, its coaches, its selectors, etc., etc., more than what it collects, and WIPA and the players have got to understand that.