If Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell or Sunil Narine ever play international cricket again, it will be only after they have formally demonstrated they have an interest in playing for the regional side.
Yesterday Cricket West Indies announced a 15-man squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe minus the four after they opted to make themselves unavailable. The quartet have chosen instead to play in the Pakistan Super League which runs at the same time as the qualifiers.
The qualifiers, which begin on March 1, will represent a last opportunity for the West Indies to qualify for the World Cup. They missed out on automatic qualification to the premier event after falling outside of the world’s top eight by the September 30 deadline. In order to make an appearance at the global tournament in England next year the Windies, two-time champions, must now finish in the top two from the ten-team qualifier.
While insisting that the player’s decision to skip the tournament was respected, Cricket West Indies chief executive officer Johnny Grave insisted they could no longer be considered as automatic choices. He told the SportsMax Zone television programme that the four would in the future have to tell CWI if they were interested in playing for the West Indies.
“It’s a huge honour to play for the West Indies cricket team and they have represented the West Indies proudly in many respects for many years. We are not taking that away from them at all and we respect their decision if they no longer wish to do so. But moving forward the onus will be very much on them to inform us if they are willing to come back. The selectors and the management will then have to take a view as to what they will need to do to prove their commitment,” he added.
“We have been clear that we respect the decision but we will also be very clear that on the back of them choosing not to go to the World Cup qualifiers they will need to formally write to the chairman of selectors if they wish to return to the West Indies side.”
The bottom four teams in the ICC ODI Championship ranking will be joined by the top four teams from the 2015-17 ICC World Cricket League Championship and the two finalists of the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Two for the qualifying tournament.Top of Form
Grave was however confident the outlook remained positive for the future of cricket in the region even as the battle between immediate financial gain and regional representation raged on.
This incident is just the latest in the clash between players looking to earn top dollars in lucrative T20 leagues around the world and representing the West Indies, an issue that has plagued not only the West Indies but countries all over the world since the rise of the T20 game. Those choosing to do the former have often been branded mercenaries available to the highest bidder.
Grave admitted the issue was a difficult one but reiterated the board’s commitment to finding a solution. It was only recently that several senior West Indies players returned to the squad after being routinely ineligible for selection due to stringent regulations.
“We’ve made big commitments to the players. We will be confirming and announcing shortly those players that have signed new retainer contracts, which are much more flexible. There are three different types of contracts including new white ball contracts that will make it even more attractive to play for the West Indies men’s team in one-day internationals and T20 cricket,” Grave told the SportsMax Zone.
The CEO revealed that the body was also looking to make most scheduling conflicts a thing of the past.
“We are working at ICC level to create a future tours programme all the way to 2023 that will see us not playing any international cricket during the two months of the IPL or any international cricket in the white ball format in the CPL,” he added.
“We are trying to create a framework both contractually and in terms of schedules that allows players to maximize their income and allows them to play for the West Indies and represent the region but also where there are opportunities to maximize their revenues and earnings in what is still a short and uncertain career. We are trying to find a balance.”
Addressing Russell’s case specifically, Grave said the Jamaican all-rounder would have made a valuable addition to the team ahead of the upcoming ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe in March, despite being potentially short on match fitness. Russell has not been allowed to play competitive cricket for a year following a one-year ban for a doping whereabouts violation.
As such he was likely to not only be short on form but also confidence, but Grave who expressed sympathy with the situation, also expressed his disappointment in the player’s decision as he believed the all-rounder’s immense ability would still have proven a major plus.
“Andre Russell with his return to cricket on February 1 when his ban finishes and the World Cup qualifying team departing around the 16th, it’s probably come too soon for him. He has not played cricket for many months and is probably short of any form and also confidence,” Grave said.
Grave added: “He has personally made it clear to myself on a number of occasions that he does want to play for the West Indies in the future but he obviously has to get back to playing top-level cricket,” he added.
“I understand Andre’s situation but ultimately I’m still disappointed. On a personal level, I thought he would have added something to our squad.”