While still trying to digest the somewhat farcical inaugural West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Player Draft of the Professional League held here last Monday, the fun continued hours later with a threatened strike by Dwayne Bravo’s team ahead of the first One-Day International against India in Kochi.
Immediately on hearing of and then reading the charges laid by Bravo, one had to apply the adage of three sides to a story: Yours, mine and the truth.
So while it seemed crazy that the West Indies players would be fighting with their own union, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) over fees, and not with the WICB, as has been the norm, Tuesday’s emotions by Bravo were tempered significantly and virtually crushed yesterday with a response from WIPA boss Wavell Hinds.
Dwayne Bravo is known on the cricket field as a showman, especially in the Twenty20 and one-day versions. The exhibition he staged off the field in Kochi would have caught many by surprise from the time news spread that the West Indies had skipped a scheduled practice session as well as a media briefing on the eve of the opening match.
Soon it was being felt that because of his friendship and club ties, apart from the fact that Hinds and the hierarchy of the WICB are all Jamaicans, was the root of the potentially damaging drama, which was being played out.
For the record, Hinds and WICB president Wycliffe “Dave” Cameron are key members of Kensington Club, one of the most respected clubs in Jamaica. And the WICB Chief Executive Officer Michael Muirhead is also a Jamaican.
It was only on September 18 here in Barbados at the Accra Beach Hotel that the WICB and WIPA signed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). And mind you, the signing ceremony was attended by big guns of West Indies cricket –– Cameron, Muirhead, Clive Lloyd, who is new convenor of selectors and Richard Pybus, the WICB Director of Cricket.
At that time, Cameron described the signing as a “new partnership which will take regional cricket forward” while Hinds said, “it created a stable environment” for the players to play and demonstrate their skills.
The background to the latest saga was more than sensational. We were hearing from Bravo that Hinds and WIPA had “hoodwinked” the players and did not take their inputs while signing the new MOU, under which they would suffer a significant cut in their payment.
Bravo was very strong with his wording, going as far as saying that the morale of the team was “at an all-time low” etc., etc. That “all-time low” turned to an “all-time high” within hours as West Indies crushed India by 124 runs.
But there is confirmed information that while Bravo and company were planning their strike, the WICB sought to get at least five members of the ‘A’ team, now touring Sri Lanka, to play in the five-match ODI series against India and others were to be sent from the Caribbean to complete the squad. The series was to then start with the second ODI in Delhi, and the first would be pushed back to the last so that it would remain a five-match series.
So much has been revealed since then that it would appear Bravo has to find a new “dance”.
To get to the root of this issue, one must first concede that much of the language used by Bravo in his letter had the stamp of tremendous advice and guidance from persons in key positions, past and present.
The players are arguing that the new agreement has reduced their income and that their Test, ODI and T20 fees had been decreased by 75 per cent.
In a letter to Bravo, however, Hinds dismissed the claims as false, saying the new agreement reflects a 15 per cent across-the-board increase in match fees and retainer contracts, ranging from 12.5 per cent to 25 per cent, along with the introduction of two new contract categories.
He also refuted claims that the players had not been consulted and sought to clarify concerns raised by Bravo about “special relationship” between WIPA and the WICB.
Hinds said fees for Test matches were proposed to be raised from US$5 000 to US$5 750, ODIs from US$2 000 to US$2 300 and T20 Internationals from US$1 500 to US$1 725. In addition, retainer contracts are to be increased from an annual range of US$80 000 to US$120 000 to a new range of between US$100 000 to US$150 000.
But while the focus has been on the international fees, it is also pertinent to look at what pertains to the regional domestic competitions.
For example, my understanding is that under the old system, players’ fees for the regional four-day were US$1 300 per match and US$700 per match for the NAGICO Super50.
Now under the new CBA/MOU dispensation, regional players get retainer contracts annually in the categories of A (US$30 000), B (US$20 400 and C (US$15 000).
In addition, a player still gets the traditional match fee of US$13 000 for the four-day and US$700 for the 50-over.
As is stands, approximately 25 per cent of WICB earnings is split between the players. In the past, the split was 80 per cent to international players and 20 per cent to those playing in the regional tournaments.
What the new agreement has done is to get a more reasonable distribution between international and regional players. Hence it is now 60 per cent to the international players and 40 per cent to regional, amounting to a split of 25 per cent of WICB revenue under the new dispensation.
Squad members outside of the playing XI will receive 66.67 per cent for away matches and 50 per cent for home matches of the match fee.
This information is contained in Appendix 111 of the MOU between the WICB, WIPA and the six franchises.
Furthermore, as a player if you are in the top ten of the ICC Rankings, WIPA introduced a new Category called A Plus where you get US$150 000 a year.
So as explained earlier, previously if you were in Category A, you got US$120 000 per year. Under the CBA/MOU, you will receive US$135 000.
And there is also a new Category called B Plus which is worth US$125 000. In the past, there was simply a B category of US$100 000, which is now US$115 000.
There was also a US$35 000 per day appearance fee which was split among the players. That, along with money from the Caribbean Premier League is what is being used to cover the regional franchises.
Hinds refuted claims by Bravo that members of the West Indies team in India were not consulted during negotiations for the new MOU with the WICB and insisted there will be no resignation by members of the current WIPA executive.
“I am compelled to first refute in the strongest possible manner all of your previous assertions claiming ignorance on the part of the “senior players” regarding the proposal to discontinue the payment of US$35 000 per day of cricket for the benefit of members of the senior West Indies team, and the reallocation of these monies to help fund retainer contracts for an additional 90 members of WIPA,” Hinds said.
To rub it in, Hinds, a former Jamaica and West Indies batsman and who is credited with having a fairly level head, referred Bravo to the minutes of WIPA’s annual general meeting in February where it was reported that Bravo expressed his support for the initiative.
“The minutes also reflect the only qualification to your support, which was to ask that the current WIPA executive make every effort to ensure that the shortfall in revenue accruing from the reallocation, be made up in other areas of player remuneration,” Hinds added.
It must be stressed that Hinds cannot make decisions without the WIPA Board.
Based on the two sides –– Bravo and Hinds –– and the truth, Hinds and his WIPA executive are on solid ground. To Dwayne Bravo and his cohorts in India, settle down and keep playing with the spirit exhibited in the first ODI.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.