Clyde Walcott and I retired around the same time in 1958 and we were given the princely sum of $1,000 by president of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control, Sir Errol De Santos.
–– Sir Everton Weekes (April, 6, 2016).
Make no mistake about it, the main problem between a few regional cricketers and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has more to do with money than considerations of respect and other such intangibles.
Money, money, money!
President of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), Dave Cameron, has drawn the ire of many because of his forthrightness, even when his opinions are sound. West Indians are not averse to hearing the truth, but our sensibilities can often be offended if that truth is clothed in cockiness, smugness and dismissiveness. He provides all three.
Responding to his critics, or those who criticize the WICB, with inappropriate juvenile tweets has not helped with the cultivation of a proper leadership image. Nor have said tweets endeared him to those already seeking his head.
While much blame may be apportioned to Mr Cameron and his board for some of the negatives in regional cricket, it should not go forth that those players constantly at loggerheads with the WICB are washed in the blood of the lamb and are without sin.
The tone and texture of the Chris Gayles and Dwayne Bravos, and now former board man Darren Sammy, would suggest the responsibilities of the WICB begin and stop with those cricketers playing domestic Twenty20 tournaments in South Africa, England, India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, and who then attempt to fit West Indies cricket into their busy schedules. But the WICB serves more than the privileged few, and the majority doth not complain.
Mr Cameron makes a salient point when he states: “We only have 52 weeks in a year. If you want to play Big Bash, Ram Slam and all those T20 tournaments, then we also need you to bring back the information and the experience to our players back home and also our sponsors who are sponsoring our tournaments who want to have our stars back home. You can’t want to play everywhere. The WICB has to call on your services, either domestic or international; but then you want the WICB to pay you a nice, big, fat retainer.”
It is somewhat hypocritical of those with bull’s eyes on Mr Cameron’s back to highlight his obvious shortcomings, but find no fault in players whose priority has not always been to West Indies cricket. We have had Sunil Narine choose to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year rather than return to the Caribbean to make himself available for selection against the touring New Zealanders. We have had previous captain Chris Gayle turn up late for a 2009 tour of England because of commitments to the IPL.
Sometime ago, chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, Tony Irish, stressed that “free agency” was becoming more tempting for players around the world, thanks to the commercial success of T20 cricket and the lack of context that accompanies bilateral series.
He called for the International Cricket Conference to change the way Test cricket was run, and was adamant that it be done before 2019 when the current Future Tours Programme ended. He warned that Test cricket would lose its best players otherwise.
“Free agency is a labour market phenomenon. The things that drive it are remuneration of players and also the attraction of international cricket versus T20 market. In Twenty20 they play in front of bigger crowds, but, more and more in international cricket, a player is away for a long time on meaningless tours that don’t have any context. International cricket becomes less attractive, relative to the T20 leagues which are shorter.”
Mr Irish added: “We have done comparatives of remuneration between English, Australia, India and West Indies players and there is a big disparity. They [West Indies players] can earn two or three times the money playing T20 cricket, and there is less strain on the body. It is human nature to want that.”
In 2014, the IPL had a brand value of BDS$6.4 billion. Last year the IPL contributed BDS$364 million to the gross domestic product of the Indian economy. That is the world in which the Gayles, Bravos, Russells, and others find themselves. And long may they enjoy the benefits of that lucrative association!
But it is also within this context that Mr Cameron and any alternative soul who runs the WICB, or any other aberration created by CARICOM, will have to administer regional cricket. This balancing act was not a dilemma faced by presidents and CEOs prior to 2008. However, in the age of Twenty20 cricket theirs is the headache of dealing with a handful of “free agents” who still want retainers, but do not commit or place regional cricket before the global Twenty20 leagues.
The further dilemma for the WICB is that as soon as the board develops a player to an international standard, he is likely to be picked off by Twenty20 poachers if he fits the bill required for the fast-food nature of that format.
But there is more.
An employee, in the person of Dwayne Bravo, publicly labelling his boss as “small-minded”, “arrogant” and “immature”, and the employer as “the most unprofessional board in the world”, cannot be that naïve, or indeed “brainless” to believe he can do so with impunity and without sanction. That is not the way of employer/employee relations.
Minister of Sport and Youth Emmalin Pierre could not do it to Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell in Grenada without sanction. And he would not have to threaten the New National Party with dissolution to get that important message over.