Off-Field Drama in West Indies Cricket Strike Heats Up Online Discussion

West Indies at bat during a Twenty20 International cricket match; photo by Rich Bee, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

West Indies at bat during a Twenty20 International cricket match. Photo by Rich Bee, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

The West Indies Cricket team's 2014 tour to India has been cancelled, after the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced a pullout, causing reverberations around the globe. The impetus? A decision by the West Indies team, led by one-day international captain Dwayne Bravo, to go on strike.

According to strongly worded letter signed by Bravo, the players’ union representative, former West Indies player Wavell Hinds had failed to represent the players, having signed a new collective bargaining agreement with the West Indies Cricket Board without player consultation. Team members have been threatening to strike since the beginning of the tour, finally deciding to take action before the fourth one-day international match (a previous match had been cancelled due to an impending cyclone.) This means that the remaining matches, a T20 game and three tests, have been cancelled.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Indian cricket board, was threatening to sue the WICB for breach of contract, but has instead decided to break bilateral relations, thus cancelling the upcoming series between the two teams, including an Indian tour of the Caribbean scheduled for 2016.

According to the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), there was a change in the remunerative package for the senior West Indies team in order to allow for the payment of salaries to the over 90 players who participate in the Caribbean's first-class domestic league. While the senior players agreed that the first-class players needed to be paid in order to raise the standard of cricket, they had not agreed to the severe cuts they received.

This is a major development in the world of cricket and there has been much discussion about it. Several letters from the different parties involved have gone back and forth, arguing their cases. This has led to great confusion and contradictory stories — initially, it was not even clear whether the WICB had in fact called off the tour. Many of the West Indies players have taken to social media to share their opinions.

All-rounder Kieron Pollard felt that the players were being unfairly vilified for trying to protect their earnings:

However, fast-bowler Tino Best, who is not currently a member of the senior team, called on the other cricketers in the region to support Hinds:

Current test captain Denesh Ramdin responded to the claims that the players were responsible for the pullout, and not the board. He has since taken down his tweet of October 18, but linked to this article, in which the secretary of the BCCI stated that their problem is with the WICB rather than the players. But middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels, who is not a member of WIPA, has denied that the decision to strike was unanimous.

Sports blogger David Oram suspected that the recent changes in the leadership of the West Indies cricket team have something to do with its current problems:

It is no coincidence that the current tragedy has unfolded at a time when West Indies cricket is bereft of strong leadership. In the past 12 months the WICB has dispensed with its ODI Captain, its Test Captain, its Chairman of Selectors and selection panel, and its Coach (Ottis Gibson confirming that he was indeed sacked, not ‘separated’ by mutual agreement). Is it surprising therefore that they seem also to have dispensed with international player contracts, and maybe soon international cricket too?

Would the cowardly withdrawal of the troops from India have been permitted under Ottis’ stewardship? He was just as much identified as Sammy in promoting the ‘one-team’ ethic within the WI side. Without either of them rallying the team, the players have headed in a separate direction, with wholly separate, and separating ideals.

Darren Sammy, who interestingly was elevated to to the captaincy during a strike prior to a series against Bangladesh four years ago, left this message on his Instagram page:

Always played with a smile on my face. Been loyal and faithful to wi. Took some serious criticism for it to but I stand for what's right even when my backs against the wall. All we ask for was to go back to the old structure for this tour while we talk. Did we have to come to this. A simple act of humanity is all it takes. Did u have to call off my #indiaTour #SMDH

A commentator at Barbados Underground noted the irony of the West Indies being in crisis when, due to the fact that the rise of professional leagues like the Indian Premier League, there is a lot more money in cricket:

Of course it seems practical to work diligently to put out a fire if our house is burning; you don’t fan the flames because you are pissed-off and see an opportunity to get the occupants with whom you are in dispute out the door. Let the law and course of time move you to a resolution, difficult though that may be. Cherish the house and retain it in the best condition for eventual take over.

But life’s funny and not always practical is it… because when you have the means to buy another house you are less interested in preserving the one in dispute. You spite your adversary so much that you no longer care if that house turns to ash.

A harsh analogy, you say, but is it. Somebodies for a long time seem hell-bent to diminish the lovely edifice that is WI cricket.

It’s comical that we protected and saved the house against colonial racism practices, the 2 bumper rules, reduced county contracts, distorted revenue sharing terms in the days when our teams generated top dollar etc.

And now joke of all jokes we are burning down the house ourselves.

There is still great uncertainty as, despite the acrimonious relationship between the West Indies management and its players, this is a nearly unprecedented situation, with some calling it the greatest threat to West Indies cricket since the region began playing test cricket over 80 years ago.

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