'My club is more organised than WICB'
Allrounder Dwayne Bravo is one of the West Indies players who are boycotting the Test series against Bangladesh. He talks with Nazma Muller about the feud between the board and the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) that has forced West Indies to field a second-string side
How do you feel about what's happening between you guys and the West Indies Cricket Board?
Well, to be honest, I feel bad about it. It's not something that I like to see happening. It is hurting me a lot. Growing up, my passion was to play for West Indies, to have a long, successful career. Ever since I started, back in 2004, there were problems with both parties - WICB and WIPA - and it just can't seem to come to an end and now it's getting worse. It's starting to affect players emotionally and more so the fans.
And that is the worst part of it. Whenever I walk the streets I hear people complaining. Cricket means a lot to West Indian people - it is the only unifying sport that we have in the region and I think it's time both parties get together and actually solve the problem. I don't know how long it can go on for. I feel really bad that we are striking and not being able to represent the West Indies but I think we're doing something that pertains to our rights and I think we should all stand up for our rights and hope for the best.
When you first started with the team, what was the reception from the board? How did you feel coming in as a new member of the team?
It wasn't really what I expected. I expected, you know, a bit more. I'm not saying they did anything wrong. But, you know, as a child growing up, your dream is to play for West Indies and that's all you want to do.
And actually, when you finally get there, you say to yourself, "This is it? This is all? It can't be like this." It's sad but like I said, I meet it like that. It reach a stage where I don't know what to say about the state of West Indies cricket.
You've talked to players from other cricketing nations, do they have this problem with their boards?
All boards and players' associations have problems but I don't think it's as bad as WICB and WIPA. Other boards, to me, respect their players a bit more and have a better relationship with their players. Speaking to other players and sharing information, sometimes they laugh at us to see the situation that we're in and how they [the WICB] treat us as professional players.
You know, they [WICB] keep harping that we are well paid, the third or fourth highest paid in the world. But we're living in a modernised world now where the salary we get compared to others is chalk and cheese. But we are happy, we are not complaining about our salaries. We just find that as professional players, things should be dealt with in a professional way and our board is not professional enough.
What happened with your injury claims? Did you ever get compensation for the eight months you were recovering?
It's in process now. While I was injured for the eight months, it was nothing like that. They got my surgery done for me. They paid for the flights and that was it. From the time I got back home my whole rehab programme was on my own, everything.
So wait, what happened to the team physiotherapist?
Well, they were on tours and I had to do my rehab here in Trinidad.
And you had to pay for that?
Well yeah. [My therapist] doesn't trust the WICB anymore to bill them. I think they had incidents in the past and so no one really trusts to bill them again. I had to take it out of my pocket, which I don't really mind because I do extended sessions.
I even hire two other therapists to do extra work with me because I want to get back into the game. It's not about the money that I'm losing. I just want to make sure I can play cricket again and play comfortably. I already wait eight months. I want to manage myself properly and go back into it at the right time.
Why isn't the West Indies team performing?
It all boils down to the fact that our team has been chopping and changing - that's one of the reasons. Our first-class cricket is nowhere near the standard that it should be compared to other teams in the world and we have to compete among the best. The facilities we have in the region are not up to standard for international players.
So there are a lot of reasons why the team hasn't been successful. Obviously a normal fan wouldn't see that side of it - they'll only see the performance on the field. Our preparation for the youth players come right up to the A team players is not good and therefore there's a big gap between under-19 cricket and A team cricket to Test cricket. There's a big, big gap and players come in to the West Indies team not really prepared for international cricket and they have to go all the way back and start over.
I don't mean to be critical or to bash anyone but we reach a stage in life now where we travel the world and seen how things are set up in different countries and you ask yourself, 'Why? Why not back home by us?' One of the reasons why Trinidad and Tobago have been so successful in domestic cricket is because we have the best structure in the region. And if it is they can see we are reaping the rewards, why not try and do it in all the other islands? One academy, one indoor facility in every island would not hurt. Hire coaches to come in. I mean, West Indies produce some of the best players in the world - ever. Everywhere we go in the world you hear about the three Ws, Malcolm Marshall, Viv Richards, Michael Holding.
Just to draw a reference to the Stanford Super Series: He hired all the legends to come in and work with the players. Most of us there were West Indian players but it was the first time most of us had the opportunity to speak one on one with some of those legends. A lot of us gained a lot. And you see how the result was? It was a one-sided game. [The West Indians whipped the England team soundly.] So I'm not saying they can turn around West Indies cricket immediately. There's process and I think we should make use of those legends.
We have a very young team, they keep chopping and changing. The guys not getting a good, long enough run so when they come in, they try to play for themselves, to cement their spot for the next series ...
It affects their confidence. Obviously, and guys can't play their natural game.
How did you feel seeing West Indies lose to Bangladesh?
Not good at all, to be honest. I was following the game. I was actually in West Mall when I saw the last wicket and there were people standing around me and my reaction was like, it was like I was on the field when I saw Tino Best play that shot. I fling my hands - I just couldn't believe the shot that he played at that time, knowing the situation in the game. Which I expected from him because I've seen him do it on different occasions.
I wasn't really surprised but I thought being out of the game so long and he gets an opportunity again now, he might have learnt something or be a smarter cricketer, but it shows that he hasn't done much, hasn't learnt much.
But it all boils down to the fact that when he wasn't around for the last three or four years, what system we have in place? Did they use anyone to work with him? Because he's a talented cricketer. He's a cricketer that if you work with him, he could be one of the best fast bowlers in the world because he can bowl at 90 miles an hour consistently. He's a great fielder and he also has good batting ability. But that's a player you need to work with mentally. They have done nothing to help him.
And it's not only him - there are a few names I could call off the top of my head. They come on the scene, show a lot of promise, get an injury or get dropped, no one has done anything to help them recover from their injury or get back in the game. Jermaine Lawson is another player. No one knows where he is at this point in time and that's sad to see.
Would you seriously give up your million-dollar contract with the IPL to play for West Indies? And your new contract with Victoria in Australia?
It's not about the money and people don't really understand that. Yes, it's a good opportunity to make another set of income and it's nice. And it's a lot of money. But if we weren't playing for West Indies we wouldn't be identified by those teams.
We wouldn't have made a name for ourselves so we understand that and know that we have to make sure that we are always available to play for West Indies.
Does the WICB or WIPA train or prepare you to deal with the press and criticism?
He shakes his head adamantly.
Nothing? So basically you are left to cope with negative publicity on your own?
Well, yeah, basically you're left to do a lot for yourself. They keep saying you're a professional unit but do we get treated like a professional team? I don't think so. A lot of the players feel the same way.
Okay, let's look at some of WIPA's grievances: payment for medical treatment on tour, pensions, now this thing about airline tickets - if you are in Trinidad, the WICB doesn't pay for your ticket to get to where you're playing?
It depends. If let's say I get a call-up to play for West Indies, I get to the airport, the ticket is there. There are times when you go to the airport and your ticket is not there. Then we call [Dinanath] Ramnarine [CEO of WIPA] and he will buy a ticket. Sometimes you come back from tour - every time we travel we land in Barbados to get a connecting flight. The players go to the desk, no tickets there. You call Ramnarine. That's what I'm talking about, the unprofessionalism.
It sounds like they just need a good PA (personal assistant).
They just do things badly. They send guys on tour two days before a series and stuff like your uniform arriving late. No one can actually believe how - the West Indies is the biggest, you can't go bigger than that in the region. But my club, Queen's Park Cricket Club, is more organised than West Indies.