Caribbean leaders frame formula to end crisis
Political leaders in the Caribbean who met on Friday have put forward a series of recommendations to resolve the dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA). The recommendations include the senior players making themselves available for selection in regional tournaments.
A statement from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) secretariat, the government body established in 1996 to strengthen West Indies cricket, listed out the "minimum criteria" to ensure selection of the best available team for future tournaments:
* Players to make themselves available for selection in accordance with normal WICB requirements, in particular, participation in the regional tournaments;
* WICB to agree to the television/image rights fees (sponsor's fees) traditionally paid to players pending the special arbitration on this issue to facilitate the signing of retainer contracts by October 1 this year;
* WICB and WIPA to agree on the implementation of: (1) the special arbitration process provided for in the mediator's draft agreement, i.e. on 'Team rights' and 'the India tour'; and (2) best efforts by the CARICOM Secretariat in the first instance to facilitate the resolution of the other outstanding issues proposed by WICB and WIPA, or the pursuit of arbitration if necessary, such arbitration not to delay the return of West Indies cricket to normalcy;
* CARICOM to convene a stakeholders' meeting at the earliest practicable date to discuss the future of West Indies cricket, taking account of the WICB's development plan, as well as the report of the Patterson committee established by WICB;
* The WICB to inform the ICC of the action taken by Caribbean governments with the object of returning West Indies cricket to its accustomed place in world cricket in consonance with the highest traditions of the sport as upheld by the ICC.
The communiqué acknowledged that the WICB and its affiliate organisations held the final say in the running of West Indies cricket, but added that the political leaders in the region had an obligation to ensure the well-being of the game. "Heads of government have always been cognizant of their responsibility as representatives of the Caribbean people in the region and the diaspora for whom cricket is one of the major integrating factors," it said. "This fact was primarily responsible for the establishment of the Prime Ministerial Sub- Committee on Cricket [13 years ago] at the onset of the dramatic decline in the performance of the West Indies teams."
It cautioned that if the current crisis was not resolved "immediately", the attempt to revive the game in the region would suffer a massive setback. "Over the past 10 years in particular, the Heads of Government as well as all stakeholders in West Indies, have endured the fracturing of relations and distrust between WICB and the West Indies Players Association," it read. "The current situation, if not resolved IMMEDIATELY [sic], will no doubt destroy the fabric on which to base any hope of reviving the region's standing in international cricket, or building a solid future for West Indies cricket."
The recommendations arrive in the aftermath of failed negotiations between the WICB and the WIPA under the mediation of the CARICOM-appointed Shridath Ramphal. The contracts crisis reached its height when senior West Indies players boycotted the home Test series against Bangladesh, and the WICB fielded a makeshift team which was also retained for the Champions Trophy.