Trinidad & Tobago Express

West Indies cricket

Does anyone care?

Does anyone around the negotiating table care? Is anyone asking just what would be achieved by a boycott in St.Lucia except to deprive fans there of cheering a West Indies team at last making everyone proud again?

Tony Cozier

March 29, 2009

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A pensive Chris Gayle in the nets, Wets Indies v England, 3rd ODI, Barbados, March 26, 2009
Chris Gayle's tune had changed by yesterday morning as he hinted darkly at a possible boycott of the fifth and final ODI in St. Lucia on Friday © Getty Images
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Kensington Oval rocked to the demolition of England by the West Indies' aggressive bowling, sharp, sure-handed fielding and the breath-taking power of Chris Gayle's mighty bat on Friday.

It was like the good old days and there was joy long absent from the faces and in the voices of the thousands of West Indians who packed the stands. The mood, previously all gloom and doom after repeated failure and submission, had changed over the previous six weeks on the growing evidence of re-found spirit and confidence.

There had been whispers about more trouble between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), given weight by the boycott of the first day of the regional matches a week earlier and the bemusing protest in the first ODI in Guyana through the masking out of the sponsors' name on the players' shirt sleeves.

But this appeared to have blown over by the time the series reached Barbados with the West Indies' superiority in the short game already clear from the outcome of the solitary Twenty20 international in Trinidad and the two ODIs in Guyana.

Captain Gayle's assertion to the media prior to Friday's match that "I don't think we're going to boycott anything" was heartening. Conciliation and common sense was in the air. "We have an understanding with each other - the team, players, WIPA and the board," he added. "There is some sort of change, some sort of communication going on."

According to Gayle, things were "looking pretty good". He was sure everyone would benefit from the outcome of the discussions between the two organisations so that "the cricket can actually go on rather than go into a dispute again". Amen to that-except that it wasn't.

Gayle's tune had changed by yesterday morning as he hinted darkly at a possible boycott of the fifth and final ODI in St. Lucia on Friday. Apparently, things had not gone as smoothly at the deliberations as he and the WIPA representatives had expected.

Friday is still some way off and there is time for resolution of the still unresolved issues. But West Indies cricket has been this way several times before and we know to be wary. The people of St. Lucia, who filled the Beausejours Stadium to overflowing in the last ODI against Sri Lanka last year, should be advised to hold onto their money for the time being.

What remains maddening and mystifying is that basically the same old sticking points are allowed to crop up over and over, whatever dispensation is in charge. While each side points the finger of blame at the other and WIPA boasts that it has won every arbitration contested against the manifestly inept WICB, the game suffers.

Does anyone around the negotiating table care? Is anyone asking just what would be achieved by a boycott in St.Lucia except to deprive fans there of cheering a West Indies team at last making everyone proud again? Did no one notice the elation at Kensington on Friday - and at the Queen's Park Oval and the National Stadium at Providence before that?

Surely those on both sides must recognise that they have once again wrestled themselves into a no-win situation, whatever some legal luminary called in to separate them might say. Without a settlement, the certain losers would once more be the game and the players they are entrusted to promote and protect.

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

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