Lara counsels trust-building to defuse crisis
Former West Indies captain Brian Lara has called the recent pull-out by West Indies from the India tour should be treated as a "watershed" moment in Caribbean cricket. He said the lesson to be learned for both the WICB and the players is to "communicate" better with each other. Lara also called for the WICB and its administrators to stop wanting to be the "stars" and warned that in the absence of trust West Indies cricket would continue to be "problematic."
"Any issues like that could be handled a lot better, but I believe the key component, which avoids situations like that, which settles situations like that amicably is communication,' Lara told ESPNcricinfo, speaking at the Sydney Cricket Ground. "And the West Indies Cricket Board and the players and all its people, communication is one thing that's really lacking in West Indies cricket. Things are allowed to spiral out of control, and then there's the trust issue - 'why would I trust in this critical moment'.
"Players in India playing cricket without a contract (wondered), 'how do I know that you're looking after my interests'. Yes, you may make decisions that hurt a situation as we're seeing now, leaving India might not have been a good idea in terms of even guys' personal careers. But we've got to stop airing our laundry in public, and we have to try to handle issues. I believe the only way that can be done is if we really use this moment as a watershed and try as much as possible to engage."
Admitting that he would always be "biased" towards the players considering his own battles with WICB during his playing days, Lara said the administrators could not solely blame Dwayne Bravo and his men for abandoning the India tour in October. "The fact of the matter is I am very player-biased because I've been a player in the past and I've experienced bad relationships with my cricket board. If you come and tell me the players should be blamed, hold up, I am one who understands as a player all the fractures at the board level and how it is handled, and I'm very sympathetic to the players."
Lara's comments come a day after the WICB sent a media release indicating the three-man task force, set up to investigate the circumstances behind the premature end to the India tour, had commenced its work and would submit the report on December 13. "While it is regrettable that the situation into which we are enquiring occurred, the Task Force recognizes the responsibility to West Indies cricket and is honoured to have been chosen for this assignment. We commit to pursuing the facts and circumstances in a fair and unbiased manner and to allow for all the critical matters to be highlighted and ventilated," Michael Gordon, the task force chairman, said. Former West Indies fast bowler Wes Hall and Richard Cheltenham are the other two members on the panel.
Although all the West Indies players signed the mandatory tour contracts to play the Test series in South Africa, their lawyers continue to negotiate with the WICB and West Indies Players' Association. The air of distrust, which was highlighted in bold by Bravo in his various e-mail exchanges with WICB president Dave Cameron and WIPA president Wavell Hinds, continues to remain. According to Lara Cameron and his team did not have any choice but to regain the trust of the players.
"The board and administrators have to look at themselves as not the stars. Sometimes personalities clash, but you have players who take the spotlight and have to understand their responsibilities, and the players need to know they're supported, and everyone is working hand in hand together. Unless that happens I believe we're going to be a laughing stock ... this is one issue, you never know what's going to happen next."
Despite the strong magnetic pull of the various domestic Twenty20 tournaments where most of the prominent limited over internationals from West Indies are a huge draw, Lara said playing for the country should remain the top-most priority. "There's so much cricket being played now where players can make a living outside the West Indies under different administration. Yes maybe that could be a difference, but the ultimate thing is you're playing for the West Indies, you want to play for the West Indies, you love the West Indies. And I would love one day where guys are playing for West Indies and money not being an issue because they're making so much money outside of that. But that can only happen if you have the relationships with the board and all the stakeholders. But there's no trust, everybody wants their piece of the pie and that's it. Unfortunately until we have better relationships, West Indies cricket is going to be very problematic."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig. Melinda Farrell is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo