West Indies players mull strike over pay structure
In an extraordinary and unprecedented move, West Indies players have come out strongly against the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) president and chief executive Wavell Hinds, who they claim "hoodwinked" them and did not take their inputs while signing a new memorandum of understanding with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) last month, under which they would suffer a significant cut in their payment.
It leaves open the possibility of the players going on strike, and in a letter - which ESPNcricinfo is in possession of - Dwayne Bravo wrote "on behalf of the players" that the morale within the team as they prepare for the first ODI against India, to be played on Wednesday in Kochi, was "at an all-time low". Incidentally West Indies skipped the scheduled training session on Tuesday afternoon as well as the media briefing without giving any reason.
It is not yet clear whether the players will indeed go on strike during the India series, which includes five ODIs and one Twenty20 followed by three Tests. Such a development would not be far-fetched as the letter noted: "We wish to make it very clear that should the players be forced to take matters into their our own hands, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate action as see fit. We will hold you and the WIPA Board who support this process liable."
The WICB issued a press release in response on Tuesday evening, stating an apology "to the fans, the BCCI and all other stakeholders should the first ODI be disrupted as a result of player action. The WICB is making every effort to ensure that it fulfills all its commitments and that cricket is played."
On September 18, Hinds and WICB president Whycliffe "Dave" Cameron signed a fresh collective bargaining agreement and MoU in Barbados, putting behind them a saga of bitter and acrimonious disputes between the two bodies, which had resulted in frequent threats of player strikes at a time when West Indies cricket had hit rock bottom. Cameron called the new agreement a "watershed" moment, while Hinds said it promoted meritocracy, providing a fair share of WICB revenue to the regional players unlike the old structure where the majority share went to international players.
But Bravo and his team-mates insisted that they would want the old structure back. Only because under the new MoU, the players "understand" their Test, ODI and T20 fees "have been decreased by 75%"; that they will receive "no compensation for the use of our rights. That has been decreased by 100%"; and their ICC fees have been "decreased by close to 100%".
What irked the players the most, Bravo said, was being kept in the dark about the "purported agreement". The letter stated that the first time any agreement was seen by the players was a match/tour contract with a new fee structure "significantly different from what we received in the past. This was given to us in India." It also said the players had been trying to seek answers from Hinds who had not responded; that prompted them to carry their own investigations after which they found out "little or no legal advice" had been taken by WIPA.
The letter reveals that players felt they were not represented properly by WIPA under Hinds. "We are disappointed with the lack of proper representation and the players are now forced to make this proposal without any details as to how this new purported agreement was even arrived at and by whom, since the only advice we have received from you as President and CEO of WIPA is to not sign the contract/agreement that was sent by the WICB. The players are of the view that as a matter of principle, we should not accept these conditions whereby we are being asked to play a series against India without any certainty of what are our obligations and what we will be playing for."
ESPNcricinfo sought responses from WIPA and Hinds but they were unavailable for a comment. Bravo said that the West Indies team management including team manager Richie Richardson, WICB team director Richard Pybus and Clive Lloyd, the selection committee chairman, were made aware of the players' stand. "We have articulated this position to Mr. Richardson, Mr. Pybus and Mr. Lloyd, who all understand our position."
As a way forward the players want WIPA to re-negotiate the agreement with WICB after the players have included their inputs. "We wish at this stage to once again reiterate our position as a way forward, let us continue under the old structure until we are able to properly negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement in the best interest of West Indies cricket. This in our view is a sensible approach since it would give us players an opportunity to have an input, seek the necessary advice and put our house in order."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo