January 26, 2014

West Indies will toe the financial bottom line

The WICB knows that good, and acquiescent, relations with India are its only option

However much we pound our fists and rightly rail against the brazen conspiracy between Australia, England and India to effectively hijack international cricket, the West Indies Cricket Board is obliged to accept a galling reality. As with most things, it has to do with money.

The triumvirate's aim is to become the ICC's supreme rulers. As such, they will make the crucial decisions. The Future Tours Programme (FTP) will be scrapped in favour of bilateral arrangements for tours, and two-division Test cricket introduced, with promotion and demotion - from which last those three teams will be exempt. They will redistribute, on a more proportionate basis, the ICC's annual revenue, to which India currently contributes 80%. The rich getting richer, the poor poorer.

The main points in the relevant 21-page document are common knowledge. They are to be put before the ICC's quarterly meeting in Dubai next week.

The WICB's position was settled after a couple of directors' teleconferences last week. It is to be formally presented by the president, Dave Cameron, in Dubai. The board's only official statement was that it would be "in the best interest of West Indies cricket".

Baldath Mahabir, the Trinidad and Tobago director on the WICB, expressed his doubts in a newspaper interview last week, while stressing that his opinions were strictly personal. "Any time you have a situation where people are looking to divide and rule, it could never be good," he said. "Looking at the proposals, this is a situation where power-broking and sharing will go to three of the members and this cannot be healthy."

Others have spoken out more strongly and officially. Cricket South Africa, whose team is top of the list in the Test rankings but whose dealings with the BCCI have become increasingly fractious, charged that the plans are "in breach of the ICC constitution".

Paul Marsh, chairman of the FICA, which covers players of seven of the ten Full Member boards, said his organisation has "real fears that it will only serve to strengthen the Big Three countries whilst the rest are left to wither on the vine".

Former ICC president Ehsan Mani, of Pakistan, accused the three of "completely undermining the integrity and standing of the ICC". The current vice-president, Mustafa Kamal, of Bangladesh, made his doubts known.

There is undeniably substance to such concerns, but it would be a courageous president to tell the superpowers, especially India, that the WICB rejects their intended takeover; such preference for principle over practicality carries potentially damaging repercussions.

The financial value of relations with India was never more obvious to West Indies than during India's involvement in the triangular ODI tournament in the Caribbean last year. The teams contested the Celkon Mobile Cup, presented by a Hyderabad-based manufacturer of mobile phones. It, and a host of other Indian products and services, household names in the subcontinent but unheard of on this side of the planet, filled the ground perimeter advertising boards.

They were there because live coverage of the matches was transmitted back to India by Ten Sports, the Dubai-based Indian production company that won the rights to international cricket in the Caribbean in 2012.

It was a financial coup for the WICB, whose treasury was accordingly boosted. The scheduled FTP series of two Tests and five ODIs against Sri Lanka it replaced would have operated at a loss, as did the five ODIs and two T20s against Pakistan that immediately followed.

The WICB's hurried revision of its international schedule to fit in two Tests in India that ensured Sachin Tendulkar's emotional farewell in his homeland rather than in South Africa, further fortified the rapport.

As the BCCI has made plain, it will rapidly sour should the WICB oppose the triumvirate's proposals. It is a certainty seemingly recognised by "an overwhelming majority" of the Bangladesh board's directors, who, according to a report on ESPNcricinfo, favour siding with the BCCI or otherwise "will be cornered", a phrase applicable to the WICB.

The BCCI has done nothing to soften its image as the bully boy of the game. After a meeting on Thursday, it maintained that the submission to be presented on Tuesday and Wednesday was "in the interests of cricket at large", warning at the same time that its rejection would jeopardise India's participation in and hosting of future ICC events (such as the World Cup, men's and women's, the World Twenty20, and the Under-19 World Cup) . It's a big call and there are some who might be inclined to call the BCCI's bluff on this one.

While both England and Australia gave commitment to bilateral agreements with eight Full Members, India did not. The absence of such a guarantee worries the WICB and other weaker boards, who depend on visits from India, with their advertisers, sponsors and television pull, to bolster their treasuries.

For West Indies, perhaps the most ominous point in the proposals is that "no member should be forced to host uneconomic tours". "Uneconomic" is a term that has come to be associated with a team consistently languishing in the bottom half of the ICC's Test and ODI standings for nearly 20 years.

It represents a bewildering turnaround from the eras when West Indies cricket ruled the world, when they were the strongest, most envied and most popular, when the major countries couldn't get enough of teams led by Frank Worrell and Clive Lloyd.

The previous seven-year interludes between tours of England were reduced to four following Worrell's memorable 1963 series. Those led by Lloyd, and then Viv Richards, visited Australia for four Test tours in the 1980s.

Worrell's tyros attracted 90,800 spectators to the Saturday of the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the last match of the 1960-61 series, which began with Test cricket's first tie. Just as many were estimated to have been present at Calcutta's Eden Gardens for a day on the 1966-67 tour under Garry Sobers. For 15 years, between 1980 and 1995, West Indies never lost a series.

The change has been depressingly dramatic. In the 21st century, West Indies have managed two wins against England's 17, one against Australia's 17, and two against India's nine. The blackwashes of the 1980s have been replaced by washes of several different hues the other way round.

Such rapid deterioration has been brought on by weak administrations and infighting with a militant players' union that led to three strikes; by poor planning; by a continuous turnover of captains and coaches; by inferior pitches - and by much else besides.

Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe's take on two-tiered Test cricket in regard to West Indies and New Zealand is that it is "disrespectful and ignores the great history that has built up over a century or more". Such sentimentality is foreign to the businessmen, bankers and assorted types who now manage the game strictly on the dictates of the financial bottom line.

The upshot is that, come Tuesday and Wednesday in Dubai, the WICB, even against its principles, will support the radical makeover put forward by Australia, England and India.

It couldn't have happened 30 years ago.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roy on January 31, 2014, 21:43 GMT

    Posted by aclarity : that is the truth, WI has the worst board in history, the worst selectors I have ever seen on the board, and what Gibson did in India And NZ, shows that is is now the worst coach in the history of WI cricket, the man is a complete dunce! But unfortunately our cry along with Tony Cozier, and the rest of Windies fans, goes unanswered every single year, month, day, hour and second.

  • charlie on January 29, 2014, 4:59 GMT

    Sad ,disrespectful ,inconsiderate and mean . A sure way to destroy the weaker nations . Watch out England ,you could be next after your stellar performance against Australia . The ramifications of such a move goes far beyond dollars and cents .

  • Jack on January 28, 2014, 12:09 GMT

    Don't kill Tony the messenger if you don't like the message. Tony knows that the WICB listens to no one but money so he came to the correct conclusion on this matter - like it or not. Did WICB listen to Tony when he said to pick two different teams for India and NZ? Has WICB made any effort to fire Gibson and the worse panel of selectors in this world? Don't blame Tony put the spotlight on the real people? This is the most indecisive WICB in history. Did you read what Khaan, the Communications chief told the media in Antigua - on one hand it is good and on the other hand it is not so good? Sounds very decisive?

  • victoria on January 28, 2014, 1:20 GMT

    ".... it would be a courageous president to tell the superpowers, especially India, that the WICB rejects their intended takeover; such preference for principle over practicality carries potentially damaging repercussions" (Cozier. T, 2014). Tony, these statements from people like you are even more galling than the demands from BCCI and it's new 3 headed monster. Not sticking up and supporting the other less privileged countries to say NO to this three headed gorgon would be much more damaging to cricket than anything else you've said in this article! I guess I can speak for ALL Caribbean cricket fans and say, we would prefer never to watch cricket again rather than allowing these three countries to hijack the game this way!

  • Leroy on January 27, 2014, 22:35 GMT

    Rubbish, I boycott this Game, There's football tennis and my Beloved Track and Field, To hell with Cricket, Too Long Anyway, Whom they think they are, so call big 3, Killing the sport.

  • Jefferson on January 27, 2014, 22:29 GMT

    West Indies need to man up and take a strong position, if cricket die in the Caribbean then so be it. I think like myself Caribbean people loosing interest and this is coming from a man who use to take off work and schedule my vacation around WI cricket season. Lets go Basketball the NBA is waiting. Lets go football lets go track and field even American football and i know that we can put lot of our young people in Baseball. So stop the crying there's better life after cricket.

  • Dummy4 on January 27, 2014, 20:35 GMT

    I feel sorry for people (like Tony Cozier) who have to watch close up the destruction of West Indies cricket and not be able to help.

  • Weldon on January 27, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    There are also further implications for such a move other than just finance. For instance, if this proposal is to come into law the annals of cricket will be rewritten in such a way that it will ensure that the history books will be filled with records of the big three only because of them playing the most games which they already do.

  • Weldon on January 27, 2014, 18:12 GMT

    The BCCI should understand that cricket belongs to us the fans and the players. You take that away then there is no supporting structure. No boards, no ICC, no BCCI no nothing. Each nation has something special to offer and something that they have brought to the game. As West Indians we have brought our flamboyant and flare in batting and stroke play. We once captivated and intimidated the best of batsmen with our accurate fast bowling. The BCCI is proposing something that was done by our colonial masters during the hay days of cricket. We're not going back and all the other boards must not lose sight of the short term gain for the long-term destruction of world cricket. They all must say no to this draconian proposed amendment. Cricket is bigger than us all. The current structure needs fixing in a way that should allow all full members play a full series agains each other every 18 months rather than going backward. What will happen when Indian, ECB and CA cricket starts declining?

  • nalin on January 27, 2014, 12:52 GMT

    I am disgusted at the replacement of test cricket with meaningless ODI that is costing the poor countries exposure in tests and SRI LANKA is one of them but at times this is at their choosing as in their series against South Africa. The top countries should guarantee that every country plays the other in test over 4 years and the champion can be only based on points and if team 1 happens to play team 2 then such a series should be awarded the champion trophy. I also do not believe in 2 test series but believe that a 4 test series can be spread across 2 countries such as those in the subcontinent and between AUS,NZ and South Africa.

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