Tony Cozier
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Veteran writer and commentator on Caribbean cricket

West Indies stuck between commitment and cash

While their top players have signed national contracts, they are also likely to be wooed by T20 leagues around the world

Tony Cozier

March 10, 2014

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

Chris Gayle took the catch to dismiss Angelo Mathews, Pune Warriors v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2013, Pune, May 2, 2013
Chris Gayle will appear for the home Tests against New Zealand after a T20 binge at the IPL © BCCI
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After West Indies were routed by an innings in under three days in their two Tendulkar farewell Tests in India last November, Clive Lloyd said they "looked drunk" on an overindulgence of T20 cricket. "I personally believe that Twenty20 is something that brings people to the game, brings money to players and, if it's doing that, then you have to stick with it. However, a diet of too much Twenty20 can be very harmful," Lloyd told an Indian newspaper.

It is an addiction not easily overcome.

It has been intensified by the triumph in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in 2012 - that, in the words of the Trinidad Express, "lifted the spirit of the entire nation as one" - and the rousing success of the first season of the franchise-based Caribbean Premier League last year; not only were stadiums packed to capacity but research carried out by the University of the West Indies estimated that it generated US$105.6m overall for the relevant economies.

For all that, Lloyd's point is that such a limited format, with bowlers restricted to four overs and victory potentially decided by a mini blitz by one batsman, was hardly proper preparation for five days of a Test.

He might also have added that the consequent absence of the leading players during the regional first-class season diminishes standards as well as leaving selectors in a quandary over how to properly judge performances.

The India Tests were preceded three months earlier by two T20s against Pakistan and the CPL; the four West Indies' innings lasted 78, 54.1, 55.2 and 47 overs. In the six that followed in New Zealand, only twice did they last more than 100 overs, beaten 2-0 in the series. The next challenge is three Tests in the Caribbean in June and July against the newly revitalised New Zealanders. As their recent results at home indicate, especially their ascendancy over India, they present a markedly stronger examination under a new captain, Brendon McCullum, than when drubbed in both Tests, four of the five ODIs and both T20s on their tour two years ago.

That assignment is still over three months away. West Indies' immediate attention is on defending their World Twenty20 title in Bangladesh. A loss to Ireland in the first of two such matches at Sabina Park a few weeks back was not encouraging.

The return from injury of T20's most intimidating batsman, Chris Gayle, raises hopes for something more convincing in three matches against England in Bridgetown that are the last before they get going in Bangladesh against India on March 23.

Immediately after the World Twenty20, six of those likely to figure against New Zealand - Gayle, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul and Jason Holder - move on to the IPL, returning home a week before the Test series. The effect of another T20 binge will interest Lloyd and others who appreciate his concern.

Simultaneous with the World Twenty20 and the IPL, the regional first-class season once more continues with its major players on the other side of the planet. Over the past two seasons, Gayle has played just two matches for Jamaica, Bravo two for Trinidad and Tobago. In 2013, Narine and Sammy appeared in one each for T&T and the Windward Islands respectively. They are again likely to be absent throughout this year's tournament.

In January, Gayle and Dwayne Bravo for the first time signed top-of-the-line yearly WICB contracts, each worth $120,000. Others in the top A category were Shivnarine Chanderpaul (who is also contracted to Derbyshire for 2014), Narine, Sammy and Marlon Samuels. Kemar Roach, out of the game since last October with a shoulder injury, signed for $80,000, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Rampaul and Shane Shillingford (presently suspended from bowling by the ICC for an illegal action) for $60,000.

Unlike the Indian, Australian and Enland boards, the WICB doesn't have the clout to insist that its contracted men forgo overseas franchise leagues to participate in its domestic tournaments. The players themselves won't refuse the lucrative deals offered that are negligible compared to what they are able to earn at home.

It is clearly a predicament but the WICB chief executive officer, Michael Muirhead, has hinted at a stronger stance on the issue in future. He saw the acceptance of Gayle and Dwayne Bravo as a sign of their "re-commitment to West Indies cricket". "The fact they are presenting themselves, making themselves available at the expense of the other leagues, speaks for itself, so I am happy about that," he said. Yet both have been retained by their teams for the forthcoming IPL.

He revealed that the WICB is presently negotiating with the powerful West Indies Players' Association over the issuing of the No-Objection Certificate when contracted players apply to be released for the IPL, the Big Bash League and the other T20 leagues mushrooming everywhere.

It is a problem that has ended up in court in the past. It is there again, but, according to Muirhead, the two parties have been asked to resolve the issues themselves. He is hopeful, if not confident, that they will.

"For West Indies cricket to thrive and to grow they [contracted players] have to make themselves available," he said, stating the obvious. "At the same time, we don't want to limit the amount or prevent their opportunities to earn."

In other words, West Indies cricket finds itself between a rock and a hard place.

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

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Posted by ianbellfan on (March 11, 2014, 3:48 GMT)

@Chetan: Point taken about some of the players becoming so rich that they need not do anything for the rest of their lives. I will take two case in point for debate - Pollard and Saurab Tiwary. Pollard talks about wanting to play test cricket for WI. How is he going to learn the skill set if he is busy playing IPL and skipping his FC season. Saurab Tiwary was paid a king's fee by his franchise. You hear nothing about him in the Ranji season. The point is these players have lost the desire to maximise their cricketing potential and are instead maximising only their earning potential. That is what people like Clive Lloyd and Tony Cozier are finding it difficult to accept. As said in my previous post, players like Gayle, Pollard, Bravo and Narine will get great fee wherever they play. So it is well within their scope to decide if they want to play in the IPL or not. Their presence during the domestic FC season will definitely make a difference to WI cricket.

Posted by   on (March 10, 2014, 23:59 GMT)

West Indies were bowled out in a single session in New Zealand and it was in a Test Match! When last did an international Test team suffer such humiliation? The fact is that T20 cricket calls for slogging and Tests for technique. The point is to find a happy medium between both and West Indies haven't done so. The money may come in from the CPL but when it comes to Test cricket West Indies will continue to struggle as they do not have the infrastructure to break into the top four. Whom West Indies can learn from? New Zealand.

Posted by   on (March 10, 2014, 18:03 GMT)

@Isnbellfan - make no mistake, T20 is all about making money. WI has about 5 / 6 good players who would command a very high price at the IPL. Some of the prices offered would be high enough to create a situation where the player need not do anything else for the rest of his life, after one OR maybe 2 seasons at the IPL. If boards come up with a shut-down policy to block their players from coming to IPL - IPL would simply remove 2 clauses from their policies - 1) Mandatory approval from the home board & 2) Compensation IPL franchisees pay to home board & home side for allowing their players to represent an IPL franchisee during CLT. IPL is big enough to manage - what will happen to those boards ?

Posted by Insightful2013 on (March 10, 2014, 14:55 GMT)

Since the WICB doesn't show any loyalty or commitment to it's cricketers, why should they reciprocate paradoxically. All sportsmen ply their skills for fiscal remuneration and so should Windies cricketers especially to a dysfunctional and incompetent WICB. Their considerations should be to their families and futures. I dislike 20/20 cricket but agree players need to consider their future foremost because the WICB does just that. They line their pockets and milk their appointments for political and bragging rights. I wager that a full strength T&T cricket team would beat a combined rest, Windies team. And, it's all down to their organization. Logically, if Windies cricket were to wax again, the T&T admin should be placed in charge.

Posted by class9ryan on (March 10, 2014, 14:37 GMT)

What rubbish ??? Don't the West Indies have players other than Gayle, Bravo, Sammy for Test cricket...... WICB let Chanders bat at 3 or 4, get more chances for Ramdin.... not many Test players being groomed by WICB either

Posted by perl57 on (March 10, 2014, 14:21 GMT)

Let us agree, Tony never liked India. But he is right on one thing, IPL and T20 are such an addiction that overcoming is not that easy. But there is still more easier addiction across the world and that is cursing IPL.Why don't you take those players off your team if you do not want them to play in IPL? Since you are the second grade commentators, had you gotten chance to commentate, you would have done so no doubt ahead of your country's interests. Bottom line, stop hating the latest inventions. They are here because Tests have become an inseparable bore. ODIs are not encouraging. kEEP YOURSELF in their shoes and think, what would you do? And honestly answer.

Posted by kentjones on (March 10, 2014, 12:17 GMT)

Mr. Cozier, once again you comments are relevant and opportune, if somewhat misunderstood. In my estimation you are playing the devil's advocate here and bringing to the table to king (WICB) and commoner (supporter) alike, the difficult choices available for players, selectors and the WICB in general. and indeed highlighting the immediate problems of complexity in WI cricket. It is common knowledge that there is an abundance of talent in WI, the likes of which have been bought by T20 leagues the world over. However, when interest in acquiring income by stakeholders (WICB or PLayers) supercedes interest in the game, then the game suffers. WI cricket must find a solution that can satisfy the players quest for more income, as well as the need to have the best players available to give Wi the optimum chance at producing good results in all formats on the fleld of play. Meetings and dialogues between the players and WICB are essential to hammer out a consensual way forward for all parties

Posted by punterdgr8 on (March 10, 2014, 10:53 GMT)

@ianbellfan,absolutely spot on.i'm an indian but ever since the ipl started it has inadvertently persuaded the fans to cast aspersions on the players' will to play for their country.the ppl who talk abt maximising earnings need to understand that cricket in general and wi cricket in particular existed even b4 the ipl(although the performances were on a decline).so the right way abt it would be to skip the n no.of t20 leagues and get their legs playing 4 their countries.of course,one is allowed to play in 1 or 2 leagues as and when the time permits.jus look at the profile of wi cricketers(and players from other countries as well)they are playing everywhere and then ppl complain if they are labelled as mercenaries.it's a personal choice but i still think country is paramount.how relevant it is in the present world u decide.

Posted by FOUR-REAL-QUICKS on (March 10, 2014, 10:18 GMT)

The IPL should have a separate window, that would certainly assist in terms of focus for all concerned. No other cricket should be played during the IPL, other T20 competitions need to take second place as international cricket should patently be the priority. "Junk food" cricket is nothing compared to a test match.

Posted by ianbellfan on (March 10, 2014, 5:09 GMT)

@Catwell: I do not think that Mr. Cozier is making a case for players to skip IPL to display their patriotism. He is only saying that since IPL and the WI First Class season are overlapping, players should place FC ahead of IPL, if possible. Today, it is no longer the IPL that offers alternate employment for cricketers. There is BBL and this year onwards there is going to be a franchise based competition in England. Hence, it is not as if they skip IPL, they are deprived of earnings. In that sense, competition in T20 world has opened the option of skipping IPL. Being an Indian, I see how the BCCI protects its resources by not letting them play in the other leagues. Maybe it is time for the other boards to discuss alternate options like asking their players to skip that league that clashes with their domestic season.

Posted by   on (March 10, 2014, 4:00 GMT)

Why is it that the IPL and 2o/20 becoming the enemies of cricket? And the players who have no guarantee of selection for their national teams called mercenaries? Who looks after a cricketer......... and they have been many......who after their careers finish by age 35, have to make a living and look after families for the rest of their lives? Is this ever a consideration? And would the journalist and other proponents if given the opportunity to maximize their earnings......refuse on the grounds that they are being nationalistic?

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