The contracts controversy July 2, 2005

Second-string team hurts Windies well-wishers

Shivnarine Chanderpaul: an uphill task ahead for him © Getty Images

"It is unfortunate that, once more, the best players will not be representing the West Indies team." So said Dudnath Ramkessoon, first vice-president of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (T&TCB), who was reacting to the selection of a second-string Windies team for the July 9-August 14 tour of Sri Lanka, following the breakdown of talks between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the WI Players Association (WIPA).

Eight players of the A team, who lost their second four-day match by an innings and 16 runs yesterday, are already in Sri Lanka and will be joined by another six, including Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the captain.

Ramkessoon suggested the current situation, brought on by the sponsorship impasse between the board and the players' association, was a disappointing one. "We are currently a second-rate team and only three players from the original lot are on this team," he stated. "A full-strength first team would have been under pressure against this strong Sri Lankan team, so it will not be an easy task. How this team performs, we'll have to wait and see. It will provide opportunities for other players to show their skills to the selectors that they should be considered for the first team."

Ramkessoon did admit, though, that in the mental department, the players will be less than ready for a tough tour. "You must go on tour proprerly focused, with your strategy planned to play against the opposition. With all that has gone on, I just don't think these guys will be properly prepared psychologically to handle the rigours of this tourney."

And Queen's Park Cricket Club administrator and former Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies opening batsman Bryan Davis said the board was left with no choice. "I could see why they had to pick a team, " he said. "The whole situation is sad but I think the team that has been selected will do as best as they could.

"Of course, the team will miss somebody like [Brian] Lara and to a lesser extent [Ramnaresh] Sarwan, but you don't see that much of a difference ... I don't see any big thing ... those were most of the same guys who handled themseves well in the Guyana Test match."

Davis believes WIPA's tactics may have backfired. "I can't see, with the militancy of WIPA, how a resolution could have come about. The cricket is most important while you are discussing things with the board, the cricket could have gone ahead but apparentrly they did not want it that way."

But Trini Posse member and avid West Indies fan Nigel Camacho and arguably Windies cricket's number one supporter, Peter Matthews, were both disappointed with the final team selection and the current state of West Indies cricket. "I can't believe they couldn't solve this issue given so much time," a "very disappointed" Camacho related, saying the negotations had been going on prior to the VB tri-nation series last December and blaming both the board and WIPA for the non-resolution of the impasse.

Camacho also said the late decision by the A team players to succumb to the pressure and sign the board's match/tour contracts was also responsible for the final outcome for the Sri Lanka tour. "I feel that the lack of solidarity among the players led to the downfall of the stance of the original players," he explained. "Poor guys. They must have been confused because they were on the verge of trying to secure a spot on the senior squad, so it is unfair to them."

Camacho also believed the team would be outclassed in Sri Lanka. "It's useless. I don't think they will be able to compete. Pschycologically, this is not the way to prepare for this series and, besides, the last time they were there Brian Lara scored over 600 runs and we still lost. The composition of this young side ... I don't think they are capable of giving the Sri Lankans much of a push."

And a disappointed Matthews said the board doesn't care about the fans of West Indies cricket. "I booked to go on tour. I'm a Trinidadian and pasionate about Brian Lara and as of right now I don't think I'm going again. The bad thing is, there is not much as fans that we can do about Lara being left out. It just seems that when our stars reach the top, the board finds a way to shoot them down."

Matthews continued: "I think that both sides are dragging their feet. I think the fans deserve the biggest break. We have been paying through our nose and skin and nobody is thinking about the fans. I think the Board is taking the players and fans for fools...but I'm partially to blame because, technically, I continue to attend the matches ...but all I want is to see the best team play ."

Matthews concluded: "I came through the era of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and company, and all that is going on in West Indies cricket now, I must say, meh heart hurting meh!"