Richards lauds 'perfect reply' from West Indies
Former West Indies captain Viv Richards is relieved that the threat of a players strike ahead of the first ODI against India did not materialise. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo from Hambantota where he is serving as technical director for the West Indies A team, Richards said the highlight of the entire situation for him was that in the end, "good sense did prevail."
"The first thought that came to mind was well here we go again," he said. "I am proud of them (the team). When I say good sense, if for some reason things didn't work out the way they would have liked with WIPA's president Wavell Hinds, they have gone about it in the best way possible. With all this stuff going on, I think it was just a marvelous performance. That was the perfect way to reply, beating the defending champions on their home soil in such a convincing manner."
Matters came to head between the West Indies team and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) led by former opening batsman Wavell Hinds, in the lead up to the opening game at Kochi.
The captain Dwayne Bravo shot off an angry letter to Hinds, claiming he "hoodwinked" the players and did not take their inputs while signing a new memorandum of understanding with the WICB last month, under which the players would suffer a significant pay cut. Bravo went on to threaten that the players will not hesitate to take "appropriate action"; something that was widely feared would include a boycott of the series opener. Richards reckons the situation came to pass because "someone dropped the ball somewhere."
"You would expect the players association to be looking after the interests of the players and also for the development of young cricketers in the region. I think there was some argument in the players' association about how things should be panned out in the future. I also believe it shouldn't have gone this far, especially with the guys coming on tour knowing that at some point you had to sign a contract to do so. To play out the way it did wasn't in the best interests of the West Indies moving forward."
In his second letter to Hinds after deciding to play the game, Bravo made it clear that the players had lost confidence in Hinds and informed the WICB not to correspond with WIPA until an "interim measure" acceptable to all was put in place. Richards agreed that in the current circumstances, Hinds' position as the head of WIPA was "untenable."
"How much did this individual (Hinds) know before they came on tour because that is the topic that is going to be of interest," Richards said. "To be fair, some may say it sounds a little bit much for players to be getting such huge fees but at some point you need to have an understanding about what I am coming on tour for. It wasn't in the best interests of the players that represent us for this to be played out in such a manner, especially in India where they are going to be playing against the defending champions in the 50-over format. Wavell Hinds may have some explaining to do when they get home."
Richards is also of the view that the WICB may have some "housekeeping" to do to ensure such disputes do not take place in the future. "Some players who come on tour, I am hearing that they get their contracts the day before they leave," he said."That to me needs some brushing up with the board. They need to get their act together, giving guys ample time to let their legal advisors have a look at what's happening so at least everything can be okay when on tour."
Richards believes that West Indies now have a side with the "potential to be winners again" if the off-field disputes are resolved amicably. "When you look at the all-round ability of that team, if they play to their full potential, I believe they can be winners," he said.
"With all this stuff that's going on, with the guys deciding to play, it's the sort of step we need to move forward with and hopefully when they do get home and meet with the players' representatives, things can be ironed out in such a way that the guys can be focused. I believe this is one of the great opportunities for the West Indies to do well at the World Cup."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75