Tony Cozier
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Veteran writer and commentator on Caribbean cricket

West Indies face clubs v country dilemma again

The board's "West Indies First" policy is likely to cause conflict with the players, but it's an effective way of strengthening their regional and national cricket

Tony Cozier

August 10, 2014

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

Gayle and several other Test players will have to make the hard choice between the IPL and West Indies when England tour the Caribbean early next year © WICB Media/Randy Brooks

It was inevitable that it would come to this.

Seemingly taking note of Clive Lloyd's comment that West Indies appeared "drunk on T20s" during their two massive Test defeats in India last November and of the BCCI's ban on its players from participating in any T20 franchise tournament outside of the IPL, the West Indies board decided in March to follow India's lead.

The WICB directors adopted the proposal from the recent director of cricket, Richard Pybus, for what he termed a "West Indies Team First" selection policy. It was one of the several issues covered in his commissioned report on the restructuring of domestic and international cricket.

"WICB to prioritise West Indies Cricket, domestic and international," Pybus advised. "Eliminate participation of international players in other countries' T20 competitions to prioritise the skills development necessary for West Indies to achieve their vision goals."

The IPL is the biggest, most popular and wealthiest of such leagues. Through it, Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard have become as popular as Bollywood screen stars, and almost as rich. They and ten other West Indians were contracted by franchises in the 2014 edition, the seventh.

On a lesser scale, Australia's Big Bash, England's T20 Blast, South Africa's Ram Slam, and the Bangladesh Premier League also attract international players, West Indians among them.

The recently created, privately financed Caribbean Premier League has brought an IPL model to the region, providing local players with the experience of a crucial format, exposure to new, international team-mates and welcome pay days.

On the precept that there can always be too much of a good thing, the WICB decided that the CPL should be enough of the format. Lloyd's "drunk on T20s" came to mind.

 
 
The WICB sees central contracts for players worth between US$120,000 and US$60,000 along with match fees for Tests, ODIs and T20 internationals as a reasonable arrangement for revitalising West Indies cricket
 

Its "West Indies First" policy faced its first trial prior to the home Tests against New Zealand in June.

Players in the chosen squad for the series were directed to report for duty at the preliminary training camp not later than June 1. It was the same day as the IPL final in Bangalore. Sunil Narine, the key spinner for both West Indies and the Kolkata Knight Riders, committed to the latter and was consequently disqualified from selection.

There was a strong lobby for Narine to be excused. He was, after all, a potential match-winner. He would miss only a few days of the camp and certainly be in time for the start of the first Test on June 8. But the WICB stuck to its new stipulation.

To those who welcomed the infusion of some discipline into the team, it was a bold decision; to those inclined to a win-at-all-cost position, it was self-defeating. At the end, they could claim it cost West Indies the series.

The matter will certainly arise again next year when England's three Tests in the Caribbean, from April 13 to May 5, directly coincide with the IPL.

Those pigeon-holed, to their frustration, as strictly limited-overs players such as Pollard, Andre Russell and Dwayne Smith and, now by his own volition, Darren Sammy, are unlikely to be summoned for the Tests. There would be no reason for the WICB to object to their involvement in India, especially as the first-class home season will be over.

Gayle, Narine, Jason Holder and, probably, fit-again Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach will be the likely ones needed for the Tests. Like Narine this year, they will face the dilemma, IPL or West Indies.

A lot could change between now and England's arrival. There are eight Tests and the usual mixed quota of limited-overs matches against Bangladesh in the Caribbean ending mid-September, in India in November-December, then straight to South Africa, a tour that precedes the World Cup by two weeks.

By then, the extended first-class season, spanning six months and, for only the second time, featuring home and away matches between the six territories rather than one, will be over.

A draft system (another of Pybus' recommendations) is to be introduced, allowing those not chosen for their local teams to be snapped up by others. It will, according to Pybus, "equalise the regional distribution of players to the betterment of West Indies cricket".

Previously, marginal players in teams with a surfeit in one area - Guyana with their batsmen in the seventies, Barbados with their fast bowlers in the eighties, for instance - simply missed out.

Of late, overseas T20 tournaments have limited the appearances of some of the top men. Pollard played in two of Trinidad and Tobago's seven matches last season, Narine none at all. Russell had one for Jamaica, Sammy missed the entire season for Windward Islands, as did Dwayne Smith for Barbados. Persistent injuries, both sustained in the IPL, eliminated Gayle and Dwayne Bravo.

It is a recurring theme that undermines the strength of the affected teams and cricket as a whole.

It is another reason for the WICB to remain steadfast in its policy. It wants its best players involved as they were through the eighties.

The strength at domestic level during that period - Viv Richards against the Barbados pace attack, Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge taking on Michael Holding, Patrick Patterson and Courtney Walsh for Jamaica, the spin of Ganesh Mahabir and Rangy Nanan for Trinidad and Tobago, and Roger Harper and Clyde Butts testing techniques for Guyana - underpinned the golden era of 15 years without a series loss.

The WICB sees central contracts for players worth between US$120,000 and US$60,000 along with match fees for Tests, ODIs and T20 internationals, the new package of increased wages for 75 contracted on a permanent basis to regional teams and income from the CPL in exchange for a bar on T20 tournaments elsewhere as a reasonable arrangement for revitalising West Indies cricket.

It is uncertain whether the players share such a view.

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

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Posted by kelbov on (August 15, 2014, 19:19 GMT)

When that time comes, it will be a no-brainer, Narine, Gayle, and the rest of them will choose the IPL. Of the lot im most sry for Sunil Narine though...

Posted by NkSad on (August 14, 2014, 3:57 GMT)

The franchise format of cricket is definitely hurting West Indies cricket, there should have a strict policy about players missing match to play in these T20 tournaments. I also think this CPL tournament is hurting the development of WI cricket, where there a no really good talent come out of this team except, from Trinidad and to an extent Jamaica. With the franchise style tournament the younger players don't get a chance, due to the draft system, which I hope isn't part of domestic tournaments. The CPL teams seems to believe producing new talent is not as important as they could just draft them from other country like Trinidad that I to say knows how to produce great players. A team that come to mind is the Amazon Warriors where they is great Guyanese pride around the team however there is only like 2 Guyanese players that start, and they young talent is left out the team all in all, a player that comes to mind Bishoo, who was such a good up and come. Drafting is a bad idea!

Posted by   on (August 11, 2014, 20:25 GMT)

@Rally_Windies Sunil Narine played for TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO in the Champions Trophy years ago. He used TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO's resources to develop, and was fully developed by the time he got to the ipl. Samuel Badree RARELY gets any game time, and was unheard of prior to last year's world cup. Another product of TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. Pollard was also selected for the same reasons.

Need I remind you that Badree was a T20 regular BEFORE IPL?

Posted by FOUR-REAL-QUICKS on (August 11, 2014, 17:28 GMT)

Don't get me wrong, I believe that T20 cricket can be fun and has a place in the world of sports...just keep it away from our test cricketers...

Posted by FOUR-REAL-QUICKS on (August 11, 2014, 11:22 GMT)

Real cricket, i.e. Test Cricket, is so far from this junk food format T20 that it has almost nothing in common. The methods and tactics employed are not relevant to the longer format of the game. The most sensible way forward would be to introduce clearly defined selection policies - one group of players will play only T20 cricket, the rest play first class / test cricket. Some difficult choices would have to be made but the future of the test team would be much brighter if it were not blighted by this modern trend of slog-fest.

Posted by Frayninho21 on (August 10, 2014, 11:28 GMT)

I think Gayle will have retired from test cricket by the time England tours. I also can't see Sunil Narine not playing IPL given the financial rewards of his contract with KKR. Jason Holder didn't play much for Sunrisers Hyderabad so I could see him opting to stay with West Indies. Roach hasn't done anything in his previous IPL stints to suggest he will get a new IPL deal and the same can be said of Jerome Taylor. A likely test squad for the England tour: Brathwaite, K Powell, Edwards, DM Bravo, Chanderpaul (plenty of years in Shiv....), Blackwood, Samuels (form permitting) Ramdin, Holder, Roach, Taylor, Gabriel, Benn, Bishoo would seem reasonable.

Posted by kentjones on (August 10, 2014, 11:11 GMT)

Thanks again Mr. Cozier for highlighting an obvious problem/solution in WI cricket. I agree that if the premier players do not turn up for WI cricket,it will create opportunities for the lesser players to show their worth. Wi has loads of young talented players waiting in the wings. It is important that these players be groomed and mentored properly. CPL has shown that there are many potential stars who can shine for WI.

Posted by android_user on (August 10, 2014, 11:11 GMT)

If the WICB want a group of PROFESSIONALS to represent the region it simply needs to be able to buy them out from part-taking in ipl franchises. It must also invest at grassroot to produce player hungry and capable of filling the void created by injuries and/or player who wish to pursue earning a living elsewhere. I recall recently Narine was sidelined for be late for camp having represented his franchise in a final which ended before the start of a home series. He was no eliminated and still paid by the WICB. Had I been his agent I would look to get him work during his enforced break. The issue is a lack of enough quality PROFESSIONAL cricketer competing for places. WI could ban any team going to Kerry Packer and still put out a world beating 11. Players need freedom to earn the maximum they can in a relatively short playing career.

Posted by Rally_Windies on (August 10, 2014, 7:49 GMT)

..

WICB did not HELP develop Sunil Narine, Pollard, Badree, ..... those guys got thier chance in the IPL where excellence is rewarded ....

in the WICB .. only friend and family , being the same nationality of the President or coach....... give you permission to represent the WI .......

If WI do not show support for thier players ...... and the IPL shows support for the WI players .....

I expect the players to return the support to the entities that supported them ...

WERE IT NOT FOR THE IPL ....

Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree would have NEVER played international cricket ...

So i expect THOSE players to be LOYAL to the IPL ....

Posted by   on (August 10, 2014, 5:29 GMT)

Well unlike the Narine/IPL/NZ series clash this year in which the WICB clearly messed up. Come next year when AUS/ENG are here, if key windies/IPL players don't commit 100% to these home series & skip IPL, the WICB will be correct if they axe not just for these series. Players got to get their priorities in order.

The next 6 months starting with the tours to India & S Africa, is a BIG period of test cricket for the windies vs the major nations. A great chance to prove the obvious talent is on the up.Thus all the players need to be committed for WI duty & sacrifice IPL next year, or else they will come across as mercenaries who studying their pocket (which IPL money has filled substantially already) instead of showing proper cricket understanding.

Serious discussion between, players, WICB, Mr Pybus, WIPA are needed for this one.

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